Working better together: why collaboration is key for creative success

By Henry Waterfall-Allen

We’re all aware the marketing profession is a very different beast to that of 15 to 20 years ago. The onslaught of digital technologies, wireless communications and multi-media solutions have altered the landscape of the industry and the way its creative professionals work and play indefinitely.

I’m a huge believer in the capabilities these technologies have given us for executing successful marketing campaigns. We have access to more information and inspiration than ever before and we have new channels, from Facebook to forums, to reach ever fragmenting customer groups. But with advantages come challenges. It is very easy to find yourself with too much information to deal with and that makes it difficult to work out what’s relevant and what isn’t. In terms of executing a successful marketing campaign it is important to have efficient processes in place to manage and prioritise that information, and have a platform where everyone on the team can collaborate together. Only then can we be sure of delivering great campaigns for our clients.

The other issue that comes into play is that within the marketing ‘umbrella’ you often find a varied cocktail of expertise. When I type ‘marketing’ into Google, 500 million pages pop up. The jobs in this sector span a range of talents covering analysis, brand management, campaign management, CRM, design and planning to name but a few. With such an array of skill sets to juggle and different learning styles to take on board, one wonders how we’re able to communicate and collaborate together successfully. Take our office for example, aside from having different objectives and roles there are a number of ways people prefer to work. When it comes to taking on a task we have those who prefer to make lists, others who formulate a plan of action in their heads and some who like to visualise the task at hand – and that’s just a sample of different approaches. A critical question that faced us (and this applies to many businesses) is how we could bring all these different approaches together, encourage effective collaboration and make sure everyone was reading from the same page.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and marketers are from a different planet altogether

It’s well documented that people tend to naturally suit one type of thinking to another. According to the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance, a person who is “left-brained” is often said to be more logical, analytical and objective, whilst a person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive. It makes sense then that these people learn and digest information better in very different ways. I’m a typical “right-brainer” in that I’m a creative and would much rather learn about a subject by watching a two minute video on it. However our Operations Director, Zofia, is a “left-brainer” and would prefer to read through a 1,800 word document. We have looked at new ways to work more cleverly together as a team and explored what more visual methods can do for us. We’ve found Mindjet’s MindManager and Connect software particularly helpful as it plays to the strengths on both right and left brainers – appealing to those who prefer detailed linear information and those who prefer to visualise information.

Marrying creativity with ROI

A key factor for many businesses and especially those in the marketing profession, is being able to keep track of activity when a vast number of tasks are being carried out simultaneously. Often this involves different people and sometimes external parties as well. With businesses expected to be on call 24/7, we have to be able to answer client questions with ease at a time that suits them. Take as an example the phone ringing at 6pm on a Friday and it’s a client wanting an update on activity verbally before the weekend. It can be very hard to recall the exact status of many different project elements without needing to open multiple documents, ask people questions or wade through emails. This is where having a tool that provides a central hub for all information becomes essential. With access to the latest drafts of documents, quotes from research agencies and updates on tasks we can ensure the correct information is communicated. It also shows everyone’s tasks and priorities. I can see who is working on what, what their progress is and when an update is due for the client.

The benefits of creativity – inspiration, spontaneity, expression – can sometimes seem at odds within a business environment that looks for understanding, deliverables and accountability. But if we are to show a good ROI and deliver exceptional results it’s essential we bring all of this together. The evolving needs of clients have also impacted this process and by exploring new ways of working we can ensure we deliver what we need to. I feel so much more organised now and have more time to get my creative juices flowing, and I dare say that my team feels the same way.

About the author

Henry Waterfall-Allen is Co-Founder of digital agency Zeta, 99moves and the revoluntionary music app for people that listen in groups. Designer by heart with an eye for strategy and a love for the open, social web.

About the company

Zeta is a full service digital agency. It creates innovative digital strategies which deliver outstanding return on your investment.

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