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Ten Tips for Clients to Enhance Creative Feedback to Agencies

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For over 60 years, Rex 3 has worked with marketing and advertising agencies large and small. As a preferred print partner for marketing and advertising agencies, we know how to optimize our relationship with them to achieve outstanding results. Regardless if it is a commercial print job for sales and marketing collateral or a package manufacturing job, the fundamentals of the working relationship remain the same. Here are our top ten tips for enhancing client feedback to agencies.

1) Have the right team members signed off on the creative brief? 
Failure to have the right team members sign off is often the most overlooked aspect of   the creative process. Take the additional time to be certain the creative brief is clear before the creative process begins. Make sure it is clear and understood by everyone, including the Chief Marketing Officer, VP of Marketing, Graphic Design Manager or anyone else in the chain of command whose input is required. Creative work that does not meet expectations comes from poor direction, incomplete creative briefs, and inadequate communication among team members and outside service providers.

2) Stop “checking-in” on the creative team.
While it might seem that “checking-in” on the creative team will keep the team on track, this often halts the creative process. Talented creative people process through bad ideas to get to the good ones. Moreover, when that is the case, “checking-in” not only will frustrate you but also them.

3) Begin with the positive feedback for your creative agency. 
If you are not happy with the creative presentation, always lead off with something positive. It can be as simple as saying “nice try.” Take the positive route when providing feedback and reap the benefits in the long run. Building trust and a spirit of collaboration requires time, but authentic, positive communication will accelerate that process. However, false, inauthentic communication, will have the opposite effect and set your creative efforts back tremendously.

4) Understand that you are not the target. 
Most people think they can react to the creative work like a consumer, and it's tough to even if you match the demographic. You know too much about your brand not to be biased. Make time to allow the creative team presenting to review the objectives before making their pitch or presentation and often eliminates trepidation likely to occur during the initial review.

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5) This is not a drill. 
Junior marketing team members are often asked to lead off creative critiques and debriefings. This is a loose-loose situation for all involved. The junior marketing team member is under pressure to perform and to find and “fix” a problem. This team member simply put does not have enough industry experience to contribute to the creative process at this stage. The best outcome is that the senior marketing team member share these tips with the “newbie” before hand. Now, the situation is a win-win for everyone. 

6) Lead from a position of trust.
Handcuffing creative teams and people breaks their creative spirit and often leads to unrest within the team requiring you to step in to quell the unrest. People’s best work occurs when creative teams are given additional duties and responsibilities beyond their usual scope. More often than not, the team members step up to the plate, thrive and deliver great work! Partnerships and great work happen organically when clients and agencies trust one another. 

7) Not everyone wants answers.
Listen to your client with the intent to understand. Ask probing question to identify the core problem. Saying “It is blah” or “It is not to my liking” does not help. Remember, that as the client, you are the decision maker and have the right to say “no” 24 hours a day to the ideas your agency presents. Resist the urge to “fix” the problem for your agency, just define the problem and let your agency find the solution. On the agency side, never let a question go unanswered, that one lingering question could be the key to solving the issue.

8) Never let a question go unanswered. 
Questions are often used to guide creative teams and help them reflect on the work at hand. When specific concerns appear, or you need guidance, ask yourself how does it address the objective in the creative brief? Asking questions during a round table discussion is an excellent way to get the creative team to provide solutions and analyze other viewpoints.

9) It is all about the work 
Creative people by nature are sensitive and personally invested in their work. Don’t focus on the person, keep your message on target about their work. For example, “this design is too busy,’ is different than “do you think this is appropriate for our target audience?” Approaching a creative person from this vantage point can diffuse any uncomfortable situations that could arise just by changing your communication style.

10) Pretend you do not have a boss. 
You will never know what your boss is thinking, that is a fact. Trying to anticipate what your boss might think will drive you crazy and hurt your creative process. Generating bold ideas is hard enough, and if you are thinking how your boss will react you might dismiss an excellent idea. Trust your team and communicate your idea in the appropriate forum and utilize your agency’s resources to sell it to the client.