I am a creative professional and I am an advocate for creatives.
When I was in art school, studying printmaking and video – I took issue with the word “talent”. It just had a connotation that people thought the work was easy.
It’s not, it’s hard – it’s really, really hard. But, that’s exactly why we love it, though.
At Marie Daniel Group, we’re building our business one brick at a time, upon the strong foundation of our shared experience and complementary talents…. (Yep, I said it).
We’re building it with our massive network of incredible talent. Good people, doing great work.
Each of us has what I would call “a non-traditional” path. We bring all the randomness of our varied pasts to the table every day – and that’s what I love about it. You never know where a good question or a great idea is going to come from. And, we’ve got a lot of fertile terrain to harvest from and hunt upon.
That’s why I’m so excited that we’re partnering with local artists, entrepreneurs and businesses in Milwaukee to launch the inaugural STEAMROLLER Event.
STEAMROLLER(MKE) is a multi-arts, community engagement event to support youth outreach and programming. By creatives, for creatives; local artists, businesses and educators coming together to celebrate and amplify the arts and expose local residents, students and professionals to creative entrepreneurs and career pathways.
We’ve assembled 15 local and regional artists to create woodcut blocks that will be printed with a steamroller and original artwork will be auctioned off to support Anchor Press, Paper and Print (“AP3”) – a [501 (c) (3] charitable organization.
AP3 is a non-profit print shop, workspace and gallery that brings together a diverse community of youth, emerging and established artists, and the public to advance the fine arts of printmaking and papermaking, by integrating education with the creation of prints and paper and promoting research, education and exploration.
Inspire youth, support the arts – pave it forward!
Somewhere along the way you might have been categorized as either a right brainer or a left brainer. You were pegged as creative or not creative with no in-between. It’s human nature to want to categorize and label things so they stay in their “rightful” place. But when that happens, gifts get stifled or abandoned and that creative spark inside dims and sometimes even goes dark forever.
This is a spark to help you bring that light back and to stop saying, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
As humans, we are innately creative. We imagine and craft things daily through our own unique perspective and spirit. You are creative. Let’s say that again – YOU ARE CREATIVE. After all, there is only one of you in the entire universe!
Here are some insights that have helped some of the industry’s top creatives tap into who they are to bring ideas and inspiration to life.
Strategist. Digital Marketer. Entrepreneur.
“I carve out time to get away. It’s crucial for staying creative.”
David Nawrocki, Owner, Dimostra Digital Marketing
David Nawrocki, is the owner and founder of Dimostra digital marketing agency. His team specializes in digital marketing, lead generation, social media marketing, email marketing, web design, and business consulting.
“I get great ideas when I am not working. I carve out time to get away. It’s crucial for staying creative. I’ve made it a standard practice to turn off my phone during these times to prevent interruptions.
Having a clear mind with no distractions leaves me open for authentic influences to inspire my creative thinking. And if nothing else, getting away helps me to re-energize so I am focused and clearheaded when I’m trying to solve tough client challenges.”
Author. Writer. Content Strategist.
“Listen to people and their stories. The human spirit and the art of storytelling are so wonderful. There are metaphors, messages and deep learnings embedded in people’s stories. Who doesn’t love a great story? They are what make the world go round!”
Courtney Kotloski, Director of Content Strategy, Marie Daniel Group
Courtney Kotloski is Director of Content Strategy for Marie Daniel Group. She has more than 20 years of experience working with in-house and external agencies developing creative communication strategies and content for a multitude of businesses. She is an award-winning writer, published author, playwright and one of the founders of Chicago’s 2nd Story Series.
“I’m a sponge. I like to absorb all the thoughts, ideas, and problems and then hide away in the dark to hash out the words. Music is a big friend of mine. If you got ahold of my playlist, you might think I’m a depressive. Sad, melodic music with candles and a dark space is the best creative palette for my thoughts to flow unedited. Space and silence are a writer’s best friend (or at least mine).
In a brainstorm session, I’m usually silent, taking notes and listening. I like to fully absorb all the information and then have time to think of the right words and let the symphony start from silence and storytelling.”
LET GO AND PLAY
Artist. Illustrator. Mentor.
“So much of creativity is about letting go. Getting those things that were stuck to us unstuck, listening to that part of us that is innately creative and unleashing all those colors. ”
Natalie Sorrentino, Illustrator, Mentor and Therapeutic Art Specialist
Natalie Sorrentino is the owner of Sorrentino Studios and a Therapeutic Art Specialist at On Purpose Psyche. She graduated from Alverno College with a degree in Art Therapy. She has more than 15 years of experience in creating compelling curricula and art groups. Her passion has brought her into a variety of environments including classrooms, hospitals, senior facilities, psychiatric and community settings. She is the illustrator of the award-winning Gnat & Corky Series.
“Play! Get in the sand. Create a spontaneous doodle. Let go. So much of creativity is about letting go. Getting those things that were stuck to us unstuck, listening to that part of us that is innately creative and unleashing all those colors.
I feel like as adults, we are doing a lot of unlearning and going back to the essence of play where creativity lives. It’s connected to our hearts and our souls. They are inseparable.
For me, creativity is an essential part of my never-ending evolution and story. Our stories connect us and carry us onward.
Everything for me is heart led through that intuitive place we all know – a place of play and letting go.”
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Designer. Art Director. Brand Expert.
“Learn new things. This is probably my biggest one. When projects stop being challenging, I push out of my comfort zone and try something new.”
Emily Strozinsky, Art Director and Owner, Strozinsky Design
Emily Strozinsky is an art director and designer with more than 10 years of experience. Emily has worked at studios and agencies on projects ranging from visual identity design, web design, integrated campaign ideation, print/TV shoot art direction, packaging and environmental design. She launched Strozinsky Design to focus on what she’s most passionate about — design and branding.
“Take a walk, sketch it out, or lie awake at night and let your mind wander. Learn new things. This is probably my biggest one. When projects stop being challenging, I push out of my comfort zone and try something new.
Surround yourself with creative, ambitious people. Creativity comes in so many forms — I have friends in startups who are doing innovative things, I have friends who are turning side-hustles into careers, and friends who are designers but now deciding to pursue other paths. Hearing all of their stories keeps me going.
Whenever I’m stuck, or complete my first concept and think I’ve nailed it and don’t need to create others, I sleep on it and evaluate with fresh eyes. It’s usually the second concept or third concept that’s the winner.
Maintain other creative outlets. I decorate and re-decorate rooms. I follow lots of interior designers on Instagram, and the home decor wheels are always spinning in my head.”
“I’ve learned that after I get the noise out of the way, the good stuff has room to grow.”-
Judy Alberts, Creative Director and Internal Communications Specialist
Judy Alberts is a Creative Director who manages a team of 15 creatives. Her expertise is rooted in graphic design and brand initiatives. Her experience has included B2B agencies, conservation organizations and healthcare companies.
“I have found the most effective way to get the creative juices flowing is a blank sheet of paper. It feels limitless. I push all the ideas out as scribbles, doodles, meandering word connections. I call it my mental purge. I use a Sharpie so I can’t erase. And spelling never counts. I’ve learned that after I get the noise out of the way, the good stuff has room to grow. If the page is still blank after an hour, I cap the Sharpie and take a walk.
You may end up with 3-4 pages of ideation. And often 1-3 pages of crap. But, it really gets exciting when you see an average idea on the page, and with a little more thought it becomes something great. That’s the creative process at its best, allowing the white space to breathe.”
If you’re looking to ignite that creative light that was snuffed out, try finding a space and place that bring you the clarity and confidence to explore and unleash your creativity. It’s always been there, you just have to find it again.
Welcome to Zoom 101.
Today’s lesson will be held virtually, please note, our session is limited to 40 minutes because of budget constraints. We are looking at purchasing the basic Zoom plan but will need to send it up the flagpole for approval. We anticipate having an answer in 6 months to a year, by which time we expect to be back in the office.
This course has been developed with the help from the people who thought they were on mute, forgot to turn off their camera, and/or decided not to wear pants to a video call. We thank you for your contributions and hope you’ve been able to get a positive referral for new employment.
Today’s lesson will focus on the Do’s and Don’ts of Zoom calls or any other form of video conferencing in the modern world. Our hope is that these lessons become embedded in the fabric of society to help prevent the spread of sudden loss of common sense, jobs, and modesty.
Here we go…
ZOOM DO: Get on Point
Check yourself, before you wreck yourself. Tee up your camera and take a look at your look. If you are offended, shocked, or in any way naked or unclothed, take a moment to cover your ass…literally…and figuratively.
ZOOM DON’T: Chance the Pants
Please DO NOT attempt to put a blouse or button-down shirt on without pants. Our research has found that 99.9% of cases where an individual involuntarily exposed their intimate garments were the result of toddlers with explosive diarrhea, wet dogs barging in, spilled coffee, or uninvited visitors. It will happen to you. PUT YOUR PANTS ON (tight).
ZOOM DO: Practice
Practice mute and video. Click and see the little slash across the microphone and the camera. Now, do it again and then one more time. Now, again. And then click them both again for good measure and just a quick click on mute and camera again for final rehearsal before the curtain opens on the meeting about the meeting.
ZOOM DON’T: Panic
When you start your meeting, the dog will begin to bark, the doorbell will ring, a motorcycle gang will do hot laps around your neighborhood, the air force will conduct drills over your house, and a sonic boom might potentially cause an air embolism in your lungs. DO NOT panic. Just click video and then mute and look for the little slash. You know how to do this. You just practiced. What are you doing? Hit vid-good. Now, mute! Hit it. Mute. It’s right there-thank you.
ZOOM DO: Back up Your Background
Take pride and ownership in your background and what might be lurking in the back of the background. Consider putting a bookshelf, map, or stack of industry-related magazines around the area for maximum intellectual effect. If you are on vacation, invest in a roll screen of your normal space and pop that thing up before you go “LIVE”. If someone is running around naked, your dog is in heat, or there is a frat party happening in your kitchen, make a plan to ensure you won’t be liable for indecent exposure. If necessary, create a Doomsday bunker. This is great preparation for 2021 if it is in any way like 2020.
ZOOM DON’T: Take a Bathroom Break
DO NOT RELIEVE YOURSELF DURING A VIDEO CALL! The only excrement that should occur during a video conference are the untruths about what is really going to happen with the downsizing of the company and the “transparency” surrounding those particulars.
ZOOM DO: Listen for Your Name
If the meeting is going to be long like a training, special guest speaker, or a call to hear the Culture Club Team talk about scores and new merch, you might be tempted to mute yourself, turn off the camera and start drinking that box of wine with mediocre ratings. This is all fine-but your name will be mentioned when you least expect it. You need to stay somewhat coherent. If you do hear your name and have no idea what the context of the shout out is, here is a phrase that can work in your favor and add to any meeting: “Yes, thank you for calling me out. I wanted to just say that I’m really impressed with our team’s ability to work with such flexibility through these challenging times.” Now, pause. If they are still waiting for you to answer a question, someone will ask it again. Respond appropriately. Hit mute. Turn off the camera. Pour another glass of wine. (Keep your pants on. See above “Chance the Pants”.)
ZOOM DON’T: Call in Sick (if you’re not)
There is no such thing as calling in sick during a pandemic to get out of a meeting. Yes, it is a roleplay meeting. Yes, you would rather watch repeat episodes of Caillou while having your toenails pulled out than have to improvise with coworkers over video chat, but calling in sick will unleash a domino effect. Suck it up. If you absolutely would rather be subjected to a lifetime of Baby Shark on repeat than be a participant in the meeting, don’t show up. Then say you were having major internet issue at home. Case closed.
Here are the key takeaways from our lesson today…
Don’t let Zoom bring your ultimate doom.
Check it before you wreck it.
Always have a box of mediocre wine on hand.
Tune in next week when we discuss the importance of showering. Until then, keep practicing video and mute. Mute and video. Video on. Video off. Mute off. Mute on…
“We need a brochure because we have a culture issue. Can you make us a brochure?”- Client XYZ
How many times have you put a tactic before a deep conversation? Maybe one of your goals this year is to improve overall culture scores. Maybe you’re facing new leadership and trying to ease the anxiety and fire spread of misinformation circulating amongst your team. Maybe you’re new and staring at a blank slate full of opportunity to set the tone and pace for the rest of the year. No matter what is happening with your business, you need an agency that can listen- and not just to the challenges you’re facing now, but to the history of your story, so that the collateral and tactics that follow truly make an impact.
Here are four categories of deep listening and questioning that break beyond the brochure:
It’s unique. There’s no boiler plate for the history that got you here. Your agency should be enamored with your story. Every nuance, the fine details. The who, what, why, when, where, and how. A deep listening agency absorbs your story, so they have a history to spring and sprout from. A deep listening agency meets with all the key players to take in the full though line and personality of your workplace and people.
It’s true, you’re a smashing success. But how? It’s great to see spreadsheets of numbers in the black, but how did you achieve a positive bottom line? A deep listening agency uncovers more than just the numbers and stats. Questions about how you achieved success go deeper into a proven history and what works and doesn’t work for your business. This gives you a view of how you’ve done things successfully and your agency a view of what it took to get where you are.
We all have challenges. Taking an in-depth look at what those challenges are and how they arose helps a deep listening agency deconstruct the problem. A deep listening agency embraces your challenges and applies thoughtful strategy-not just tactics.
There are so many opportunities! This is where your agency can capitalize and truly grow your business. Turning opportunity into creative strategy that engages your audiences, builds trust, and brings new profits and prospects along the way.
Bottom line: your agency should listen- deep. That’s where new ideas lie. It’s where the difference between an agency that is tactical and an agency that is strategic can make or break your brand.
It’s not about getting the smartest people in the room, it’s about getting the right people in the room.
2020 has been a crash course in adaptability. It’s shown we can be flexible and at the same time it’s pointed out our indignant resistance to change. Why is that? Why when it comes to taking a leap for the better, for progress, we are unable to open ourselves up to possibility? Because of three main reasons:
Lack (or perceived lack) of reward
Fear of the unknown
Loss of status and visibility in the organization
We’re comfortable with the status quo. And when it comes to diversity and inclusion, we’ve become comfortable with who is in the room. They’re the smartest right? That’s what you do to solve problems. You get the smartest people in the room.
No. That’s dumb.
Diversity is where the majority should rule. Inclusion is where ideas from colorful perspectives paint a new way forward. We’ve been talking about diversity and inclusion for years. Years. And still it’s a hot topic that has seen progress, but many companies haven’t adapted the concept in a way that is authentic.
Rooms are still cluttered with a stale mix that doesn’t cut it and hallways are plastered with posters about “Diversity and Inclusion” but true inclusion involves a shift in thinking. If you want to be inclusive. If you genuinely want diverse perspectives, you have to open the door and invite in new views and new people. Leaders that have embraced getting the right mix of people in the room have seen the undeniable impact diverse teams have on driving innovation, creative problem solving, and accelerating performance.
If you’re looking to shake up the room, start with creating a team that is diverse and include them. Dismantle the old exclusive guard and get out of the predictable comfort zone. Here are 3 things that happen when like minds aren’t thinking together and diversity and inclusion are synonymous and authentic:
Leaders who embrace diversity and inclusion have revolutionized entire industries by building trust and empowering their teams to share counter perspectives that create an authentic solution. Empowerment comes from the freedom to contribute and being included in the conversation.
Top down management breeds a chain of finger-pointing and distraction. When you lead horizontally and give your teams a stake in decision making, critical-thinking, and a place at the table, they invest in making it work. Accountability shouldn’t have to be forced. If your team is empowered, accountability naturally follows.
Business is messy. Working with a team of colleagues that might have a counter-perspective where ideas are challenged, and thoughts vary from person to person is not easy, but the outcome will not be plastic. It will move your team, your business, and your bottom line forward. Diversity and inclusion are the catalyst for innovation and progress.
So, how do you make a shift? Stop being afraid. Take a look at who is making decisions. Be mindful about who is invited in on the brainstorming session. Open the floor for diverse perspectives and include the right mix of people in the room.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”-George Bernard Shaw
Our strategic vision was executed with flawless agility. Because of your passion and synergy our product offering is robust, and our pillars are strong. The innovation we achieved was made possible by the fortitude of our people. Your accountability, transparency, and clear courageousness has led us into a new year that will unfold possibilities that will maximize our impact in the industry. BLAH…BLAH…BLAH…
Translation: We did well this year. Keep it up!
Why do we talk this way in business? Are people slipping silly corporate talk sauce into the Keurig machine?
It’s a fact- organizations that promote authentic behavior are more likely to have engaged, enthusiastic employees and work environments of trust. Silly corporate speak is the antithesis of authenticity. As humans, we crave genuineness- we also see through insincerity.
So, how do you cut the mumbo jumbo and start communicating in a way that is clear, honest, authentic, and understood.
Here are 7 ways to banish the mumbo jumbo, be authentic to your brand and voice, and cut to the chase so your employees get the message and stay engaged:
FACT: The average executive spends 75% of their time, about 45 minutes per hour, communicating.
You set numbers and goals. You spend hours of time perfecting your plan, but how are you inspiring, informing, and articulating that plan through communication with your team? Having a strategic communication plan that you can stick to throughout the year helps keep employees engaged and when you have an engaged workforce, business booms.
CUT THE FAT
FACT: Markus Zusak rewrote The Book Thief 200 times to get it right.
“Oh, God. Another nine-paragraph email from the boss.” Editing is the art of writing. Pair your message down to be clear and concise. Take time to cut the fat. You’ll be loved and thanked.
MIX IT UP
FACT: Attention spans have shrunk by 50% over the past decade.
The great thing about the digital age is the plethora of communication platforms that are available to get the word out. The bad thing is the plethora of communication platforms that are available. You have competition, so mix it up. Create a plan that is a blend of interesting and compelling content and messaging that is sent out through different channels and platforms: video, text, social platforms, LIVE meetings, sky writing…you get the message. Keep it interesting and mix it up.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
FACT: Confusion and frustration usually make your best employees leave. To replace them costs an average of %150 of their salary.
If you’re giving a speech, your audience is made up of listeners. They have only one chance to absorb what you’re communicating. Keep it structured and concise. If you’re sending a memo, craft your message with the reader in mind. What do they value? What do they already know about the topic? Why do they need to know this information? Great communication speaks directly to the audience. Sounds simple, but it takes effort. The last thing you want is a confused and frustrated audience.
WATCH YOUR TONE
FACT: 10% of conflicts are due to differences in opinion. 90% are due to the wrong tone of voice.
“Please advise”. Please don’t. Tone is everything. What you communicate is just as important as how you communicate it. Whether delivering a message through video, LIVE meetings, social media, or a memo- you will be judged on more than content, and a sour tone can off put an entire workforce. Check your tone.
FIND YOUR VOICE
FACT: Organizations that foster authentic behavior are more likely to have engaged, enthusiastic employees and work environments that are open and promote trust.
Authenticity counts. Find your voice. Stop with the fancy mumbo jumbo, corporate speak and write with your unique voice. You are a brand ambassador for the company and an extension of the culture. Use your unique voice to build trust and be uniquely you-that’s why you were hired in the first place.
HIRE A PRO
FACT: When there are more questions than answers at work the result is confusion, mistrust, and lowered productivity.
Not all leaders are great communicators. Hiring a professional content strategist can free you up to focus on your team and goals. Having a professional writer working alongside you keeps your plan on track, your employees in the know, and your business thriving. Know when to call in the pro.
Every waking day of our lives we spend 76% in some form of communication. Your communication plan should be alive and dynamic. Communicate frequently and with authenticity and take a stand against the mumbo jumbo!
“Internal agencies are invaluable, but often their resources are limited. That’s where we come in- as an extension of the team and a partner that has sat right where they are sitting. Marie Daniel is comprised of experts that have both internal and external agency experience. So, we get it.” – Diane Kordecki, Agency Lead Marie Daniel Group
Internal agencies are tuned in. They are employees of the corporation, and the vested interest they have is two-fold; seeing the company succeed and ensuring they don’t become extinct. There is a constant fear of jobs being outsourced. Of that big fancy New York agency getting the business, and of resources being cut due to budget restraints. It’s unfair to constantly be on the edge, but when you’re on the inside it comes with the proximity.
The truth is an internal agency is invaluable when it comes to perspective and history. Internal agencies are highly efficient for the corporation. But there are limitations that come with an internal agency. Resources are limited. Capabilities are capped. Skillsets are finite. This presents obstacles for internal clients and often leads them to bring in their own agency for parts of a campaign the internal team cannot tackle due to resource constraints. That’s where projects, through lines, and creative intent start to get lost in translation. More dollars get spent, efficiency goes down, and client frustration can settle in.
This is where your internal agency can take back control and truly service the corporation by bringing an external agency partner into the fold-under your guidance and process. Using external industry experts strengthens your reputation, broadens your capabilities, and keeps your in-house team in on the campaign from start to finish.
If you’re an in-house agency- get another arm to partner with while you take the lead and prevent extinction.
July 26, 2022
Perhaps it’s time to do something that scares you. Try that one thing that you say you always wanted to do.