Author Urges Introverts to Reclaim Their Time and Space

If you’ve ever felt out of place or distracted in a workplace culture that emphasizes fun, constant collaboration, and endless team meetings, here’s a book that will reassure you that you’re not weird. It’s called “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength” and was written by psychologist Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D. I acquired the book after reading an article the author had written in Psychology Today magazine. The cover slug for the magazine article was “Revenge of the Introverts.”

Book Introvert Power by Laurie HelgoeAs an introvert myself, I found Dr. Helgoe’s insights enlightening, uplifting, and dead-on accurate. She explains why introversion should not be regarded as a deficiency, but rather as a source of power. In the book, she outlines ways introverts can improve both their personal relationships and careers by helping others understand why introverts need space and time to think.

Here are a few points Dr. Helgoe makes that might interest creative professionals (and the people who hire them!)

Introversion is defined as “an inward orientation toward life and extroversion is an outward orientation.” Although all of us use both introversion and extroversion at different times of our lives, one of these orientations generally feels more natural and more energizing. Introverts gain energy through internal reflection; extroverts gain energy through interactions with others. Conversely, extroverts expend energy reflecting and introverts expend energy interacting.

Introverts outnumber extroverts in the U.S. by a 57% to 43% majority, according to the most recent population studies published in the “MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.” However, introverts often go unseen because American culture values extroversion. In cultures such as Japan and Norway, introversion is more highly valued.

Introverts should not be viewed as withdrawn loners, who are quiet and scared. As Dr. Helgoe points out, “We’re not anti-social, asocial, or socially inept. Rather, we get energized and excited by ideas.” Instead of having multiple, superficial interactions (e.g. at crowded, noisy parties), introverts tend to prefer spacious interactions with fewer people. Some introverts do well in people-oriented professions, but often need to reserve some alone time after work.

When introverts converse, we are more interested in sharing ideas than news and gossip about other people. We listen well, think first, and talk later. We often prefer communicating in writing, because we can express ourselves without intrusion or interruption. Introverts can find parties exhausting, unless we can find a like-minded person who wants an in-depth discussion of ideas.

Introverts tend to collect thoughts, and sort them about when they are alone. Introverts use solitude to make sense of the present and future. Extroverts get bored by too much solitude.

People enjoy the products that introverts create. As Dr. Helgoe puts it, “Introverts talk to us every day through their stories, theories, movies, technology, paintings, songs, and inventions.” For the introvert, conversation can be a very limited form of expression.

People are often drawn to the quiet introverts in the room. When introverts choose to speak, they often raise challenging questions and new perspectives.

It’s shortsighted to see introverts as grumpy loners hunched over their computers for hours and hours on end. What people aren’t recognizing is that introverts are usually deeply engaged in the flow of creation. Getting “in the zone” is energizing and exciting.

To succeed at work, Dr. Helgoe advises introverts to seek jobs that allow a more desirable balance between work that feels “natural” and work that feels “imposed.” Introverts often seek out creative jobs that they imagine would feel “natural.” But sometimes these jobs leave introverts disappointed and frustrated, because they get interrupted so often or are assigned work that seems meaningless or at odds with their ideals.

Dr. Helgoe writes that, “Executives and managers need to consider how introverts—at least half of their workforce—produce. Employees require energy to produce and, conveniently, introverts come with their own generators.” Instead of trying to entertain us with lots of chatter and team-building meetings and parties, “mute the chatter, and give us some space.”

Instead of insisting that introverts attend brainstorming meetings, allow them to submit written ideas. For many employees, “less is more: less discussion, fewer meetings, and less so-called fun.”

That doesn’t mean introverts should be allowed to totally isolate themselves off and appear grumpy and unwilling to collaborate. Instead, Dr. Helgoe urges introverts to make the rounds to the people who are most likely to intrude and tell them that you are organizing your day to minimize interruptions: “Ask them what they’ll need from you, jot it down, and once you’ve collected these requests, retire to your space.”

And, she recommends that, “When you negotiate a new job or a raise, be upfront that your strong suit is your ability to work independently and pursue answers without interrupting others.”

Dr. Helgoe believes that properly managed introverts can efficiently advance every field of human endeavor, from science to business and education to politics: “Leaders only need to drop the scales from their eyes to produce more—much more—with the people they already employ.”

In the intro to the book, Dr. Helgoe writes “Introverts, it is time for us to claim our space, our time, and our vitality.”


Laurie Helgoe’s Website: Introvert Power

Psychology Today: Revenge of the Introvert

Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength


Author Urges Managers to Let Introverts Be Themselves


Entrepreneurs Explore a Variety of Ways to Market and Sell Art

One way to explore different business models for marketing art and photography is to skim through art blogs and online press releases. Some online releases are issued by brick-and-mortar galleries seeking to reach out to people who search for art online. Many online press releases come from start-up businesses or individuals experimenting with new concepts for selling their work. Some new ventures are announced online by targeted bloggers and journalists who reach high-end collectors. Here are four examples:

Electricity Showroom

Rea is inviting other designers, artists, and writers to get in on the action by collaborating with one another to create and sell inspirational wares on the site.

Poster by Sleep Opp and Chad Rea

He chose the name “electricity showroom” to describe the creative sparks that can occur when designers, artists, and writers work together. He views the site as a way for creative pros to “make stuff quicker.”

“In advertising, you tend to work on a lot of creative projects at once,” Rea says, “Now that I’m creating my own ventures from the ground up, the timelines are much longer than I typically have patience for. I needed something that would allow me to produce ideas quickly. Collaborating with other artists to make and sell prints direct to consumers seemed like the perfect creative outlet for everyone.”

Chad Rea is a member of ecopop, a Portland, Oregon-based social-innovations collective that lives at the intersection of ecology and pop culture. Ecopop creates brands, art, and activism (aka brand activism) with ventures ranging from men’s accessories made from recycled clothes to charity-based iPhone apps.


Press Release: New Limited Edition Artist Print Store Electricity Pairs Up Artists to Inspire, Motivate, and Create Change

Artspace Warehouse

Founded over 30 years ago in Basel, Switzerland, Artspace Warehouse now has galleries in Zurich; Cologne, Germany; and Los Angeles, California. Artspace Warehouse specializes in affordable contemporary original art, representing pop, urban, graffiti, and photo styles. The gallery presents an eclectic and every-expanding selection of works from international and local artists at prices for every budget.

The pieces are displayed by category: Value Hunter (from $200 to $400), Savvy Spender (up to $1,000), and Aficianado ($1,000 to $2,000). A collector’s section offers exclusive paintings of museum-quality artists starting at $2,000. The gallery also offers art consultation and commissioned murals.

An Artspace Warehouse press release invited to public to special event at which at which interior designer Deb Gregory spoke about how she is using accessible art and design in her residential and commercial projects. She emphasized that good art and design should be accessible to all, and that interesting environments enrich our lives.


Press Release: Interior Design and Art Can Transfrom Lives: Designer Deborah Gregory to Speak at Artpsace Warehouse

Digital Artist Joel Martin Cohen

Digital artist Joel Martin Cohen used a press release to announce the launch of his own online gallery, through which visitors may purchase prints of his digital compositions.

Cohen, who has experience both a graphic designer and professional photographer, has been working in the digital art space for more than five years. While some of his visual ideas start with a photograph, he develops the art using the digital tools to create treatments that express how he feels about the subject. Many of his subjects include landscapes, cityscapes, and the natural world.

“I was infatuated with the powerful potential of the new digital processes to create looks that never existed before, as well as new takes on traditional painting techniques,” says Cohen. The pieces in his online gallery range in size from 8 x 10 inches to 20 x 30 inches. Prices range from $20 to $500.

“Given the state of the current economy, some clients find that a smaller piece is more suited for them right now,” Cohen said. “Other clients who are looking for wall art for a new home or office may be interested in some of my larger pieces.”


 Joel Martin Cohen: Digital Art and Photography

Press Release: Digital Artist Joel Martin Cohen Announces Launch of Online Art Gallery for Wall Art, Prints

Exhibition A

Exhibition A is a new members-only website that sells editions of printed reproductions of works by top contemporary artists. The site’s founders include fashion designer/art lover Cynthia Rowley and Bill Powers who owners the Half Gallery in New York.

They define their mission as follows: “We’re committed to working with exceptional artists–artists whose work is exhibited at well-respected galleries and sought after by serious collectors–to create editions of their work at prices you can afford.”

Each week Exhibition A will debut one or more editions by a contemporary artist. The artwork will either be sold as a limited edition (with a finite, predetermined number of copies) or as a limited-time open edition (in which no additional prints will be made after the four-week edition sale period has ended). The total number of prints made during a limited-time open edition sale will be revealed in the Archive section of Exhibition A website. This total number may include up to 25 prints that Exhibition A made for its own inventory.

According to a post about Exhibition A by Hannah Elliott on, the prices will range from $200 to $500 for a work on canvas to $100 to $300 on paper. One of the goals of the site is to broaden participation in the world of art without hurting the each artist’s primary collectors.

Some of the artists featured on the site include Francesca Dimattio, Dietmar Busse, Dike Blair, David LaChappelle, Olympia Scarry, Dasha Shiskin, Agathe Snow, and Duncan Hannah. On the Exhibition A, you can read bios of the featured artists as well as interviews with collectors of contemporary art.


 Artist’s Bios: Exhibition A

 About Exhibition A


Learn to Use Online Marketing for Your Freelance Business

PhotoShelter E-Book Cover Freelancer's Online Marketing BlueprintThe Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint.” is the newest e-book from PhotoShelter, a leading provider of portfolio websites and sales and marketing tools for photographers. The free 53-page guide explains how creative freelancers can use online marketing to generate more clients and increase revenue. It can be downloaded from the PhotoShelter website.

“When you’re a freelancer, it can be a real challenge to balance self-promotion with client demands,” says Allen Murabayashi, CEO of PhotoShelter. “This e-book is meant to coach freelancers on effective marketing strategies that will help optimize their online exposure and reach a larger pool of prospective clients.”

The Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint includes practical, step-by-step tips on how to generate inbound website traffic, build a successful leads list for email marketing, and optimize your website to increase the conversion of visitors to paying clients.

For example, the guide includes a checklist of 23 ways to grow your online footprint. In addition to increasing the likelihood that prospects can find you, creating multiple online destinations also helps you manage your brand by suppressing any negative commentary that might show up about you on the first page of a Google search.

The guide also discusses how to efficiently manage your time, allocate scarce marketing budgets, and benefit from pay-per-click advertising. Also included are contributions from internet marketing and creative business-management experts at companies such as Conversion Rate Experts, SEO software developer SEOmoz, Marketing Mentor, and email-marketing service Emma.

PhotoShelterLogoThe Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint complements PhotoShelter’s ongoing series of free business and marketing e-books for photographers. Other e-books in the PhotoShelter library provide detailed advice on email marketing, Facebook pages, search engine optimization, and starting a photography business.



E-Book: The Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint


The Creative Group Publishes 2011 Salary Guide

DESIGNERS. WRITERS. The Creative Group, the staffing organization that places creative, advertising, marketing, web, and public relations professionals with a variety of firms, has published its 2011 Salary Guide. Designed to guide companies that plan to hire creative professionals this year, the guide features projected starting salaries for the more than 100 creative, interactive, marketing, and PR positions that The Creative Group recruits.

The Creative Group 2011 Salary GuideSome of the titles for which high and low projected starting salaries are listed include: creative director, interactive creative director, senior graphic designer, mobile apps designer, illustrator, technical illustrator, video producer, blogger, podcaster, online editor, web content writer, copywriter, proofreader, social media designer, SEO/SEM specialist, event/trade-show manager, marketing director, and PR agency account executive.

The content of the 2011 Salary Guide is based on thousands of freelance and full-time placements that The Creative Group makes each year. It includes local-market insights from staffing and recruiting teams in different cities, data from surveys of advertising and marketing executives, and an analysis of the 2011 hiring environment and trends.

For example, the report observes that “Although companies are gradually getting the green light to hire, they are still looking to maximize their budget dollars.” So, when hiring for full-time positions, they tend to seek candidates who have a range of skills and experience and can offer expertise outside their specialties.

The guide lists the nine most in-demand positions, average starting salaries nationwide, and methods for calculating and adjusting local salary ranges.

Not surprisingly, salaries have to be adjusted upward in cities such as San Francisco, Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Salaries tend to be lower than the national averages in cities such as: El Paso, Texas; Sioux City, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Youngstown, Ohio. Cities with salaries right around the national average include: Salt Lake City, Utah; Milwaukee, WI; Cincinnati, OH; and St. Louis, MO.

The 2011 Salary Guide also explains “how to turn freelancers into rock stars.” The report notes that “Firms are finding that augmenting full-time staff with freelancers provides protection from staffing mistakes, whether the economy is contracting or expanding.”

The Creative Group is a division of Robert Half International, Inc., the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm.

The Creative Group’s 2011 Salary Guide is just one of several resources available through the Salary Center on The Creative Group’s website. A salary calculator and list of job descriptions are also available.

The resource center of the Robert Half International is another good source of career-development, staffing, and job-search advices. White papers include “Conducting an Online Job Search” and “The 30 Most Common Mistakes Managers Make in an Uncertain Economy.”



How The Transformation of Publishing Might Affect The Careers of Creatives

WRITERS. DESIGNERS. At the inaugural Publishing Xchange Conference held in Washington, DC this week, some of the best and brightest analysts of the printing and publishing industries discussed some of the technologies that are totally transforming how content is delivered and consumed.  Their advice was intended primarily to help owners of traditional printing and publishing companies figure out how to revamp their business models.

Publishing Xchange ConferenceA lot of the advice given at the conference can also apply to creative professionals who sell writing, design, or photography services to publishers. You may want to adjust your own career objectives and business plans once you consider what the publishing landscape might look like two or three years from now.

A Quick Overview
Here’s what I learned in three different sessions: The consumer is king. Content is king. Data is king.

So which is it? Publishing’s future will probably be ruled by all three. Feedback and data supplied by consumers will dictate the type and quality of content that gets produced and delivered.

Most speakers agreed that the iPad is a real game-changer. Its full effects on printing and publishing are only beginning to be understood. For one thing, media tablets such as the iPad open up whole new ways for publishers and advertisers to engage with readers, measure their behavior, and deliver targeted advertising. Here are some of the other themes that emerged from the discussions.

The publishing universe is expanding very rapidly and in unpredictable directions. Today, anyone and everyone can publish, distribute, and monetize content. New groups of publishers include corporations (who once supplied most of the advertising revenue to magazine publishers) and authors (who supply the content from which book publishers earn their revenues).

The demand for content is growing. Smartphones and iPads have made the Internet portable. Because we are connected all the time everywhere we go, we expect instant and constant access to entertainment, news, educational material, social networks, product information, and advice that can help us make more informed choices.

 Print is not dead, but it will be regarded differently in the future. Books and magazines will be printed in shorter runs, with more visual content and higher quality paper. Printed pieces will be viewed as more permanent, physical objects. In cross-media marketing, various forms of printed communications will be used in coordination with digital tools.

More businesses are adopting data-driven cross-media marketing. Every individual has their own preference about how and when they want to be reached.  Cross-media marketing helps ensure that the right message reaches the right person through the right medium at the right moment when they’re ready to make a buying decision.

Data is becoming increasingly important. The quality and freshness of the data collected and stored will determine the cost-effectiveness of cross-media marketing. With the right data, marketers can reduce the overall volume of marketing materials that must be produced and distributed.

Magazine publishers and advertisers will use more sophisticated data analytics. Instead of simply measuring how many people are reading content, they will want data that tells them more about each individual who clicks on the content.

Businesses now realize that people visit sites for different reasons. The key is to determine which 10 to 15% of site visitors can be converted into paying customers.

Publishers who use Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to produce magazines for the iPad and other tablet computers will be able to get a real-time picture of how readers are interacting with each story or ad in the publication. Advertising can be delivered based on the demographics and interests of the reader.

How publishers sell advertising will change. Publishers will no longer sell ad space. Instead, they might sell advertising based on the type of content that will be published.

Currently, ads must be reformatted from standard PDFs into a multitude of formats for tablets and smartphones. This is a challenge that Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite also helps address.

Over the next few years, publishers will continue to derive less of their income from print advertising. So, they will need to find supplementary or alternative sources of income. For example, the National Geographic Society produces TV programs, educational resources, DVDs, games, maps, travel guides, museum exhibits and much more.

Branding matters. Consumers will turn to the brands they trust to consistently provide the type of content they want. It doesn’t matter if the brand originated as a newspaper, magazine, book, or TV show, because the distinctions between media types are disappearing.

One dilemma that digital-content producers face is determining where to reset the boundaries between editorial content and advertising. To what extent can they integrate advertising into their content without losing the brand trust and loyalty of their readers?

The rules of the game are still being written. Technology is changing so quickly that printing and publishing may be in a permanent state of transition. Constant innovation will be required in terms of products, services, workflow, and business models. Consider this: Three of the most disruptive influences in the communications field (Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad) were all introduced within the last five years. We can’t even predict what new technologies might arise over the next five years.

New types of businesses will emerge from the chaos. Some publishers will continue to aggregate and distribute branded content. Others might set up systems that make it easier for individuals to publish and distribute their own content. Still other companies are making it easy for publishers in the U.S. to outsource routine digital-imaging and content-production tasks to companies in India or other nations.

Advice for Publishers and Print Providers
Here are some of the tips that were given to publishers and print-service providers. (And yes, some of it also applies to creative professionals who sell their services to publishers.)

  • Remain flexible.
  • Be willing to try new things.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail at some things.
  • Use data extensively (both for targeting your messaging and measuring what works).
  • If you find something that works, keep doing more of it.
  • Use your “artistic vision” to look for opportunities that others haven’t yet recognized.

Advice for Creatives
I’ll be following up with some of the outstanding, insightful analysts who spoke at the Publishing Xchange Conference to see if they have any tips to add to this list, but here are a few of my own thoughts:

Never stop learning. Printing and publishing companies will need staff employees and freelancers who are willing and able to continually learn new skills. Remain curious about the many different ways a new technology might be used.

Demonstrate your value to employers in a positive way. When creatives are perceived as being “difficult” or resistant to change, they risk being the first to be let go when a publisher decides to outsource more tasks to workers in other countries. The more you are viewed as a supportive and talented team player, the more likely it is that you will be reassigned to more challenging projects, or asked to help incorporate the next round of technological innovations.

Prepare to have your work more closely measured. If you don’t already publish a blog, start one. Blogging is a great way to learn the basics of analytics. You may experience an almost Pavlovian response after seeing those first encouraging spikes in traffic and favorable feedback to certain posts. Analytics can be weirdly motivating.

Devote chunks of your time to creating and marketing some personal projects. This can be a stress-relieving way to fulfill your need for self-expression and create work that reflects your vision and capabilities. But it can also make you appreciate some of the hard realities of developing a profitable business.

Where’s the Humanity?
At one point during an in-depth discussion of analytics, one brave soul stood up and asked: “Won’t all this emphasis on data inhibit creativity?”

Depending on the nature of your employer or client, an over-reliance on reader data might temporarily stifle some creativity (and limit the ability to reach out to new readers). But publishers and printers will constantly need to experiment with new ideas.

And, my well-honed editor’s “intuition” tells me that data analytics will only confirm what creatives already know: People want content that reflects and respects our humanity. Consumers will engage with content that inspires, surprises, delights, amuses, intrigues, tantalizes, entertains, persuades, clarifies, educates, or evokes joy or wonder.

If you can prove that you’re exceptionally good at storytelling, crafting powerful imagery, stirring emotional connections, or stimulating reader participation, then your talents will definitely be in demand.

Future posts on this blog will delve into these topics in more detail, calling attention to some of the remarkable speakers from organizations such as Outsell, InfoTrends, The Seybold Report, What They Think?, and the IDEAlliance + IPA.

Kudos to Publishing Xchange Chair David Zwang and Questex Media Group for pulling together such a thought-provoking conference.

What’s The Difference Between Cross-Media Marketing and Transmedia Storytelling?

Do you know the difference between cross-media marketing and transmedia storytelling? What about interactive advertising?

I hadn’t given any of these buzzwords much thought until I started compiling a list of technology-related trends that creative professionals probably need to think about as they try to anticipate where their next opportunities might come from.  The more I learn about these trends, the brighter the future looks for creative professionals with a natural gift for conceptual thinking.

Cross-media marketing is defined by InfoTrends as “the use of two or more media types (print, e-mail, Web, mobile, and/or social) in an orchestrated campaign targeting a specific demographic and/or psychographic segment…A cross-media campaign delivers relevant content and a call to action through multiple media simultaneously as an integrated campaign.”

JWT Transmedia Rising CoverTransmedia storytelling, as explained by JWTIntelligence, “involves narrative threads tailored for different channels (from mobile to big screens, from social to traditional media) and audiences (gamers, readers, Tweeters, etc.)…For brand marketers, this means that rather than striving for consistency across multiple touchpoints, the goal is for different channels to communicate different things (within the overarching strategy), with an emphasis on putting the brand community at the center.”

JWT’s Dean Baker explains it this way: “What we need to do is figure out the story behind the brand, the place it wants to occupy in the consumer’s mind, deconstruct it, make it relevant and reassemble it for the relevant audiences on the appropriate channels. Then, through social media, let the experience and associations grow organically.”

Interactive advertising, as described in the excellent documentation on The Barbarian Group website, is “any advertising that a potential customer can interact with.” While most interactive advertising takes place on the Internet, it could also be advertising on a mobile phone, a kiosk on a salesroom floor, or a billboard on Times Square. Interactive advertising is not human, it is not e-commerce, and it is more than banners and websites. Most importantly, says The Barbarian Group, “It is the one form of advertising that the customer initiates.”

I learned about The Barbarian Group when I read a news item about a billboard they had created that uses facial-recognition technology to interpret the characteristics and movements of viewers and adjust the advertising content accordingly.

Is your mind boggled yet? Mine certainly is.

But the reason I feel optimistic for creatives is because success in all three of these areas will require higher levels of both analytical and conceptual thinking.

For marketing execs (analytical thinkers), these trends add new layers of complexity to planning and measuring integrated marketing strategies.

Marketing-service providers will have to innovate in order to help their clients execute all of the elements of cross-media, transmedia, and interactive campaigns in the most cost-effective, efficient, and timely manner.

Then, it will be left up to conceptual thinkers (the creatives) to come up with the novel ideas and fresh approaches to storytelling that will effectively engage targeted consumers at every point in the process.

This could present some refreshing opportunities for creatives, because so much of the work formerly trusted to creative professionals has been boiled down into “formulas,” then automated in the form of templates and artificial intelligence embedded in graphic-design and image-editing software.

Perhaps because of the sheer volume of fresh content that must be continually fed to the Internet, creative professionals often find themselves regarded more as assembly-line production laborers than as potential contributors of innovative strategies.  In my opinion, creative talent is sometimes under-utilized.

Hopefully, creative professionals will find new ways to contribute as marketing (and entertainment) becomes more dependent on finding new ways to construct and deliver coherent and emotionally powerful stories across multiple platforms.


The Barbarian Group defines themselves as “a digital services and creation company that delivers the best possible experience for the consumer through the integrated and disciplined use of the best possible practices, good ideas, people and technology.” The portfolio portion of their website features examples of interactive advertising, including a trade-show backdrop projection wall in which blades of grass sway in a virtual breeze created as visitors walk past.  Their Barbaripedia includes a wealth of information about how interactive production differs from traditional advertising and broadcast production. They recommend way to avoid potential pitfalls.

InfoTrends is a worldwide market-research and strategic consulting firm serving the digital-imaging and document solutions industries. Their recent study, entitled “The Cross-Media Direct Marketing Opportunity,” explains how marketing executives are using print, online, mobile, and social media in their businesses.

JWTIntelligence, part of the JWT marketing-communications agency, is described as “a center for provocative thinking.” They describe their mission as follows: “We make sense of the chaos in a world of hyper-abundant information and constant innovation—finding quality amid the quantity.”  Their trendletter entitled “Transmedia Rising,” explains why “The days of broadcasting to consumers are over, a new era of entertaining, engaging, and empowering consumers is upon us.” The report highlights examples of transmedia projects such as Mattel’s Ken and Barbie campaign and The Old Spice campaign featuring The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.


Sales and Marketing Execs Are From Mars; Creative Pros Are From Venus

By Eileen Fritsch

Book Cover The Creative ProfessionalFive years ago, Emmis Books sent me a review copy of “The Creative Professional: A Survival Guide for the Business World” by Howard J. Blumenthal. It was billed as “a book to help right-brained people survive in left-brained world.” The press release noted the same personality traits that give certain people a creative edge can also cause turbulence in a corporate atmosphere.

That statement grabbed my attention because the editors, writers, art directors, and photographers I worked with on magazines seemed increasingly at odds with the publishers, sales reps, and bean counters who set our budgets and marketing strategies.

In 2005, the painful, disruptive transition from print to online media was just beginning to ramp up. Our editorial staffs were already lean. It didn’t help that our art and editorial budgets were slashed even further as print-advertising buyers began diverting big chunks of budgets to developing websites, internal databases for email marketing, and emerging forms of online media.

We stopped hiring photographers, illustrators, and freelance writers. We started using cheap stock photography and more advertorial-like feature stories freely supplied by PR agencies. To make matters worse, every staff writer and designer was expected to produce more content—including websites, books, conference workbooks, and promotional materials.

As the quality of our work began to suffer, the creative pros started complaining. Some of us passionately believed that short-sighted business decisions were undermining the overall quality and value of our editorial products. And we predicted it wouldn’t take long for readers (and potential future advertisers) to notice.

Blumenthal’s book helped me understand why it was perfectly natural for the creative pros on the staff to feel so argumentative. The book also explains why business people consider creative pros difficult to manage.  While our innate ability to think and see things differently can be a great asset to businesses seeking innovative solutions to new problems, business-focused people don’t always see it the same way.

For example, traditional business people see their mission as generating profits. They consider sales as the most important aspect of any business.

Conversely, creative professionals generate value (which is far more difficult to quantify than quarterly profits). Creative pros see business as a holistic system and believe sales will succeed if the entire system works properly.

Blumenthal admits that working with creative professionals “is no picnic.” Many managers don’t understand our nonlinear thought processes and what motivates us. Whereas many employees like the security of a paycheck, benefits, and sense of community, creative pros are typically driven by three other needs: 

  • the need to know, understand, and explore;
  • the need to constantly learn and improve our techniques and skills; and
  • the need to derive part of our self-image from our work.

So why do some creative people do well in a corporate environment while others struggle? Blumenthal says it’s not simply a matter of skill. He contends that “A creative professional who takes the time to understand the company’s operations and manages projects accordingly will be far more likely to win the business game than a creative who simple writes with talent and skill.”

In the book, Blumenthal lists seven key attributes as crucial to success:

  • a keen understanding of the marketplace
  • abundant self knowledge
  • the ability to engage others in your creative work
  • the right combination of integrity and cooperation
  • the willingness of others to work with you (based on track record, industry reputation, personality, and quality of the opportunity)
  • your ability to raise necessary resources and/or support

As Blumenthal puts it: “The creative process does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, you are part of a community. The way you behave as a member of that community will affect your success more profoundly than your ability to dance, juggle, sculpt, arrange the horn section, or any other skill-based endeavor.”

Much has changed since Blumenthal’s book was released.

Media channels and platforms for online marketing have multiplied. Print publications that failed to develop effective online strategies are being forced out of business. Corporate marketing managers are under tremendous pressure to do more with less, while producing measurable returns on every expenditure.  New forms of analytics have made it increasingly easy to pinpoint exactly which forms of communications are generating the most bang for the buck.   

Blumenthal’s book primarily focused on helping creative professionals succeed as full-time employees in a corporate environment. But he points out two other ways creative professionals can earn a living:

  • working for multiple clients; or
  • selling work to the public, either directly or through a publisher or distributor.

Happily, the transformation from print publishing to online publishing and communications has made it far easier for creative professionals to develop a broader base of clients and/or sell more of their work directly to the public.

However, if creative pros want to work with a broader base of clients or sell directly to the public, there is one big drawback. We must develop some of the sales and marketing skills and financial discipline that seem to come so naturally to the profit-minded left-brained business people.