How To Earn Respect As A Creative Team Leader
To prove our rock star status at work, creatives have to get a little, well, creative. It’s much harder to calculate the value of our typeface choices than it is the ROI of a new software purchase. It’s easier to say why a company needs engineers than why we need graphic designers to redesign the logo with the drop shadow. Sometimes, it’s even a fight for respect, explaining why the web content can’t just be filled in by the VP’s nephew.
We know our function is vital to business and know we’re influencing top-line and bottom-line results, however, in a meeting where the sales team can boast about their numbers, it’s may feel tough to demonstrate that to other departments. But, as Steve Jobs said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” It’s also made Apple a brand worth $495 billion. A company that values the creative as much as the technical will have a better chance of thriving in any competitive market.
If you need a little help convincing those around you of the business case behind your in-house team, here are a few leaders to tell us how to earn internal respect and show clear value:
Focus on the numbers you can find and use them to your advantage, says Ryan Robinson, a content marketing consultant. “I’ve always focused on showing my organizational value through increasing traffic and, more importantly, email subscribers.” He feels confident that quality will win sales over time. “Consumers are getting increasingly skilled at sniffing out the surface-deep articles, books, and products that are clearly meant to drive revenue and aren’t centered around building meaningful customer relationships. The best creative work I’ve made builds those connections with my customers without asking for anything in return. This creates a level of trust that can’t be bought, and when you consistently add value through more great work, you’ll eventually be able to ask for a transaction — and most people will be happy to pay for more value.”
Know your direct audience and start by listening to their needs, says Philip Shaw, president and director of the Department of Solutions at the brand marketing and design firm Golden Lasso. Mimicking Stephen Covey’s habit to seek first to understand, then be understood, he starts by listening directly to those who will use the materials he’ll create, and understanding how they will measure success. Because 60 to 70% of content created by B2B marketing departments goes unused by sales, according to SiriusDecisions, “we try to start the process by talking to sales teams and trying to figure out what they need,” he says, adding that often what sales really needs differs from what upper management thought they needed. “Make the idea theirs. That’s how you get respect.”
Know your goal, how you’ll measure it, and how you’ll report it, says Tom Shapiro, branding and marketing strategist, as well as founder of the Stratabeat agency. He pairs everything to the intended results for the company, whether sales, registrations for an event, or brand building. “You need to define what that goal is and work backward from it,” he says. Set up metrics for before, during, and after the initiative. “One more thing, which is very important, is understanding how to communicate that information. You can talk about getting results, but then you really need to report on the results in a consistent format with methodical frequency, as well.” He suggests creating a captivating visual presentation, because the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. “Data visualization is a strong way of communicating results impactfully, all the way up to the CEO.”
Use examples your company will want to emulate, says Russell W. Volckmann III, brand story developer at Romantic Brand Bureau. it helps to point to those big names to remind small and medium businesses that the biggest and best companies value branding and all the artistry that comes with it. “The Fortune 500s and the globals, they understand it,” he says. And they’re not alone. “Increasingly, Wall Street investors and financial analysts include brand valuation as a significant part of a company’s total real net worth assessment. When you take a look at a brand like Coca Cola, over 50% of their net worth is brand value.”
Overall, by listening to your final customer, speaking the language of what they want most, and having the tools to communicate, you can make the value of your team’s creative output clear.