Grayton Integrated Publishing: custom publications and content, creative services
Grayton Integrated Publishing: custom publications and content, creative services
Grayton Integrated Publishing: custom publications, publication design
Grayton Integrated Publishing: native advertising, advertorials, writing, graphic design
advertorial design, advertorial samples
Projects are most effective when they use a collaborative process that draws on the combined strengths of everyone involved. Here, Grayton offers some thoughts on working successfully with your creative team. 
Q: I’ve hired vendors before. What’s different about working with a creative team?
Unlike hiring people to simply carry out directives, your relationship with a creative team should be consultative. The best results will come from a partnership approach.
Q: I know what I want. Do I need to waste everyone’s time brainstorming other possibilities?
You hired creative people—let them be creative. Your project will benefit from considering their input, which likely is informed by numerous projects for numerous clients. You are steeped in your company culture, and you know what your group has always done. You should expect your creative team to take you somewhere you never thought of going on your own. 
Q: I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it. Shouldn’t I ask to see several design ideas?
At Grayton, we like clients to make sure they are clear about their objectives from the start and then trust the process. Instead of asking the designer to create three comps using three different design approaches, it’s more efficient to spend time up front clearly defining your communication goals. If you’ve budgeted three hours for concept creation and you ask for three approaches, your designer will only spend one hour on each. But if you’ve clearly defined your objectives, he or she can take the entire three hours to nail one perfect way to go. 
Q: I hesitate to share too much background about internal politics and sensitivities with vendors.
As somebody once pointed out, context is worth 20 IQ points. The better your creative team knows your company, the better they’ll be able to grasp and shape your message. Instead of being cautious about sharing too much information, you should be worried about your creative team having to work without a sense of the big picture. 
Immerse them in the company culture whenever possible. Is there a meeting they can attend to meet and get to know executives? Making these connections will only help you in the long run. 
Whenever possible, tell them the why behind a mandate. If a writer shouldn’t have quoted Joe Shmoe in the story, don’t just delete the quote without explanation. Once the writer knows that he should never call Joe Shmoe for a quote because Joe and the CEO don’t see eye to eye, you can prevent repeat situations. The vendor learns, and gets better at meeting your needs.
Likewise, if you ask your photographer to take a profile photo without telling her that the focus of the story is on plummeting profits, don’t be surprised to receive a batch of smiling portraits. Share what you know, and you’ll save the expense of fixing preventable problems.
When your creative team has a realistic picture of your company and its major players in mind, it will translate into genuine communication—and your audience will notice.
Q: I’m never sure how much direction I should give when assigning art or stories. The most important thing is to make sure you’ve clearly defined what it is you’re trying to achieve. Tell your talent who the audience is and what takeaway you want them to have. Withholding this information from the people on your project handicaps them. 
As you do so, be careful to direct, not dictate. Let’s say you need a picture of shoe repairman John Smith for a story about small businesses. Maybe you think it’s a good idea to tell the photographer to shoot in front of Smith’s shop. What if the photographer gets there and finds a bland storefront or worse—what if the sign is missing letters? But maybe inside there’s something wonderfully visual like an old-fashioned workbench. 
If the photographer is good and he has time, he’ll shoot the exact setup you asked for and then go inside and take additional pictures on instinct. But if you’ve assigned the job to someone who follows directions to the letter, and you’ve given very specific instructions, you might end up with one shot of a tired storefront and embarrassing sign.
At Grayton, we’d rather tell the photographer what we’re trying to communicate with the photo and trust that they’ll make the right choices. We have found that when we say, “I have faith in you,” people will work that much harder not to let us down. 
We take a similar approach to editorial. When assigning a story about, say, a PR firm’s successful approach to winning new clients, we’re going to provide the writer with as many details as she needs without stepping over the line of too much information. We’ll tell her the angle and the publication goal. We’ll also provide a contact list, which may include specific names of people who must be interviewed (CEO Jill Schmoe), a type of person the writer should track down on her own (any firm manager), as well as possible do-not-contact folks (use Client A as an example but do not badger him for quotes). The last thing we typically want to do is provide a detailed outline. We trust that our writers will report the story as it unfolds, often unveiling information we couldn’t have predicted at the outset.
Q: Above all else, what’s the best way to maximize your relationship with your creative vendor?
We find that we can be most effective—and that the final product benefits—when clients expect us to be consultants, not just executors. At Grayton, our philosophy is the client has their set of expertise and we have our set of expertise, and things work best when we can draw on both. Anyone can follow marching orders. Instead, we aim to add value.
At the same time, we do not forget who is in control. Our clients always have the final word. But we love when they allow us to talk through their decisions and offer different solutions when appropriate. That sort of teamwork yields winning results.