The Rules for Right Now

Best practices, lessons learned, and thoughts on being creative during a pandemic

When we were starting Partners in Crime, our quest was twofold: to embrace the power of the increasingly independent, talent-rich workforce in our industry, and to redefine the relationship between client and creative agency. This led us to discover new ways to work smart, lessons on staying nimble and new collaboration techniques with our brand partners and our teams.

As we shelter in place and work more remotely than even we are used to, we wanted to share some of these best practices, lessons learned, and hopefully, inspiration for where creative executions could evolve in this unique moment in time, as well as beyond it.

Bring on talent that you trust.

The superstars you have worked with before, or the newbies who are vetted by others you trust. Then, keep trusting them. Give them the autonomy to do what they do best. This mutual trust empowers people to dig deep and bring back thoughtful, brave work beyond what was asked for.

Choose partners who inspire you.

Reimagine your structure in a way that allows you to be choosy about who you work with. Work with brands you care about, disruptive ideas that blow your minds, and organizations you believe in. Every new project is a chance to surprise yourself with what you (and your company) are capable of doing. Then the work you create will grow your brand as well as your clients'. (We probably won't be working with Hobby Lobby anytime soon.)

Embrace corporate social responsibility.

The stakes have never been more clear than they are now. Not only is it the right thing to do, but standing up for what you care about is also a huge creative opportunity. We tend to use this type of engagement as a front door for new business, as it leads to braver work and often has a separate budget from the general marketing dollars. It's also where the true brand essence is always expressed.

Respect people's time.

As the formality of location-based business goes away, remember that working from home does not mean "on call." Everyone is hustling and managing their schedule under pretty stressful circumstances. Alongside their work projects, they're managing their lives, families and personal "corona protocol." Set a schedule that works for your team, and give everyone time to take care of what matters.

Right now, everything is an experiment.

This isn't the time to be rigid. In fact, if the way you are working and reacting feels familiar, you might want to press pause. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary thinking, so if you feel like you are repeating something just because it's easy to do, it's a good moment to reassess.

Ditch your job title.

Once you begin to think about yourself as a person with skills and ideas as opposed to a "Your Title Here," the world of opportunity opens up. Be open to what's needed. Learn new skills and sharpen old ones. Embrace what you don't know. It keeps things interesting.

This moment calls for relevant branded content.

With all of us in our homes, we are quite literally a captive audience. There is no time like the present to become the entertainment rather than just the commercials that surround it. We work with a lot of startups that often have no preconceived idea of how they enter the market—this could be the right moment to embrace their owned media, become their own network, and also help consumers get through these times. 

Make influencers creatives.

Now is the time to embrace new ways of putting creative teams together. Use ambassadors as creators rather than just handing an influencer an idea to share. You'll get more authentic and engaging work.

Use only the parts of your process that currently serve you.

You don't need to recreate the 15-person meeting around the conference table with a 15-person Zoom meeting. That may have worked in the office, but it doesn't work online. (And by the way, it didn't work in the office. That meeting should've been an email.)

Use ego-busting collaborative creative tools.

Google Suite, Adobe Suite, Slack, BaseCamp, GitHub, Trello and other remote collaboration tools have helped us adapt to work day in and day out. These tools tend to build partnerships and let people own ideas together. Bad news for big egos. Great news for everyone else.

Don't apologize for doing things differently.

Just don't. Ever. Challenge the norms. Be the David. Make no excuses and always remember that Steve Jobs probably said something very smart about how the world needs new ideas and new ways to do things.

(Virtually) hug your project manager.

The wheels need to stay on the track to move things forward, particularly when working remotely. Proper briefings, follow-ups, sharing docs, access to shared drives, clear next steps, and client alignment sit on the shoulders of this person. Appreciate them and invest in them.

Work safe.

As we all follow #stayhome guidelines to #flattenthecurve, survey your digital workflow to make sure those practices are safe, too. Shared servers, collaborative creative documents, and proprietary information from clients all need to be handled with security as a priority.

Breathe, people.

We always find some "dumb time" to hang with the teams we have on various projects. That energy we get from being together is a big part of our creative culture. Turn those coffee talks and happy hours virtual with Zoom meetups or FaceTimes to find physical company culture even when we have people in different places.  

Don't panic.

As business owners, as creatives, as parents, and as people, we are questioning a way forward on many fronts. Let's not panic. Rather, in this historic moment, let's all radically re-approach how we work with each other to keep our industry thriving and our communities safe. And let's bring some of these lessons forward as we come out of this unique time and find our new normal.

Profile picture for user Stephen Goldblatt and Lee Einhorn
Stephen Goldblatt and Lee Einhorn
Stephen Goldblatt and Lee Einhorn are founders of Partners in Crime.

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