Balancing Act: 10 Steps for Optimal Creativity and Strategy

It’s really hard in a business environment to be strategic and not be creative at the same time — and the reverse is also true. Strategy and creativity are interrelated and interdependent forces that feed and support each other. Recognizing that duality is crucial to your success.

To achieve that optimal strategy/creative balance, start with these 10 easy steps:

  1. Be forward thinking in your brief. Too many organizations get mired in the past history of a brand, its campaigns or of prior or competitive results but it is our experience in this fast moving digital world that you can rarely make a good comparison to past efforts since so much has changed.
  2. The brief should not be strategic or creative. It should be both. Deliver one informative, but concise, brief to all your team members. Multiple briefs only confuse things. Do be as specific as possible though. Ironically, having specific goals allows your thinking to expand.
  3. Be inclusive in brainstorming sessions. Great ideas can come from anywhere — and they often do. Bring in some team members not as familiar with the brand to challenge the status quo and ask naïve, but telling, questions. Consider including partners or your client or agency for this critical exercise.
  4. Do your brainstorming in waves to allow ideas to marinate and develop. Allow free thinking and open discussion in all waves while carefully focusing efforts as you go. It’s difficult to rush good ideas and even more difficult to guide a diverse group to a purposeful conclusion, so have an experienced lead.
  5. Return often to your brief to align your ideas, strategy and goals. Can you succinctly describe your plan? If not, it may not be clear and cohesive enough.
  6. Include learning objectives in your plan. This could translate to testing a new channel or approach, a new audience, offer or messaging.
  7. As long as you have the fundamentals covered, keep an outlier idea as an option on your plan.
  8. Test your proposed plan for fit. Can you actually implement your ambitious goals with your current resources, funds and talents? The best approaches are still rooted in reality.
  9. Make sure your plan gets communicated in a timely manner to everyone working directly or tangentially towards the same goals. You want to make sure you are working together.
  10. Make your plan flexible. Environmental factors, competitors and many different variables can change over time and effect the viability or fit of your strategy. You need regular check-ins during the year to make sure you are still on the right path. Planning is not a one and done, annual effort.

Your strategic plan should be the culmination of all your creative thinking against specific goals and is both creative and strategic by definition. Perhaps we need a better word that will help us integrate this critical work? “Innovative” captures a new way of approaching something both strategic and creative. That may be why the agency and marketing worlds have latched onto “innovation” as a key descriptive term. Innovation can advance both modest and ambitious goals; it can be transformative but it can also be a measured, evolution of your current position.

How innovative are you in applying strategy and creativity in your planning process?

Author: Robin Neifield

With over 20 years of online experience Robin Neifield serves as the CEO of Netplus, a top interactive agency, and as the trusted digital guide for CMOs. She has been widely published and quoted on digital strategy and has been a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events like Search Engine Strategies, OMMA, Ad:Tech and others where her insights are sought on varied marketing topics such as digital strategy, behavioral targeting, social media marketing, search engine and conversion optimization, localization strategies and proximity marketing, mobile gaming and email marketing. You can find her on LinkedIn, or reach her by email or phone, (610) 304-9990.


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