Hiring a Creative Partner 101


(Photo above | Courtesy of Done Photography & Marketing/Studio Absolute)

There are a wealth of talented creative resources at your fingertips in the Marketing Industry issue of the Cascade Business News. Here is a quick guide on how to enter into an agreement with confidence and make the most of your marketing dollars.

View and understand the portfolio. Is the work done internally or by freelancers hired by the agency? If outsourced, will the agency’s partners be part of a transparent creative team?

Seek references. For a balanced view of the firm or individual’s strengths and weaknesses, seek out non-vetted reviews from past clients. We are fortunate in Central Oregon to have a strong pool of reputable creative talent. The vast majority of companies deliver as promised. The few that do not can easily be weeded out of an RFP process by interviewing previous clients and reading online reviews.

Know your objectives and hire accordingly. Branding, marketing, advertising and PR firms have crossover services but specific strengths in their area of expertise. For example, Studio Absolute is a branding and design firm so our strength is in telling our client’s story in a way that differentiates them from their competition. Once a strong brand identity and standards are in place, we extend the brand through web design, print, writing, photography and other marketing platforms. As a branding firm, we develop content strategies and creative messaging for advertising but media placement is not the crux of our business model. It’s simply another tool in our toolbox for meeting a client’s overall goals for their business.

Have a creative brief. A thorough creative brief helps your creative team see the project through your eyes and in doing so–saves time and money by leaving less to chance. There are great examples online that you can use as a guide.

Your marketing dollars are measured so choosing the right agency or creative partner is an important decision. Below are a few tips to make the most of your investment.

Communicate your budget up front. Communicating your objectives and budget at the proposal stage saves time in negotiations and puts the emphasis on how the creative team can best serve your needs. Any reputable company is going to provide the most value they can for the dollar amount you propose.

Everything in writing. The chemistry is there, the ideas are flowing and you’re excited to get started. Before you sign that first check, make sure the project objectives are outlined in a detailed proposal. The proposal should include a list of specific deliverables, a timeline (if that is important), billing policies and terms. It will also explain how kill fees work should you need to exit the agreement. The well-written proposal serves as a guide and protection for both parties.

Understand the deliverables. The initial discovery phase of a project may include a series of meetings and brainstorming sessions. That is an intangible deliverable but the resulting report is tangible. Both have value but it is worth being clear up front about what project fee includes.
Investing in the due diligence process can save you thousands of dollars and bring your closer to your objectives–faster.

Cheryl McIntosh of DONE Photography and Marketing is a commercial photographer with a 20 year marketing and branding background. She also co-owns the branding and design firm, Studio Absolute, with Creative Director, Russ McIntosh. Their work can be found at www.studioabsolute.com and www.greatthingsaredone.com or for more information, contact Cheryl at 541-280-0086 or cheryl@greatthingsaredone.com.


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Cheryl McIntosh, DONE Marketing + Photography

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