What is the ideal creative team structure?
Simply having a creative team doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll receive optimal value. That takes coordination and collaboration between the different members of the team.
It also depends on how the creative team is organized. Like any other team, having the right people in the right positions is how you set them up for success.
Each person on the team should have a well-defined role with laid-out expectations and duties. You can’t ask everyone on the creative team to do everything — it should be filled with specialists who excel in a specific area.
So, how should you design your creative team? In this post, we’ll answer that question, looking at the ideal creative team structure, what each role should entail, and how to ensure success.
What is a creative team?
A creative team is comprised of individuals supporting a company or organization with their creative skills. Creative teams are typically filled with writers, artists, designers, and others who can look at a problem and develop creative content to help solve it.
Beyond just developing content, however, there should also be a strategic component to your creative team. While there may be others within the organization who shape the strategic direction of your content, the creative team should at the very least have input.
Not all creatives approach their work with a strategic mindset — some may be content to fulfill a request based on the input they receive from the team. But at some level, your creative team must be able to advise and recommend a strategic approach for how content is developed and executed.
Who is on a creative team?
Now that we’ve defined the creative team and explained what it does, let’s take a closer look at a team’s individual positions and roles.
The creative director is the leader of your team. They set the tone for the work your team produces and monitor for cohesion across all developed content.
Creative directors often help plan larger campaigns, ensuring that all content, branding and messaging align with the campaign’s mission and objectives. They also provide creative input on the actual content itself, providing key insights into what is developed and how.
There may also be elements of project management involved in a creative director’s job. Sometimes, they track project timelines and deliverables, though this can often fall to an operations manager who is less focused on creative tasks and more on managing the project itself.
Creative directors provide the overarching content strategy, monitoring the creative work. They also keep an eye on key metrics, ensuring that campaigns are hitting the intended marks needed for success.
Usually the most experienced person on staff, the creative director is very much the team’s quarterback, general, or any other leadership term you want to substitute. They provide the vision and direction for everyone else on the team.
Many times, the creative director is asked to serve as the project manager, creative lead, and strategy expert all in one. But the best teams also have a strategic communications strategist on hand.
If your creative team is an orchestra, each person playing their own instrument, think of the strategist as the conductor. They work closely with the creative director and the client to understand each campaign’s specific needs as well as what digital marketing and content marketing efforts will be needed to achieve them.
The strategist will then craft the campaign plan, which outlines:
Strategies (the overarching direction in which the campaign is looking to move)
Tactics (products and processes that support the outlined strategies)
Timeline for completion
The strategist should then coordinate with the other members of the creative team to help develop content, thus completing the campaign.
Along with providing a campaign overview, the strategist should also conduct extensive audience research to ensure the goals are aligned with the needs of the intended audience.
When a marketing team designs a campaign, many elements will contribute to it. One of the most important is the words that support the campaign.
Copywriters are tasked with writing content. That content can be in long-form or short-form formats included as part of the marketing plan — website copy, social media, blog posts, or any other messaging meant to persuade, entertain or inform.
Keep in mind that while copywriters should have the freedom to craft authentic, engaging copy, they shouldn’t be working in a vacuum. The copy they develop should reflect the branding messaging laid out in the marketing campaign plan.
The creative director and strategist (and potentially other stakeholders within the organization, depending on who informs the campaign plan) will provide the copywriters with guidance on the intended outcome of the campaign. From there, the copywriters will compose content that meets these objectives.
Copywriters can either be part of the in-house marketing team or freelancers, depending on the specific resources of the organization.
While copywriters often understand search engine optimization (SEO), many teams have someone specifically designated as an SEO specialist.
This person performs keyword research and monitors SEO trends to ensure all copy is optimized for internet searches. They analyze the work of the copywriter and make recommendations on additional copy to include (or exclude).
Having an SEO specialist as part of the creative team is invaluable, as it helps you organically draw attention online. You’ll develop content with an eye toward targeting the audience who is looking for your unique solution.
The creative director isn’t the only position of leadership on a marketing agency’s creative team. Most teams will also have an art director.
The art director functions much like the creative director. The key difference is that they are solely responsible for monitoring art development and production.
Whereas copywriters focus on the written word, art directors focus on visuals. Graphics, photos and other artifacts meant to visually support the brand all fall under the purview of the art director.
Art directors advise on the tone, look and feel of visual artifacts to ensure they all align with the organization’s brand and goals. They also monitor the work of the other visual artists on the team.
For example, if a marketing department is developing an ad, they may want to include the brand slogan underneath a compelling picture. The art director would provide guidance on the photo used as well as any colors used as a part of the ad.
If you’ve ever developed an infographic, fact sheet, or other visually-based marketing tools, you’ve likely worked with a graphic designer.
Graphic designers use tools like Adobe Photoshop to create or optimize visual resources. They’re the ones who create your brand’s logo or edit pictures that appear in your material.
These individuals should have a basic understanding of user experience and UX design. This will help them create aesthetically pleasing content that’s easy for viewers to process and use.
If your creative team needs to edit websites or upload any web content, it may also contain web developers. They possess the technical know-how to update your website and work with other team members to ensure web-based tasks are implemented in a way that supports the campaign.
Improve your creative team's transparency
A tool that will help your creative team mitigate the issue of silos and ensure better communication among team members involves a set of branded, coordinated templates to produce all marketing content.
Teams should have a single platform they can use to align their work and ensure everyone is operating from the same single source of truth. Try Optimizely's Content Marketing Platform (CMP). You can develop a strategy, create project workflows, generate content, and measure success.
No matter what your creative team’s marketing needs are, we have you covered.
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