Project Management Tips for Creative Endeavors

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Top Tips for Creative Project Management

Project management is like magic; you never see the strings when it’s done well. On the other hand, when problems arise, they’re hard to miss.

Our strategic design and production agency produces hundreds of client projects annually, from brands to websites to videos to corporate events. And while the creative skills needed to complete these endeavors are diverse, they require the same high-level organizational expertise.

Over the years, we’ve learned that beyond the quality of our creative output, the most important factors in any successful project are how well we educate our clients on the process and how effectively we communicate expectations.

Mile Marker Management – Are We There Yet?

One of the key areas for education and communication is a process we call Mile Marker Management. Much like designated highway signs, project mile markers identify where you are along the creative journey and how far you have to go to reach your deadline destination.

These markers are especially important in creative endeavors, where inspiration (and the often unavoidable scope creep) can strike anytime. Because these types of projects are built around specific subject matter expertise, the creative experts should determine the milestones needed to deliver a quality product. The creative output will suffer if deadlines are too aggressive or too relaxed.

Customized Workflow – Navigating Success

Allowing creatives to set milestones is like handing clients a roadmap for success. This process shows the intended route and how long it’s expected to take. It also creates clear checkpoints for accountability and saves time by not stopping mid-project to ask for directions.

Unlike measured highway signs, project mile markers aren’t evenly distributed. Each phase of creative work can take a different amount of time, so markers must be customized to each project. In the same way that it makes the most sense to allow the creative specialists to set project markers, it’s equally important to heed their advice on how long each phase should take.

Centralized Communication – Linchpin for the Win

While clear communication is essential, clarity isn’t enough on its own; efficiency is also required. A single client linchpin contact can keep the wheels on and the project moving forward.

At the beginning of every endeavor, we ask clients to provide a single point of contact to manage feedback and decision-making. This linchpin is a liaison between stakeholders and our agency. They’re responsible for aggregating, translating, and advocating through a single voice for the client side of the creative exchange.

We assign a linchpin on our side, as well. This primary producer coordinates strategy, creative direction, design, and execution. Like traffic controllers, the linchpins keep information moving. They share pertinent details and report back, creating a speed bump that prevents traffic jams and scope surprises. This process streamlines and syncs project exchanges, keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring approval hierarchies are followed.

Expectation Management – Two Sides of the Same Comm

Our linchpin’s commitment to efficient and effective communication relies on both verbal and written exchange in nearly equal amounts. Too much or too little of either can create challenges, to put it mildly.

Verbal communication allows for more relational exchange and makes asking and answering questions easy. However, relying solely on calls and meetings leaves room for missed points or differing interpretations of discussions. On the contrary, written communication allows for a clear delineation of key points. But it can be difficult to manage tone and relationship via email. Ideal chemistry incorporates a balance of written and verbal communication.

For example, at a mile-marker check-in, linchpin project managers will determine an agenda and hop on a call or Zoom to discuss progress and next steps. Other team members from either side may be present, but it’s the project manager’s role to guide the conversation and manage expectations. Following that call, they’ll follow up with an email summarizing the meeting in bullet form, reiterating key points and action items. This email may also serve as the starting agenda for the next check-in call.

It may seem counter-intuitive or time intensive to double up on verbal and written communication, but a few extra moments to ensure clarity at any given mile marker can save exponentially more time in the long run. This process identifies and corrects issues early instead of allowing them to compound, and it fosters a healthy client-agency relationship.

Continuing Education – Project Management 101

At Haystack, we teach all the above processes to new recruits in a training called Project Management 101. As the name suggests, we instill these teachings as the foundational strategies on which to build any creative endeavor

But successful project management is a two-way street. And so, hopefully, this peek behind the scenes helped you too. Interested in experiencing these best practices in action? Reach out at [email protected]. We’d love to discuss your project ideas and strategize support for all your creative marketing needs!

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