How do you get the best out of your new creative director?

Agencies are hiring creative directors in increasing numbers, but how should they go about getting the best out of them?

Are you getting the best out of your new creative director, asks Gavin Lewis?
Are you getting the best out of your new creative director, asks Gavin Lewis?

Being a creative director in PR is a relatively new role. I had the title at Resonate in 2008 and it was lonely.

I was an anomaly and, as such, was treated like one. Ten years on and many more PR agencies have seen the benefits of a creative director; in fact, there seems to be a bit of a gold rush. About time, too.


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So now that it’s widely acknowledged that having a creative director in PR is a good thing, how do you get the best out of them once you’ve appointed one?

1. Ask for solutions to problems, not just for ideas

Creative directors are problem-solvers, they are not just in the room for ideas. Ask yours to help find a human truth to activate around, ask them to be problem-solvers for their clients and, most importantly, for their teams.

2. Find creative directors who have grown up in PR

In the integrated, media-neutral world that we inhabit it’s tempting to get a creative director from a different discipline. It’s rarely a great idea.

The best PR creative directors have grown up in PR, they have a nose for news and are used to modest budgets. Because of this, they often possess the special ability to make something out of nothing.

They also understand how to make news, not just pretty assets.

3. Be open to risks

Allow your creative director to be a trailblazer and risk-taker. You want someone who is prepared to make brave decisions and stretch the team. If, ultimately, you want award-winning work, you need to expect a bit of disruption. Creative directors who are hands-on and work closely with teams achieve great things.

Sometimes this might be disruptive, as it will ruffle the feathers of those who are rigid in their thinking and approaches, but that will often give you the extra 20 per cent you need to stand out.

Don’t worry, though. At their best a good creative director brings kinship and harmony. Their thinking, zest and ideas actually work and this makes for a happy ship.

4. Let them sell their ideas

Can they tell a story? They need to be able to. Storytelling is the core of the role. They need to be able to tell stories that inspire the media, influencers, all-agency groups and ultimately, consumers.

5. Encourage their curiosity

Give your creative director the space to disappear down internet worm holes or go to an exhibition for an afternoon every now and then. It’s work. It’s where ideas often come from. In fact, let them take others with them as they search for inspiration.

6. Expect passion and be prepared to tolerate it

They need to believe in their ideas. They need to get passionate about them and they need to push to get their vision realised. This comes with a warning; restless creatives can be tiring. The rewards far outway the downsides, though.

7. Give them partners in crime

Some, not all, creative directors need others around them to be able to reach their full potential. Not so much a yin to their yang, more teammates who can ground them. Support them with some logic and, perhaps, some organisational help.

Gavin Lewis is creative director at Hope&Glory

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