If you’re a creative professional, you know the feeling of starting work on a project and entering that zone where you turn creative concepts into reality.
You’ve had the chance to digest all the relevant details and a vision for the finished product is now coming in clearly. The first few steps are underway and just as you start to see things take shape… interruption.
Interruptions are the bane of any creative flow. According to the University of California, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for someone to return to a task1 after being interrupted. Unfortunately creative interruptions are more frequent than ever before. The tools that teams use to improve communication and collaboration often present a bit of a catch-22.
On one hand, messaging, alerts, and other notification-type technologies have allowed brands to more quickly relay details and coordinate campaigns. On the other hand, those same capabilities quickly add to a long list of interruptions creatives face today.
Here are five of the most frustrating interruptions creatives face daily:
- Repetitive Requests
- Tedious Creative Tasks
- Brand Enforcement
- Disorganized Approvals
- Inefficient Distribution
More and more, brands are looking to grow their digital presence with efficient workflows built on new technology. But those solutions can often become problems themselves by introducing new forms of interruptions, leaving creative teams to find ways to adjust and remove those blocks. In this post, we’ll dive into these common frustrations and how they eat into a creative team’s time.
Also, as you aim to turn down the noise, take a look at our ebook on avoiding creative blocks to keep your team’s creative flow… flowing.
1.) Repetitive Requests
Just because a creative project is complete, it doesn’t mean that you’ve heard the end of it. Not by a long shot. While you may know where finished creative assets live , does the rest of your organization?
While advancing creative projects, it’s almost a guarantee that as one task is complete, another request is added to the queue. And all too often, those requests are redundant.
Repetitive requests can take many forms but usually fit into one of these categories:
Requests for existing creative – $300 billion; that’s how much is wasted each year recreating misplaced digital content. Distributing creative content can sometimes add up to take more time (and money) than creating the asset itself. If the easiest way to access creative content is to message the creative team directly, rest assured that’s what’ll happen.
Redundant requests for new creative – Without a full grasp of every creative asset that’s available, it should come as no surprise that many similar requests come in for items that already exist. Afterall, great minds think alike. Now, if only they were able to save those extra thoughts and easily find the right content first.
Update requests – The marketing team often serves as creator for the whole company, which equates to a lot of mouths to feed. This can span all teams from customer service to sales. When sudden and urgent requests come in, updating versions of creative ends up being another massive interruption.
It’s also worth mentioning that these interruptions aren’t reserved just for internal teams. Of in-house creative teams, 43% say they anticipate relying more heavily on contract work to help execute creative campaigns. This means more collaboration with partners who may not be tapped into how your team works and, in turn, can amplify interruptions even further.
How repetitive requests kill the creative flow
Ultimately repetitive requests prevent creative professionals from spending their time being creative. By finding ways for organizations to better distribute and self-serve creative assets, the creative team is able to be more strategic, putting more time into where their effort is most valuable.
2.) Tedious Creative Tasks
An assembly line is perhaps the quintessential representation of production efficiency. That same analogy doesn’t work quite as well with a creative environment. Still, when tedious tasks pile up, the creative process can start to feel like one.
The trick really is finding a balance between more efficient creative workflows and promoting creative freedom. Reducing the amount of time spent on tedious creative tasks helps both parts of that equation.
Here are some of the most common tedious creative tasks:
- Resizing images
- Recoloring assets
- Replacing logos/images/text
- Reformatting files
These tedious tasks can also easily become duplicative ones. As one asset is created and put to use for one purpose, that same version may be requested again later by someone else for a different purpose. If creative tasks are simply completed and sent to the requester, without being made available to quickly find again for future use, those creative interruptions inevitably multiply over time.
How tedious creative tasks kill the creative flow
Now, this isn’t to say that these types of tasks aren’t important. Different applications for creative assets require different specifications to optimize their use. Even so, these tasks can quickly fill a backlog that can drain a creative team’s juices and time.
3.) Brand Enforcement
Maintaining a brand typically comes down to (or at least heavily involves) the creative team. When it comes to creative owners staying on-brand, that’s usually simple enough. Keeping everything on-brand outside of the creative team though, is another story.
According to Lucidpress,2 brand consistency can increase a company’s revenue by 33%.
It isn’t uncommon for outdated creative assets to take on a second life as they float around file systems and old emails. Of course, this becomes more likely the larger the asset library you have to manage. Any rebranding initiatives will also complicate efforts to keep tabs on previous assets that could undermine brand consistency.
In another scenario, urgency combined with an inability to find the right asset can lead stakeholders down the ill-advised path of attempting to create their own. How hard could it be, right? While (we’ll assume) their aim is likely to ease the burden on the creative team, it will almost always create more problems than it solves.
How brand enforcement kills the creative flow
These are just a couple of ways off-brand creative assets end up in use. In almost all cases it can be tied back to asset chaos, or in other words, a less-than-organized collection of brand content. It all amounts to a creative team that, at times, will find itself dealing with the interruptions that come with brand inconsistency.
4.) Inconsistent Approvals
Some interruptions are built into the process intentionally, but their necessity can make them even more problematic. In what might be the most common interruption of all, approvals are a necessary step to ensuring that creative production and strategy are aligned. But creative teams know all too well that those steps can also become unnecessarily complicated and lengthy.
In fact, just about every creative professional has known the pain of approvals. According to G2, 79% of creatives encounter regular issues with getting feedback 3 on creative projects.
The never-ending quest for feedback and approval makes for creative interruption in a few key ways:
Inefficient communication and proofing – Proofing can play out across several different platforms, and unfortunately, sometimes multiple platforms at the same time. Endless email chains often attempt to contain the conversation, but we all know how inefficient that communication4 can be. Getting edits organized or receiving them at all usually means extra time wasted for the creative team.
Multiple levels of approval – For many organizations, getting approval isn’t as simple as running it by one key stakeholder. When managing multiple layers of approvals the difficulties and interruptions multiply. Even if communication runs smoothly, there is still the possibility of conflicting edits from different stakeholders, which take time for the creative team to sort out.
Inconsistent, vague and late feedback – Unfortunately, receiving feedback at all can seem like a blessing. Time spent following up for edits eats into a creative professional’s day and interrupts progress. When feedback does come in, it can often be vague or incomplete, leading to additional follow-up for clarification. Even worse, feedback can notoriously come in after a project has already been completed.
How lengthy approvals kill the creative flow
Even the most organized share drives and team chat threads often lack the transparency for clear status updates of the campaign assets. Because of this, creative teams should always anticipate where the creative flow will naturally slow. At the same time, the approval process is most disruptive when there is the need for extra steps, like additional follow-ups, last-minute edits and revisiting resolved items.
5.) Inefficient Distribution
Yes, creative professionals want to be more efficient with their work and increase their output. But, maybe more than anything, creatives really just want to see that their work is making an impact on the brand.
Over 60% of content5 created by brands today is at risk of becoming “just clutter.” A lack of insight into the performance of creative assets may not interrupt the creative flow directly, but the realization that it isn’t being put to use certainly does.
A creative team faces fewer internal interruptions when they aren’t left to fill in the blanks. Knowing how, where and when a creative asset is going to be put to use gives the creative strategy a place to start.
Better alignment on campaigns and past performance allows creative teams to remain focused and effective on the creative strategies they’re tasked with bringing to life.
How wasted work kills the creative flow
Understanding the value of your work is a motivator for just about anyone. Without a solid understanding of how creative assets are being put to use and performing, creative teams spend time looking for answers and grasping for straws. These extra steps drain creative juices and interrupt a creative team’s ability to produce quality work.
How should creative teams be spending their time?
After covering all the interruptions creative teams face, it begs the question of where they should be spending their time.
A creative team’s most valuable work comes in setting a strategy that supports the creative needs of all a brand’s activities. This strategy sets a foundation for brand identity and a structure for more streamlined creative production.
By limiting daily interruptions, creative teams can focus on improving areas like brand building, user experience and testing creative ideas.
Ultimately, with extra time in their day, creative professionals can do more of what they love and what’s most valuable to the brand: being creative.