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Essential Steps for Productive Creative Kickoffs

Elliott Brown

published on December 21, 2015 in Design

Along with creative briefs and actionable feedback, kickoffs are one of the most critical parts of the creative process.

The goal of the kickoff is to make sure everyone is aligned about a project’s direction, timelines, and deliverables. In a perfect world, the kickoff is the meeting where work on the project really begins. It’s where the brief is presented to the creative team, timelines are committed to, and creatives ask questions to get context and make sure they have everything they need to get things right.

an ineffective kickoffBut kicking things off right is easier said than done. We recently conducted a survey of marketers and creatives to understand how well we all work together. The most common word each side used to describe their relationship?


But all is not lost! Creatives and marketers had a lot of nice things to say about each other, too. The data we collected allowed us to pinpoint a few pain points, and it looks like kickoffs (or alignment that should have come from kickoffs) were near the top.

Creatives were dissatisfied with things like the brief, the use of process, and scope creep. Here’s how they rated marketers:

effective kickoffs: what creatives think of marketers

In turn, marketers had issues with the way their creative teams staffed projects, failed to anticipate problems, and tended to stray from the brief:

productive kickoffs: what marketers think of creatives

Running an effective kickoff can help deal with a lot of these issues. If people have problems with process, does that mean the process isn’t clear enough?

That’s something to work out at the kickoff.

Do creatives think briefs are bad? And do marketers think creatives don’t follow briefs anyway? Sounds like something that should get straightened out when the brief is presented, instead of through countless iterations down the road.

Running a good kickoff

If you want to produce better content faster AND keep everyone happy, it all comes down to kicking things off right. Once the brief is in good shape, here are 6 key things to think about in planning the kickoff:

1. Timing: The kickoff shouldn’t happen until the creative team is about ready to start work. Kicking off too early can create a sense of unrealistic timelines, and it makes it easy for details from the kickoff to be forgotten.

2. Attendance: All the direct stakeholders in the project should be at the kickoff. Anyone who is unable to attend should have had the opportunity to give feedback on the brief in advance.

3. Roles: Whoever is driving the project on the marketing side should present the brief, but everyone should be free to give feedback. Remember that the kickoff is about alignment, not just the marketer’s grand vision.

4. Foresight: Keep in mind that having a seat earlier in the process makes creatives more aware of what’s coming down the pipeline, and it gives them an opportunity to start thinking about solutions in advance. It also helps with scoping, foreseeing obstacles, and making the final ask more feasible.

5. Preparation: Time permitting, everyone should have the opportunity to review the brief in advance. Doing so means people will come in with good questions, have a chance to think about competing priorities, and be more likely to have a meaningful discussion.

6. Next steps: Everyone should emerge from the kickoff with a clear sense of what they’re responsible for, what the next steps are, and what the timeline is.

Kicking things off effectively can be easier said than done. When we’re super busy there’s a tendency to rush through them (if you have them at all). But slowing down to make sure everyone’s on the same page will wind up saving time in the long run–and lead to much better creative work.