Mixed Messages

Thanks to longtime mentor and friend Bramwell Ryan for penning the following post…

Character assassination, justification of a decision, career enhancement, arguing for a new course of action, wooing a new mistress or keeping the current one happy… the truck-load of purposes clients bring to communication projects always amaze me.

Lots of clients forget that the primary reason for communications is to create a message or set of messages in such a way that the end-user is better informed, motivated to some action or that starts stirring the emotional cauldron. Instead lots of clients see communications as a chance to settle a score.

This is especially so when one is a writer and dealing with the client about words. While copy can be bold it can also be subtle and in the space between the two there’s room for lots of mischief. It’s harder to be subtle in design… after all, smuggling a photo of the boss with a bulls-eye on his forehead into a layout is hard to miss, and might be a bad career move. But deft copywriting can peel away a reputation, skewer an idea and inflate an ego without warning flags flapping. But in doing this the writer is only helping the client fail. After all, the place to shred a reputation is in the lunch room; the place to justify a decision is in the boardroom; the place to propel the career is on the golf course; arguing for a new course of action is best done in the bar after the golf game and… the best way to keep the mistress happy is to leave her out of the photo shoot (and that includes her kids too). None of these assignments belong in a communication project and if they are part of it, then the project fails in its primary purpose.

I think small budgets and infrequent communication activity are the reason for clients thinking that projects are personal vehicles of expression rather than corporate efforts to address the world outside the doors of their office. They think the current assignment is their only platform, their only chance to make their mark, their only opportunity to order their world in the right way. This breeds a ‘last chance’ mentality. Do it now or regret it later. Trouble is, aiding and abetting clients in this kind of behaviour always leads to regret later.

Cheers,
Bram

Image courtesy jebeld17 via Flickr Creative Commons License 2.0

I, Free Radical

I’m rereading 99u’s collection of essays Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career
In the opening piece, Adobe’s Vice President of Community and Co-Founder & Head of Behance, Scott Belsky identifies a new breed of creative professional he calls “Free Radicals.” Check out Scott’s Manifesto for Free Radicals and see if you’re among their ranks.

The problem with anger

The problem with anger is that it doesn’t do you any good. For a short while you may be convinced that it’s fuelling some sort of creative passion, that it’s shaping you into a fierce competitor or a more developed artist. But it isn’t. Anger is holding you back and impeding your ability to grow as an artist. Anger is stunting your emotional growth to a point where normal behaviour regresses; normal responses are replaced by scepticism, sarcasm and mistrust.

I’m a frequent acquaintance of Anger – he and I have hung out many times. Along with Worry, Anger is one of my two closest confidants. But I’m doing my best to hang out with more favourable emotions these days like Contentment and Peace. Sometimes, I even encounter Joy. I’m making new friends, and it feels alright.

Some time ago, I started a long-term working relationship with a client. Things were great at first. The connection began through a friend who worked there, which bridged the awkward early stages of a client/vendor relationship nicely into something that seemed quite healthy.

But as time went by I observed that things were not all roses with this organization. They had a difficult time embodying the positive persona they projected to the public. They disrespected staff and had unrealistic expectations of them. And if that was how they treated their own insiders, one can only imagine what their opinion of the contractors were.

I make every effort to permeate the culture of each client I partner with. The key word being partner. I look to build relationships wherever I can and strive to become a part of my client’s team. I know this isn’t always possible, and that it may very well sound like a pipe dream to even mention it, but it’s how I’m built. As time went on it became difficult to continue working with this client. Still I believed I needed the business, so I did what I could to press on. Eventually the professional relationship dissolved and we went our separate ways.

For a long time, this break up offended me. I took it personally and let anger seep into my thoughts and my opinion of the client was negatively exaggerated. I disliked talking about them and would even attempt to taint other’s opinions by my own jaded point of view. This was not doing me any good. My discontent was not going to bring me success, it would only sabotage my attempts to move forward.

Charles Swindoll compares anger to a flat tire or a dirty diaper: When left unattended, it will not correct itself. Sweeping my feelings of anger under the rug wouldn’t help. So I am facing my anger head-on, and seeking God’s help and the encouragement of others to change my perspective. I’ve held my grudge long enough. And what for? I’m sure this client does’t know that I had a beef with them. Why should my discontent concern them anyway? I don’t want the chip on my shoulder to negatively affect them in the way it has me. It’s time to move on.

Do what you can to purge whatever anger you hold on to today. Face it and confess to it, seek help and get back to being the best you you can be.