If you find yourself needing to quickly—or slowly—build a team that can competently build and execute a communication strategy from your business goals, I’m here to help.
How I Know
For the last few years, I’ve taught Advertising Campaigns, a class that asks 25–40 students to build a strategy and execute for a real client. The challenge is taking a random mix of students and helping them focus all they’ve learned on real client work.
What’s Different for Businesses
If you’re a business owner, you probably have most of these skills. The exception would be the ability to execute strategy (creative production) and a really competent strategist (which is like a unicorn; most companies just try to make a coherent plan).
The good news is this: there are plenty of contractors who can execute.
The other good news: my students are great, but they don’t have the experience. Your staff might be able to create something more polished and professional than my students can. (On the other hand, after a year, my students will be kicking @$$; just sayin’).
Let me first say that, if you’re not hiring well, you create the need for micromanagement. You don’t want that. Get the right people. Here’s a guide.
Advertising Job Descriptions
AKA: Account Executive (account manager)
Cares about: What the client/company wants and thinks.
Functions: Connect with client (sales skills). Project management (stay out of tasks).
Team spirit and good functioning.
Tools: Soft skills, good focus on client goals, project coordination and business knowledge.
AKA: account planner, brand strategist
Cares about: Connecting client with the customer.
Functions: Research, systematizing information from research, forming questions and telling an interesting, focused story to creatives, giving them a clear problem to solve.
Tools: Mind maps (to support lateral thinking), curiosity, deep understanding of the brand and the customer, good judgment, and the creative brief (to support linear thinking).
Cares about: Bringing the strategy to life through media choices.
Functions: Understands how to bring strategy to life in media.
Tools: Budget (spreadsheet), schedule (calendar), measurement of effectiveness and an understanding of available media.
Note: Creatives fall into two categories. It’s best not to get them confused. Conceptual creatives think up new ideas and concepts. They’re generally more strategically aligned. They’re better at coming up with a new approach that will match up against your competitors’ claims. A finishing creative is a polisher and editor. Don’t ask them to have a robust creative process; they’re the ones making your stuff look nice, not figuring out what it should be.
Cares about: Bringing the strategy to life through a focused story.
Functions: Experienced and confident enough in their creative process to rigorously explore messages that will execute the strategy.
Tools: Strategy, focus, fun, work ethic (lots of thumbnails and headlines), the ability to tell a great story with a motivating moral.
AKA: Designers and Wordsmiths
Cares about: Production quality.
Functions: Making sure someone else’s idea looks nice, is well-edited and professional.
Tools: Design programs, editing ability (grammar, usage, spell-checker) and good design best-practices.
A Word about Thinking Styles
Think of account executives and finishing creatives as people who want to get things done and look really nice. In other words, they’re people who want to do it really well. So you don’t want to hire people who have great new ideas for these positions. You want people who can reliably execute, based on experience. Think “best practices.”
Think of strategists and conceptual creatives as people who want to do things differently. So you don’t want someone who never takes risks and never fails. You want all kinds of ideas that show richness of thought. Think “innovation.”
The media planner is a mix.
Realize that the differences in thinking between these two thinking styles actually builds a high level of creativity that also works.
Quickly Building a Creative Team
In the end, it’s not hard to build a team that does good work. I do it in 10 weeks with undergrads. You can too. And that’s just the investment. Think about what could happen after that 10 weeks is up and the team is gelled, has ideas and now has experience.