Let me first say that I’ve been around the block. If I were a tree, I’d have 62 rings… Of hell.
And in February, I’ll have been doing this– this being creating visual communications projects– for 40 years. Slide Shows, museum events, audio-visual theater in the round, multi-screen extravaganzas, video in all its permutations, wide screen meetings, business theater, web video, interactive DVD’s, you name it. (Go ahead name it– I’ll wait—- yup, did that too.)
So, I’ve created a lot of media. Yes, that was my job. Create. Analyze a communications need, through research, meetings, reading, talking and listening, and finally, offering a solution that would accomplish the change necessary. I was right on the money about 94% of the time (that’s an educated guess; I’m guessing I was probably involved in nearly 1000 various projects throughout the years, some as a creative director, sone as writer, some hands on. Generally, because I either owned the company producing, or because I was a high level executive with the company producing, I had final responsibility for sduccess or failure. I took that pretty seriously.
But not always. Contract corporate communications– where a company executive or a communications or video department executive hires outside assistance– is a very complex thing. Some companies have media departments that produce much of what they do internally and hire out turnkey responsibility only occasionally. Others develop a relationship with a producer (or to make it even more complex, an ad agency) and rely on them to create solutions and accept responsibility, which CAN be two different things.
Corporates can choose to be their own producer– hire a writer, shooter, editor, graphics, editor, etc. Or they can hire me (alright, and thousands of other like me.)
When my partner Ric Sorgel and I began, we had the advantage of being early adopters of a technology– slide shows. But out love of the technology did not blind us to wanting to just play with the toys. We wanted to make complete, stand-alone, hey ma, we did this ourselves shows. The technology was so new (and the budgets compared to 16mm film so enticing to potential clients) that we were busy almost from the start. The clients– had no idea what we did or ow we did it, they only knew the end result. Despite our having conceived, outlined, written, shot, done interviews, created soundtracks and edited them altogether, the clients first question after applauding the show was– “What camera did you use?”
I wonder if Hemingway ever got the question, “What typewriter do you use?”
This syndrome continues to today. Avid or Final Cut? Red or Canon DSLR? Mac or PC? Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter? (or Word with two columns?)
The questions are more complicated because video has become part of the language of communications, movable type was to the book. And the tools of video are more affordable. Thus, everyone’s a director / shooter, everyone’s a producer, everyone’s a creative. And almost anything can be seen by anyone… i.e., YouTube.
But pens and pencils and typewriters were used for many things– grocery lists, love letters, invoices, instruction manuals, summons, and, yes, novels, great and not-so-great. So, was the grocery list writer considered an “author?” Is anyone with a camera or web access a “creative?”
Add to that the interactive world– iPhones, Twitter, SMS, GotoMeeting/Seminar.com, chat groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and we can be connected all the time! We can live, therefore, in a virtual committee. I’m not talking about production teams, where everyone has a specific role.
I’m talking about virtual groupthink, where quiet time vanishes and creative ideas are ground by a group of peers into sausage. I know, you like sausage, but is it really good for you?
There is a way to be successful on both sides of the fence in corporate communications. I’ve made enough mistakes to know how. In these pages, over the next few months, I’ll share– wait, I hate that word– I’ll provide– for free– ideas on how to avoid the sausage of creativity and allow the prime grade AAA meat to sizzle.