Thinking outside the box. That phrase has been used for years to describe creativity. Media Relations Agency CEO Lonny Kocina, author of the best selling book “CEO’s Guide to Marketing,” says to get the most out of your creative staff, you should do just the opposite. Force them to think within the box.
Kocina started his career as a graphic designer. As an artistic person, he learned early on how to channel his talents. “When I was in school, I had an art teacher who asked us to design a billboard for a major ice cream company, but he told us we couldn’t use the words ice cream or the company name. It was an interesting challenge. Giving me those limits forced me to find different ways to get the message across. It’s the same challenge I pose to my writers, graphic designers and other staff every day.
It’s a challenge he’s been sharing with his staff since founding Media Relations Agency more than 30 years ago. The agency has a who’s who list of domestic and international clients, and is known for pioneering the performance-based Pay Per Interview pricing model. “When you don’t get paid unless you produce results, you learn quickly how to fine tune your creative processes.”
Giving structure to a creative staff
In “The CEO’s Guide to Marketing,” Kocina outlines what he calls Strategically Aimed Marketing, or the SAM 6 process. Step five of this process is about harnessing ideas and structuring them into something useful. Kocina has his staff record the marketing basics of every campaign at the start of each new project.
He advises other leaders to consider using these elements to help steer their creative teams. “Every company must market their business to produce sales. This is a good checklist to help your staff stay on task and deliver superior results.”
Your company’s mission and vision. “These serve as top-level guideposts for anyone involved in developing promotions.”
The author or spokesperson. “Specifying a spokesperson helps the writers remember what viewpoint to use.”
Keywords. “Today nearly every promotional piece winds up on the internet. Create searchable content by including the relevant keywords and hashtags. .”
Identify your promotional channel. “Is the team working on website copy, a social media post or maybe a press release? What works for Facebook won’t meet the needs of a TV news producer. Your team must be aware of each promotional channel’s unique requirements.”
Create for your audience’s location. “Geography influences your ability to connect with your audience. For example, should you use ‘pop’ or ‘soda’?”
Word count. “Writers should follow the channel’s editorial guidelines. For example, blogs should be 300 words for search engine purposes, but digital ads are much shorter. Having this information in advance helps writers determine how much space they have to tell the story.”
Kocina designed a template to house all of these elements in one document. But don’t mistakenly think that a template will restrict creativity. “It actually does the opposite. It eliminates uncertainty which causes tension and stress. It’s hard to produce on-point work if you are guessing at the parameters of the box.” said Kocina.
Kocina offers another piece of creative management advice: “Remember, it’s not one size fits all. You need to assemble the right people for the job, and then let these souls work their magic within the parameters you set. Every company is going to require a different combination of talent at different times. It’s not as easy as plugging in one full-time writer and one part-time designer or hiring a single Jack-of-all-trades.”