PR creatives must abandon collective imposter syndrome

I recently met my mentee, Dima Vasilenco, a senior account executive at Nelson Bostock Unlimited, as part of the PRWeek Creative Mentoring scheme.

Usually, a mentor is expected to be more experienced than her mentee and bring the answers where she can (as opposed to coaching, where you are helping the person to find their own conclusions).

However, it was apparent to me early on with Dima that I might be failing straight off the bat.

Reverse mentoring recognises that there are skills gaps on both sides, and that participants can learn and be inspired by each other. And so it goes that Dima asked me this interesting question:

"What is the career development path to become a creative director? And how does it work in b2b?"

In my experience, becoming a CD in PR isn't necessarily a role you receive specific training for; rather, it's something you gravitate towards or fall into. So, my response was: "Great question, and I don't know right now, but I'll ponder and come back to you."

I've been talking to industry folk and looking at job specs. And, given that the CD role was borrowed from our ad agency brethren, I've been looking there too. What I've discovered is that it's far from a straight line or a simple answer.

As a senior role, there is an assumption that on becoming a CD you manage other creatives. And while that may be true in an ad agency, in PR agencies there are often no others with creative responsibilities that might naturally fall into this group – graphic designers, copyrighters, video editors, and so on.

In PR, the other people expected to generate creative ideas are the entire agency. We are all creative, but not all 'trained' creatives. A not-so-subtle difference.

For an ad or design agency CD, a key focus is creating visual output. So, it follows that a classic educational path to becoming a CD is art school or graphic design. Many CDs are promoted from art director, designer and copywriting roles.

Yet a quick glance through the CVs of the PRWeek mentors reveals an enormous diversity of educational and career backgrounds. From head of digital or content to strategist to consultant, with the move often coming from account-director level – a career move unheard of in an ad agency (a suit, moving into creative).

Maybe this is where some of our creative insecurities come from – a sort of collective imposter syndrome that we've not been trained and nurtured into this relatively new role for our industry.

So, I think to answer Dima's question, the truth is we're still figuring it out. But by posing intriguing and challenging questions, you're definitely on the right path.

Claire Bridges is founder of Now Go Create.


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