Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Creative block: removing workplace barriers to help marketers do their best work

By Jada Balster, Vice President, Marketing at Workfront

One of the things I most enjoy about working in marketing is the ability to work creatively. Creativity attracted me to the industry and it keeps me passionate about my work, even during the difficult times we’ve all experienced this year.

And it turns out, I’m not alone. In fact, according to our recent Workfront Global Marketing Report, 40% of UK marketers said the skill they most value in their role is creativity.

Ensuring that marketing campaigns are launched with original ideas is key for businesses to stay competitive while returning to the “new normal”. However our research revealed something I find very concerning and it’s that marketers are barely able to spend any time on creative tasks.

In fact, 70% of marketers say they’re so busy keeping things running – focussing on activities like responding to and sending email (10%), carrying out repetitive tasks (12%) and searching for data and files (8%) – they don’t have time for creativity. 

Stop work getting in the way of work

There is an obvious mismatch between what marketers value most and what they actually spend their time on. For us to unleash untapped creativity it’s important to identify the cause and consider the best solutions.

All too often, the skills marketers value the most are being undermined by workplace frustrations. For many this stretches beyond just the day-to-day distractions of emails and too many requests.

For example, nearly a quarter of marketers (23%) say their companies have a lack of strategic alignment across teams, while 17% feel they have a lack of defined workflows. All of this is making it harder for marketing teams to collaboratively brainstorm, manage campaigns and make sure that all of their work efforts are contributing to the same goal.

When working at speed and under pressure marketers need to know that their work matters and is contributing to something worthwhile. When they feel like their work isn’t visible or aligned with other teams, it can lead to frustration and demoralisation.

These pressures are even taking a personal toll on leaders, especially in today’s environment. A recent Marketing Week report found that 46% of marketing executives feel less efficient during the pandemic, leaving them ‘worried, distracted and stressed’ at work.

Your marketing team can deliver their best work with a little support

Workplace disruptions and a lack of shared tools are preventing marketers from doing their best work. At this time in particular, it is crucial for marketers to focus on creativity and agility which presents an opportunity for businesses. If business leaders ensure their marketing teams are equipped with the best technologies and practices to remove obstacles and frustrations, marketers will be able to unleash the creativity and agility that their companies need.

Many, however, are not getting access to the best technologies to help them successfully collaborate and respond with creativity or agility. Six in ten marketing teams (60%)—are still using disintegrated systems and need to navigate an average of nine different tools to manage projects, communication, design, approvals, calendars, and more across their daily role. Switching between applications adds to the distractions and repetitive tasks taking up so much of their day. 

Because of this, almost all marketers (90%) say their organisations need to do a better job at integrating and connecting key systems and tools so that they can focus on the creativity their role demands. 

Clearly, marketing professionals and teams are bogged down by too many disconnected tools, a lack of strategic alignment, siloed work processes, and poor visibility. This is affecting their work and their motivation. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Now’s the time for a more strategic approach to work

The way we work is changing due to the increased use of innovative technologies, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore the best time to take a more considered approach to the way marketing teams work.

Embracing modern work management practices and technologies will help marketers to take a holistic approach to their work, from automating intake to connecting work across their favourite creative applications, collaborating across teams and time zones, proofing and approving collateral, and executing and tracking campaigns.

In contrast to the current disparate approach to tools and solutions, work management allows teams, and even entire enterprises, to align all work with key business goals, and provide the visibility and context to execute the right work and make data-driven decisions.

Marketers need an alternative to having to spend their day requesting updates over email or tracking data across a whole host of siloed marketing tools. A work management platform allows them to focus on the high value work they’ve been hired to accomplish and gives leaders the visibility and control to make important decisions.

There is clearly a huge opportunity for business leaders to make sure their marketing teams can work creatively and are not held back by everyday obstacles. Following the pandemic, businesses and economies are looking to recover, so it is more important than ever that marketers are able to do their work to the best of their ability.

Freeing them from lower value tasks will enable them to quickly respond to market changes and drive innovation that helps companies not just survive but thrive.