Creative: It’s totally subjective, right? Everyone has a favorite color, and most of us know how to write a sentence. But the truth is that creative isn’t filled with whimsy or based on Harry Potter spells. It’s meant to solve a problem – the problem of breaking through the sea of sameness and actually reaching your audience.
It also (at least most of the time) needs to follow certain guidelines. Creative can have a surprising amount of stakeholders, and no one wants to find themselves in an endless conga line of feedback. That’s why creative teams need to master the brand-SEO-compliance dance.
Every dance is different, and every dancer has their own style. But these are the most common players in the creative dance.
B2B brand marketing is often undervalued, at least in comparison to B2C. You can probably think of plenty of B2C campaigns that caught your attention: Dove’s Real Beauty. Nike’s Just Do It. Wendy’s entire, hilarious Twitter presence.
Many B2B companies don’t even have a brand department (and if you don’t, we can help). When they do focus on B2B brand marketing, they can do great things. Just look at Slack’s Twitter account or Adobe’s 1 million Instagram followers. Or check out Cisco’s new socially aware “Bridge to Possible” campaign.
Whether working on whitepapers or worldwide campaigns, the brand team provides the voice and tone for content. They ensure that fonts, colors and images follow established guidelines. They are the experts on how their brand should sound, look and feel. They create the all-important cohesive storyline for their brand’s presence.
The days when companies could ignore their online presence are long over. Today, the internet has one overlord, and its name is Google: 68% of website traffic comes from organic or paid search, and Google is the most popular search engine by far. Yet about 90% of content doesn’t get any traffic from Google. The SEO team’s job is to get your content in the other 10%. But writing for algorithms and writing for humans are not the same thing.
Every writer who has ever created SEO content has received some truly whacky and awkward keywords. (Think “now snow” and “opaque deals.” And don’t get me started on “near me.”) But good SEO – especially good account-based SEO – is more than shoving exact keywords onto a page. It’s even more than title tags and meta descriptions (which, in the modern world, don’t hold as much weight as you might think). Done right, it can complement writing rather than ruining it.
Ah, compliance. They have one job, and one job only: Protect their company from risk at all costs. For marketing, that means controlling the words that are used to represent them. It means ensuring that any claims made are true and evidence-based. That proper source notes and disclaimers are included. That no hard-and-fast promises are made.
Keeping your company from being sued into oblivion is certainly an important job. But for creatives, this all sounds very boring – and no one wants to make boring B2B creative. Yet for better or worse, compliance departments are a big part of the creative dance.
So what’s a B2B creative to do? For a creative process that’s smoother than a foxtrot, BOL implements a few strategies.
Creating alignment is a big principle of account-based marketing and one of the reasons it has so many benefits. Creative teams need to go beyond aligning sales and marketing and align all of the above departments around a common goal.
The best way to do this? Communication is key, and as with many things involving creative, it all goes back to a solid creative brief. What are you making? Who is your audience? What are your KPIs? From there, each team can determine their contribution, and the creative team can get to work.
Get consolidated feedback
Yes, we must admit that this isn’t always possible. And it can be a real beast to implement. (That’s why we love our account team here at BOL!) But making sure that every stakeholder has not only seen, but truly thought about, all pieces of creative – including the brief – and provided feedback before we make edits helps us be as efficient as possible, and efficiency makes everyone happy.
Talk it out
Look, I love the written word. I can go back and forth on Slack or email all day long. But I also want to make our clients’ lives as easy as possible. And often, the best way to resolve questions is with our real, live voices. Hop on a Zoom call. Start a Slack huddle. Five minutes of talking it out can replace hours of hand-wringing and confusion via email.
Be willing to listen
Ultimately, legal and brand guidelines exist for a reason. There’s little chance I’m going to get a false claim through compliance. And we wouldn’t even think of trying to replace Blue 204 with Blue 255. Wherever the buck stops, the best teams (like ours) will learn your guidelines and still make compelling, empathetic creative that tells your story, nails your branding and inspires your audience to respond.
The dance between brand, SEO, compliance and creative doesn’t have to be complicated. When each team has deep expertise in their area and a willingness to communicate, we can turn it from a war dance to a waltz and make beautiful things together.