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On Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of bright, young, creative marketing professionals in North Carolina. It took me back to my days as a creative director and agency principal, when I led a similar group.

You can find tons of articles or blogs about how managing or supervising millennials is different, challenging and sometimes even annoying. But working with what the agency world calls “creatives” is even more unique. Here’s how—and what creative types need to produce their best work.

1. Creative people need time and permission to play at work.

This doesn’t mean putting a basketball court in your parking lot. (Although that would that be fun? My agency had an air hockey game—and a cat). But they do need time set aside for experimenting and brainstorming—and long enough deadlines to allow them to play with ideas, then set them aside to incubate before choosing one.

2. Creative people need the freedom to develop their own ideas.

My boss (who I really liked) at a hospital where I worked had this brilliant idea for a photo shoot. She wanted a line of 4 or 5 babies shot from the back side, facing a white wall. (This was before Photoshop.) Sure, it sounded adorable. But imaging trying to get even one baby to stare at blank wall with 5 people (including mommy) behind them talking and making noise? Impossible.

3. Creative people need to be allowed (and encouraged) to take risks.

Yes, their concept may sound crazy or “out there,” but everyone from Captain James T. Kirk to Captain Jack Sparrow has gone out on limb to try something different…something that’s “so crazy it must might work!” Of course, we shouldn’t model our marketing strategies and executions after fictitious characters, but taking a chance now and then pays off and makes you stand out from the also-rans. Of course, you have to be prepared for  occasional mistakes or missteps as well. That’s part of the package.

4. Creative people’s work needs to be (as much as reasonable) defended and protected.

When I worked with the banking industry, my team would present concepts, get them approved, develop copy and design, and get final approvals for a campaign, for example, from the president. Then, right before delivering final artwork for printing, he would “run it by his wife” who inevitably had MAJOR changes. However, because we didn’t present to her, she didn’t understand the concept, so the ads became convoluted and diluted. It really took the wind out of our sails.

5. Creative people need to have their work recognized and rewarded.Everyone likes to be told they’re doing a good job, but having that work validated externally by receiving awards, having their work featured in publications, or even just showing off their stuff at a PechaKucha (http://www.pechakucha.org/) event—is enough to recharge a creative person’s batteries.

Savvy marketers know what what’s important is building relationships, pleasing clients and most importantly getting results. And that is satisfying. But giving your creatives a little instant gratification—especially if they’re millennials—goes a long way. I’m happy to report that my friends in North Carolina are doing a lot of things right! And hopefully, this year, they’ll be able to check another one more of those five items off their list.


Katrina Olson is an award-winning marketing and public relations consultant, marketing coach/trainer, writer, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has been writing professionally for 25+ years for national, regional and local clients. She can be reached at katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.