If you think overseeing creative projects and supervising creative teams is the same as managing a project with software developers or a manufacturing crew, you may want to think again. Every group has its own quirks and unique concerns that must be taken into consideration if you're going to be an effective leader. Below are the three crucial keys to successfully managing a project with creatives:
- Creative project management requires empathy
- It needs outstanding communication skills
- It demands a proper tool
1. Creative Project Management Requires Empathy
I remember being part of a team once where we were launching a big media campaign and one member was anxiously waiting for his wife to give birth. But he was on his laptop anyway, doing last minute edits on a sales deck because our team leader made it clear that not even a birth would derail the campaign schedule.
You can master your work breakdown structures and your critical path charts all you like, but if you successfully shepherd the project to completion while trampling over your creative team's personal needs, you need to rethink your definition of success.
Creative project management, because it deals with real people, requires empathy. You're not just managing antiseptic project details, you're also managing passionate creatives who have real lives and real concerns. So get to know them. Know what makes your people tick. Know which of these 10 traits of creative people your team members exhibit most. Then review other principles of psychology and change management, not in order to manipulate them, but because this information will help you deal with their resistance to change and may even help you communicate more clearly with them. Make sure to extend this empathy to your clients too, even when they have a lack of knowledge about your field and how you work. Think about how to explain project management to a client in a way that's clear and jargon-free/ Overall, you'll find more success guiding the work toward deadlines, not as a whip-wielding taskmaster, but as a motivating and compassionate creative project manager.
2. Creative Project Management Needs Outstanding Communication Skills
Project management for creatives, like any management exercise, involves a fair amount of communication. But what may surprise you is the amount of "translation" involved. Especially with creative agency project management or any situation where you're passing along feedback from clients to creatives, you will have to learn how to express opinions as actionable items, and "translate" what clients need into concrete tasks your creatives can execute. The skill involves making sense out of the multitude of opinions and communicating it to the team. And vice versa, you will also need to manage the expectations of clients and stakeholders regarding the team's output.
While there are creative project management tools that allow this feedback to go straight to the team members via software, it is often a better use of time for everyone if one person — you, the project manager— is assigned as the liaison or filter that decides which feedback should be implemented, and which can be ignored or deferred.
3. Creative Project Management Demands a Proper Tool
The final key for project management involving creatives or marketing is the usage of a proper tool. This tool must be able to handle all the moving parts of a creative job or a marketing campaign. It has to allow for work discussions and real-time feedback. But more importantly, when you're dealing with output that isn't just text but actual publications, graphics, or videos, you will need a complete proofing and approval process. Wrike for Marketers is one such tool. Say for example you're in charge of an online marketing campaign requiring a banner design. Wrike allows your designer to attach a design to the tool so that you, your team, and eventually your clients, can provide feedback directly onto the file. This way, instead of your designer trying to decipher which section of the banner you're all talking about, he can see where each comment points to and then take the appropriate action.
Creative project management has its own unique spin on things. But like any form of management, the secret is to remind yourself you are dealing with people first and foremost. If you can lead your team with empathy, excellent communication, and the right tool in hand, you are on the right path.