Tell it like it is

I’ve never believed in mincing words. It’s gotten me into trouble in the past. I remember arguments with my parents when I was a kid with my mom saying things to me like “You can’t say that to people”. And me responding, “But, it’s true, so why shouldn’t I say it!” I remember very early on in my career, sitting in a meeting with the head of a very large company, surrounded by all of his yes-men and getting the evil eye from every one of them when I addressed him directly and asked him why he didn’t agree with my design decisions. I can’t remember if I changed his mind, but I do know that he was respectful and even thankful that I stood up to him and questioned his comments. No one else was willing to do so.

I’m sure I’ll never do any work for Nova Scotia Come to Life after my blog post on the Pomegranate Phone campaign. Some would say that this is akin to shooting yourself in the foot, but I think it’s important to find a voice that works for you, even if occasionally you offend with it. At the very least, it helps to point you down a path where you can do work with people who aren’t afraid to be challenged. I’m OK with that. I’d rather be honest.

Far too often in the design and advertising industry, we’re just order takers. A client makes a request, and even though we know it’s a bad idea, we do it anyway, rather than trying to change the course or offer counsel. Occasionally this is due to budgetary constraints (just can’t afford to do what would be really great). Dressing up a bad idea is no better than simply executing on the bad idea anyway. I can think of several recent campaigns I’ve seen that never should have made it past the brief.

As communications specialists, it’s our job to find the nugget of what’s going to work, put it out there, test it, and evolve as required. It’s up to us to get to the root of the problem, figure out how to solve it and explain why when we disagree with our clients, just as they should do the same with us. We owe them at least that much, and probably far more. We just have to not be afraid to speak our minds.

It’s time that designers, writers, creative strategists and others in this profession stopped pretending to offer counsel when what they’re really doing is blindly obeying. No one wins in this situation. Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is. Clients are paying for our counsel, let’s fulfill our end of the bargain.

How about you? Have any stories about telling it like it is and having it work out? Love to hear them in the comments.

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