There’s been a lot of hype around social media and for independent designers, design firms and agencies this phenomenon increases their ability to market themselves exponentially. For in-house designers, though, the opposite holds true if we misuse these applications.
The most effective form of social media we in-house creatives have at our disposal is the good old-fashioned face-to-face kind. Whether it’s an office drop-by instead of an email, an impromptu meeting rather than a phone call or a hand delivered hardcopy of a design concept as opposed to a digital file left in a client’s dropbox on their hard drive, these real-world get-togethers help build and cement important working relationships.
I’m not suggesting we not use social media to help promote ourselves, our groups and enhance our relationships with our clients, peers and fellow designers. There are plenty of ways to responsibly use this new technology; especially given that so many of our clients and managers use it. The danger is that, as designers, we’re not usually that inclined to physically interact with employees in our companies outside of our department. Fess up, if you had a choice between working on a really juicy assignment or going to a client or company meeting, which would you choose? My fear is that social media could serve as a handy excuse for our bad habits.
I recall how Moira Cullen, an extremely successful in-house design director whose stints include Hallmark, Coke and Hersheys, responded when asked how to best improve the working environment for and status of in-house teams. She replied with basically one word – lunch. She was advocating that sharing a meal with clients and upper managers is one of the most powerful ways to gain the trust needed to effect real change for in-house groups.
For better or for worse, creating great work, meeting deadlines and staying within budget is not enough for us to secure a leading position in our companies. Building the kind of rapport with key stakeholders that can only be achieved through formal and informal conversations and chance meetings is as, or even more, essential to a design team’s success as its design acumen.
So get out from behind your monitors and press the flesh, share war stories and laugh with those up-to-now faceless co-workers and managers. It may not be in your job description but it is in your best interest.
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