“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Matt Levin, CEO at Donut Media.
Ask a venture capitalist how to build a great technology company and they’ll likely tell you to hire great engineers. Ask them how to build a great creative company and they’ll say, “Hire great engineers to tell your creatives what to do.”
In the software industry, chief technology officers are often talked about as the key to a startup’s success. In Hollywood, the director is lionized and seen as a pivotal element to any successful film. Yet, in the new media publishing world, we almost never talk about our chief creative officers. How many of Vice’s creators can you name?
Content isn’t created in a vacuum—it’s made by human hands. If any publisher wants to thrive, creatives will be the key to their success, not engineers alone. I believe 2017 is the year when the chief creative officers will become as coveted as chief technology officers.
Don’t get me wrong: Data plays an important role in any creative environment, and the beauty of working in today’s digital age is that you don’t have to rely solely on your intuition. You have access to facts about how, where and when people are consuming your content, and that information can really drive valuable insights into what’s resonating and what’s not.
The problem we’re running up against is that the perfect employee doesn’t exist for this generation of digital advertising. There’s almost no direct experience that provides an individual with the necessary grasp on how to be data-driven and maintain creativity at the same time.
The scary truth is that scarcity of creative talent is inevitable. So what can we do?
Now is the time to invest in training and find new talent. Don’t go by the books and look for people with traditional experience. Encourage team training and enable employees to share their knowledge with others. Find the people who are good with data or enjoy working with data and urge them to share their knowledge with your creatives, and get those creatives to share their methods with the data-oriented folks.
It’s also time to invest in the right company culture. A company that rewards creativity, values originality and allows freedom will entice the right kind of people to come work for it.
Squarespace’s CCO recognizes that building a culture that fosters creativity isn’t always what you think it is. Hiring experts isn’t a foolproof method, rather assembling the right team is supreme. The reality is that big teams cannot be filled out entirely by experienced hires.
A company’s investors may not understand the importance of recruiting and retaining creatives or why it needs to invest so heavily in culture. As soon as the correlation between great creatives and great companies becomes apparent – with a few acqui-hires along the way – investors will begin to understand the importance.
Until that happens on a broader scale, invest in culture and fight for those creatives.