Marketers, you have a tough job to do. You have to be edgy enough to stand out in a crowded market and attract attention — but not so edgy you embarrass yourself, attracting the wrong kind of attention. 

And if you screw up, there is no, “Quick, take it down before someone notices!” Not only has someone noticed, they’ve likely shared the photo or screenshot on Twitter, posted it to Facebook, and submitted it to Reddit. All you can do is pray you haven’t inspired a trending hashtag, and hope customers have short memories. 

So, how do you push the envelope, without pushing it so far that your PR team gets called in for emergency damage control? It can feel like an impossible balance to achieve. Creativity alone doesn't cut it, you have to be smart — and you have to have the right process in place to protect yourself and your brand from any embarrassing gaffes. 

Is process the kiss of death for creativity? 

As tricky as it is to walk the line between creative genius and career suicide, it’s just as tough to strike the right balance between a thorough approvals process and one that's overwrought. That's why, for many marketers and creatives, process just means more stress. Extra hoops to jump through, complicated reviews involving too many people and opinions, and an endless cycle of revisions, until all that’s left is an overworked mess of a marketing system and a burned out team. 

But the right process isn’t just extra red tape — it’s a safety net. It means you can take the risks that are necessary to stand out and win the market, and rest easy knowing that all the right checks are in place and your brand is safe. 

Here are 3 costly process mistakes to avoid, plus tips for a streamlined marketing workflow that will set you up for success without slowing you down. 

1. Vague creative briefs 

70% of designers say that marketers submit unclear creative briefs for new jobs. This means designers are either forced to chase down the details they need to begin work, or guess and fill in the blanks themselves. Either way, you're looking at a lot of wasted time, and a much higher chance that mistakes will be made or key details overlooked. 

Workflow tip: Every efficient marketing and creative process starts with an effective creative brief. Take the time to establish standardized creative briefs and work requests, complete with fields for campaign goals, file formats and dimensions, related assets, and due dates. It will save your team valuable time (and unnecessary stress) by ensuring expectations are clear and no guesswork is required. 

[Download a free creative brief template here: The Creative Brief Template: Elements of an Effective Creative Brief]

2. Ambiguous approvals

At one point or another, most marketing and creative professionals have heard someone in the C-suite say, “Why did you use this? I never approved this!”  There’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling you get in your stomach. 

And yet the approvals process is often a confusing mess. If the CMO and Creative Director give conflicting feedback, whose comments do you follow? If one person gives their stamp of approval, and another asks for edits, does the first person need to look at the revised version again? And if you send something out for review and approval and don’t hear anything back, does that mean there aren’t any edits or just that everyone’s been too busy to look at it?

Creative teams say their #1 collaboration challenge is too much feedback from too many people, so the last thing you want is a drawn out review process with too many voices weighing in. But you do need to bring some order and transparency to the review and approvals process. 

Workflow tip: Use an online proofing tool that lets people leave comments directly on digital images and documents, so that feedback is precise and all reviewers can see which revisions have already been requested. Plus, approvals can be assigned to specific people, so the author can clearly see who’s given their approval, who’s requested edits, and who hasn’t reviewed yet (and they can send friendly reminders). 

3. File version mix-ups 

When it comes to creative collaboration, your revisions, drafts, and mockups often result in dozens of versions of the same file. When files get sent out for review and approval, consolidating documents with everyone’s feedback and updates into a single definitive version is a tricky task. And when it comes time to print, publish, or upload the final file, it’s all too easy to mistakenly choose the wrong version. After all, you’re probably navigating a mess of files with names like, “final-draft-campaign-Oct-17.jpg,” “last-complete-final-Final(V20)_copy.jpg”, and “Final-ad-USETHISONE.jpg”. Keeping everything organized so that old, unapproved versions aren’t accidentally used in final campaigns is unnecessarily stressful. 

Workflow tip: Gathering everyone’s feedback doesn’t mean you’re doomed to disorganized files. Simplify your digital asset management by limiting the number of revision rounds. Since every revision results in new files, streamline your current process by eliminating unnecessary steps. Then, use an online proofing and approval tool that supports file editing and versioning. Instead of being emailed, forwarded, and copied, all edits are made to a single file — and everyone on your team can clearly see which version is most up-to-date. 

Score your biggest marketing wins

At Wrike, our marketing department uses our own app to perfect our creative process and launch winning campaigns. Start a free two-week trial of Wrike’s new solution for marketing and creative teams, with nothing to download or install.