In 2002, University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida published a book called The Rise of the Creative Class. At the time, it presented a revolutionary concept: the notion that the future of cities would depend on their ability to appeal to a new “Creative Class” of professionals.
Florida seems to look back at that reception with some amusement, noting how commonplace the philosophies of creativity he outlined are now becoming. Few cities doubt the importance of an arts and culture scene, or a parks-centered urban environment. Most recognize the need to create livable environments which attract talent. (Our home, Orlando, is following this approach in numerous demonstrable ways.)
In the preface to his 2012 revised edition of the book, Florida writes:
“The key thesis of my argument is as simple as it is basic: every human being is creative. That the Creative Class enjoys vast privileges is true, but to acknowledge that fact is not to endorse it. The essential task before us is to unleash the creative energies, talent, and potential of everyone — to build a society that acknowledges and nurtures the creativity of each and every human being.”
It’s a beautiful thought, and one I certainly agree with. I believe that the rise of the Internet and web-based business has driven this cultural shift, and that the recession of 2008 kicked it into gear by forcing people to make different career choices than they might have made in a stronger economy.
Despite this, in my day to day work life as a creative professional, I sometimes feel that creatives are treated as though their work has little more value than the chocolate bar that comes out of the vending machine… like they just need to insert the correct number of quarters and press the corresponding buttons, and out pops a website or a logo or a social media post.
Feeling like creative work is unappreciated can be frustrating, of course. But more than that, it makes me sad.
First, it shows that the person may not be in touch with their own creativity. As Florida says, everyone is creative — but a lot of people spend most of their lives with that sense of wonder locked away. Attempting to unlock it can be frustrating because it yields miscommunication and both accidental and intentional disrespect.
When a business signs with a new digital marketing agency, the sense of enthusiasm always pervades the project. There is hope for the future and, generally speaking, positive and productive communication. Everyone gets excited by what could be.
However, it rarely takes long before cold reality intrudes on creative ideas and approaches. A disagreement will pop up, or the client will find something the creative professional produces unacceptable for one reason or another.
In that moment, both parties’ approach to communication may define the relationship moving forward.
If the creative professional chooses to be arrogant, rude, or inconsiderate of the client’s thoughts, the client may feel that their creativity on the project no longer matter — which can be a huge problem, leading to dissatisfied clients and projects with limited utility for the business.
For their part, if the client is (accidentally or intentionally) disrespectful, dismissive, or discouraging about the work which has been done, creative professionals may become disheartened or angry, ultimately putting less effort and creativity into doing the project well. They will almost certainly resent the client and possibly elect not to continue working with them.
When it comes to creative-client working relationships, it is ultimately far more effective to approach a marketing relationship (digital or otherwise) as a partnership. Creative work is a lot harder and more time consuming than many people give it credit for. The same goes for other professions. Put a high value on showing respect for each other’s contributions, especially when it comes to creativity and diversity of ideas. Remain professional in communications and refrain from dismissing ideas just because you disagree with them.
It is the challenge of all businesses to learn how to communicate across industries and professional boundaries, but maintaining a high level of respect for each others’ professionalism and contributions can go a long way toward building long-term, productive creative partnerships.