How We Use Creative Thinking to Cut Through Corporate Red Tape

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Our brand marketing team works closely with clients to tell their story on websites and social channels. We take great pride in being the shepherds of these stories, and we give everything we’ve got to deliver the messages and values our clients stand for to the biggest possible audience. It’s the thing we’re best at, and also the thing we spend most of our time thinking about. Promoting the values of our clients is easy, because we partner with people who believe in honest storytelling and the power of stories to change the world for the better.

The clients we work with each have their own ecosystem, their own set of processes and rules for the content that gets created on their behalf. A big part of our job as their representatives is to navigate that system with and for them, and our ability to do that successfully is how we can deliver such excellent results for clients. Creative thinking is key to this success.

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In 2017, we were hired by CPA Canada to create a strategic content marketing plan and execute it on their behalf. This involves creating strong editorial pieces that serve their business goals, and serving up this content on their social channels. Increasing audience sizes, readership, engagement, and brand reach are all stated goals of the project.  The hitch? CPA Canada has a strict set of rules for the images that can appear on their website or in social posts. The most limiting of these rules is that no image can show a person’s face, unless that person is directly tied to the profession our client represents. The no-faces rule is part of a bigger brand positioning effort by our client aimed at creating a unified look and feel for their online presence. From a brand perspective, of course, we totally get it.

But people who create online content for a living know just how important images are for directing attention, and for convincing social media grazers to take the leap of faith and click on a social post to read the full text that lives on an external website.

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So, what did we do? We came up with workarounds for the no-faces rule that worked for everyone. We found lots of good photos that showed people, but not their faces. And we relied on a stock-photo standard of disembodied hands doing various things (it’s possible we relied on this a little too much. We’ve put a temporary moratorium on hands for our own sanity). The fantastic social media team we work with at CPA Canada is well-aware of the limits these brand guidelines put on content and performance, and they have been great at supporting our efforts to find unique solutions to this particular roadblock.    

These stock photos were good (the best available, we’d argue), but they still weren’t telling these stories in the best possible way. As we were lamenting the fact that we couldn’t use a photo of Tom Cruise in his underwear to go with this catchily-titled article, “The Risky Business of Enterprise Risk Management,” a team member suggested using a stock image of wayfarer sunglasses instead. Major lightbulb moment.

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We may not be able to fill our client’s websites and social channels with all of the GIFs we love, but we definitely can find creative solutions to get their content noticed by the right people. We’re content nerds, and we do love a challenge. Solving problems for and with our clients is a major perk of the job, and we’re thrilled when we see results like we’re seeing. In the past 6 months, for example, we’ve helped CPA Canada increase their followers across social platforms by 25.6%. No big deal. These (frankly staggering) results are a testament to the power of creative thinking, and to the bravery our client has demonstrated in trusting us to tell their story. It’s a creative collaboration that is paying off, and we’re pretty excited to see where it takes us next.