Creative Collaboration:

A Complete Guide

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Chapter 1:

What is Creative Collaboration?

Creative collaboration is the process of working with others to accomplish a shared goal in an innovative way. Working on projects independently can limit the amount of feedback you receive during the creative process, leaving out other perspectives. Collaboration allows for relationship-building and growth among teammates that creates a more successful end result.

This can look different for everyone depending on their role, but collaboration is necessary in all aspects of the creative industry because it pushes projects to the next level. While remote work can create some challenges regarding collaboration, it can also give creatives the opportunity to generate ideas in their own space. Many come up with their best ideas when they are not sitting at their computer and instead completing a mindless task such as showering or cleaning. If you live in the same area as your teammates, meeting together can help you brainstorm, but a simple phone call works, too. If possible, getting out of the house for a walk or spending time in nature can also be beneficial for generating new ideas.

Not everyone thrives working from home, so it is important to ensure no team member becomes isolated or consumed by individual projects. Providing your employees with communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Zoom will encourage casual conversations and collaborative opportunities even in a remote setting. Implementing check-in meetings daily or weekly will help encourage teams to work together and stay on the same page.

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Chapter 2:

The Importance of Creative Collaboration in the Workplace

Maintaining Organization with Creatives

We have all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder,” but what does this mean in a creative agency setting? Your creative team may be so focused on personalization that they forget about the benefits of a standardized process. Creatives may not want to be tied down to a set company-wide structure, but that does not mean they do not want organization. Creative collaboration is what allows a team to become more productive with higher quality work through organization and consistency.

Maintaining organization requires clear goal setting and a structured feedback system. For many creative agencies, this starts by refining their brand development process for clients. It is also important to prioritize projects by due dates and goals. Having clear expectations and direction helps everyone on your team stay focused and on target.

Sometimes, less is more. When your team is overwhelmed by the amount of applications available to them, they are less likely to be productive. A central project management tool that allows for collaboration can standardize your team’s process without getting in the way of their creativity. Teams who work within the same application are more likely to stay focused on the task at hand. If you are unsure of what project management software to use, try asking everyone on your team to document their day-to-day operations. Once you know how your team works, you will begin to recognize their needs, which is a great place to start.

Read our blog to learn more about maintaining effective organization for your creative team.

Improving communication with your team

Creative teams often have many different strengths, which can also mean many different communication styles. If you find that your team is struggling in this area, we recommend that you consider the three T’s to improve communication: Talking, Transparency, and Tools.

  • Talking: Adding consistent communication to your team’s routine is the key to keeping everyone on track. This can be as simple as a 15-minute meeting once a day, which allows everyone on your team to share progress and clarify anything on their agenda if needed.
  • Transparency: Open communication allows your team to see the bigger picture, and also develops credibility and trust. While you may not be able to share every detail with your team due to confidentiality, providing them with a purpose and reason for their work can help them feel more connected to the project.
  • Tools: Software and productivity tools can make a huge difference in your team’s communication. CROOW is one of our favorites, of course. It includes features like task tracking, project approvals, and asset sharing, making it an all-in-one creative collaboration tool. Another application called Slack is great for quick communication within a group, with messaging and file sharing elements. Face-to-face interaction is especially important for teams who are working remotely. Free video conferencing platforms like Zoom allow teams to meet virtually, and they do not always have to be used for formal meetings. Creative teams need space to brainstorm and collaborate with co-workers, so Zoom is a great tool to use for work hangouts or creative reviews.

Setting solid foundations to prepare yourself for the future

Staying up to date with current marketing trends can help you better understand creative collaboration. Remote life is here to stay for many, and this is guaranteed to have an effect on both your target market segments and your team. By learning more about where your audience is shifting, you can also discover how to create the best environment for group collaboration.

Company values aren’t new, but their importance has been magnified as customers feel more and more passionate about supporting brands that align with their own morals. The same can be said for creative professionals who are looking for a team to call home. It’s easy to create a campaign about a client’s values, but also easy to forget to represent your own values through creative collaboration in the process. Your team may be doing great internally, so don’t be afraid to share your wins with the world via social media or an agency-wide meeting. Celebrating your team’s success makes them feel more valued and gives them a reason to keep doing great work, which is especially important if they are working remotely.

If this past year has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Flexibility is a valuable skill when it comes to creative collaboration, and it can be even more valuable when plans suddenly change. If you find that this is difficult for your team, establish your non-negotiables regarding planning, and create some potential remedies in the case of an emergency. You don’t need to have an answer for every what-if scenario, but a few contingencies will help you make quick decisions under stressful circumstances.

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Chapter 3:

The Future of Creative Work - And How Creative Collaboration Fits In

Remote work

Over one year into the pandemic, surveys have shown many Americans have no desire to return to the office full time. 87% of remote workers reported they would prefer to work remotely for at least one day out of the week once their company returns on-site. 68% of those surveyed said that they have found communication with colleagues to be more difficult while working remotely, which is no surprise.

The opportunity for remote work provides workers with better work-life balance, reduced stress levels, and commute times reduced to zero. Despite the benefits of remote work, it can be difficult to connect with your team even after months of electronic communication.

Jon Tsourakis, president and chief revenue officer of Oyova, knows that the future of creative collaboration lies in flexibility and adaptability. “It’s greatly important that leaders outline the processes from the very beginning, while also being gentle and direct,” Jon says.

“Creativity. Problem solving requires creativity. Connecting the dots takes creativity.” Like many marketing leaders, Jon had to develop creative strategies to help his web development and marketing company transition to remote work. While some employees work out of state and are often remote, the agency has two main offices in Florida and most employees were used to working in person five days a week.

Another one of Jon’s strategies is to check in more often than usual: “Send a random email or Slack to your teammates. Let them know nothing has necessarily changed, while also giving that in-person presence.” Read more of Jon’s advice for creative teams working remotely on our blog.

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Chapter 4:

How to Start Integrating Creative Collaboration Into Your Business

General Tips

If you’re struggling to find ways to increase creative collaboration within your agency, you’re not alone. Even with ample resources, it can be difficult to collaborate in a remote environment. Here are some of our tips for increasing collaboration and teamwork in your agency.

  • Keep it lighthearted: When your team isn’t under the stress of meeting a deadline, set aside some time to have a fun-oriented meeting. You can incorporate free games like Kahoot and Jackbox, or even create your own game. Lighthearted meetings like these can make your employees feel more connected to their coworkers and their agency.
  • Ride the mentor ship: With meetings being virtual, you don’t need extra chairs to include entry-level staff in client meetings. Allowing new or less-experienced team members to shadow meetings gives them an opportunity to grow, and they could even provide a new perspective to agency leadership.
  • Value mental health: Working remotely can lead many people to feel isolated, which can be detrimental to their mental health. Employees want their feelings of stress and worry to be heard, now more than ever. You can help them by offering mental health days, checking in on team members who are falling behind, and keeping your employees’ well-being in mind at all times.

Most importantly, prioritize learning about your team members and what will help them be most productive in this ever-changing new normal.

READ: 5 Tips to Increase Collaboration for Creative Agencies

Tips for Managers

As a manager, it’s crucial that you adjust your leadership practices for creative direction in a remote setting. Leading a team in a virtual space requires clear communication and organization, especially if you want to integrate creative collaboration into the mix. Your agency culture doesn’t have to disappear just because you’re not meeting in person, it just means you have to shift your focus to new techniques.

Communication is one of the most valuable skills for managers, because clear expectations and guidelines help teams succeed. As a leader, you need to set the precedent by including relevant details and using encouraging language whenever possible. Establish healthy communication habits by checking in with your team at least once a week and making yourself available to answer any questions.

Change inevitably brings challenges, and we have all faced a lot of those in the past year. Recognizing these challenges and relaying them to your team makes them feel respected, and you never know if they have new solutions in mind. Being transparent benefits you and everyone within your agency, because it helps you get closer to meeting your goals.

Team building helps build trust among team members and is an all around fun way to unite the team. There are lots of options when it comes to remote team building activities, most of which cost nothing. Unified company culture can make your team more connected and collaborative, boosting their productivity and their spirits.

Tips for Marketing Teams

Creativity is the fuel of every marketing team, but collaboration is what really drives success. Here are some of our best practices for driving marketing team collaboration.

  • Make meetings matter: No one likes attending a disorganized meeting, it leaves you confused and feeling like your time was wasted. Instead, having a simple agenda sent out prior to your meetings helps everyone stay focused and attentive.
  • Set team goals: Every team member may have their own individual goals, meaning they can lose sight of the big picture. Setting up quarterly or monthly team-wide goals can ensure that everyone on your team understands their purpose and can stay ahead of the game.
  • Agree on a workflow: Having a shared marketing workflow helps you make accurate estimations for project timelines. This can save your team time and give them more creative freedom throughout the day to brainstorm and collaborate on other projects.
  • Embrace technology: It may be a habit to set up a face-to-face video call every time you need to discuss something with your co-worker, and some people even prefer it. But others would prefer to use apps such as Slack to instant message each other and share files in real time. Share your preferred method of communication with your co-workers and we bet that you will find yourself more productive and supported by your team.

If you build a culture of collaboration into your meetings, goals, workflow, and technology, working together will be second nature to your team. As collaboration increases, relationships will strengthen, building a stronger foundation for your business and leading to great new ideas.

Tips to Improve Processes

Unmet deadlines, backlogged projects, and duplicative efforts. Sound familiar? If so, it may be time to update your process. A healthy and balanced workflow is essential for creative collaboration and will help take your team to the next level.

Creating a streamlined workflow begins with knowing your agency’s strengths and weaknesses so you can figure out what needs to be fixed first. By identifying the average number of requests per week, turnaround time, and communication mechanisms, you can better understand where the process needs revisions. This can be overwhelming, so it’s helpful to determine the main challenges and how to address them before moving on to the smaller ones. It’s safe to assume that few aspects of your current process can be changed overnight, so it will take time and proper planning to reach your desired end goal.

While many creatives complete work that is outside of their job description as their role is flexible, it is also necessary to define roles and responsibilities for the sake of the whole team. Understanding what and how everyone contributes to the creative workflow within the agency gives a clear outline of the process and where creative collaboration fits in. In most agencies, roles fall into three categories: creators, account managers, and agency management. Each team member has a unique perspective of the agency, so it is important to ask for their feedback when trying to improve your process.

Ultimately, by taking your workflow management out of individual silos and standardizing it, creative collaboration will be improved, your efficiency will increase, and you’ll be able to feel prepared instead of always catching up.

READ: How To Get A Creative Agency Workflow That Works

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Chapter 5:

How to Build Your Team With Creative Collaboration In Mind

What to Look for In Creative New-Hires

The advertising and marketing industry is more competitive than ever, and it’s no surprise that thousands of job candidates would meet the same basic qualifications. Whether it be similar degrees, certifications, or experience, it’s easy to find creative professionals who can meet all of the job requirements you are looking for. On the other hand, it’s not so easy to assemble a team of creatives who will thrive and work well together. When evaluating potential candidates, we have found that curiosity, collaboration, and communication are some of the most valuable skills to look out for.

  • Curiosity: When searching for a new addition to your creative agency, be on the lookout for candidates who exhibit curiosity. Obtaining certifications and staying in the know shows that they are willing to learn new things and expand their knowledge within the marketing field. This makes them a more valuable asset to your group.
  • Collaboration: A candidate who shows they are a team player is most likely one who you can trust to represent your company well. Even if their responsibilities are mostly individual, collaborative brainstorming is a must in an agency setting. Although they do not have to be a total social butterfly, interpersonal skills are valuable in every role.
  • Communication: Great creative collaborators also must be great communicators. It is important to base the candidate’s skills on more than just their interview, as their communication style can be evaluated by their cover letter, portfolio, and all email correspondence.

Discover more recommendations for standing out in specific creative roles on our blog, Best Creative Skills That Set Talent Apart.

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Chapter 6:

Conclusion

Creative collaboration is the key to taking your team to the next level. Establishing these best practices in your agency will promote unity and productivity among your team members. We know it can be difficult to do this alone, which is why we created a solution. CROOW is a platform that was designed specifically for creative teams and provides tools for both project management and creative collaboration. Team collaboration features like real-time project updates, communication tools, and task management help remote teams be the best creative team that they can be. Sign up to try CROOW for free today and streamline your workflow for better creative collaboration.

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      This guide includes an overview of creative collaboration and our best tips for implementing it into your agency structure. We have also added our guidelines for tackling the future of creative work and building a team with collaboration in mind. We hope you are able to use our tips to develop a balanced team dynamic with collaboration at the forefront.