Welcome to our interview series, Creativity Drives Business, where successful marketing and creative leaders share industry insights, how they got to where they are today, and explore the future role of creativity in business.
Nicole Lee, Production Manager at Pinterest, discusses how she has combined her creative operations is a unique field within the creative world.
Q: How did you get into creative operations?
The path was pretty meandering (curator, gallery director, photo producer, project manager etc.) and the industries were equally varied (nonprofit, agency, tech). Looking back, I’ve always played an ops role in the creative field. It makes sense given my fine art background and left brain capabilities. I’ve realized the exposure to different types of creatives has informed how I work with teams today.
Q: How do you think creative roles in businesses are changing?
There are more roles opening up, especially for creative producers. I think project management is pretty widely understood, but creative production is different. It’s strategic, holistic, adaptive, and highly reliant on soft skills. It’s taken time for people to fully understand the unique value of these roles.
"I think project management is pretty widely understood, but creative production is different. It’s strategic, holistic, adaptive, and highly reliant on soft skills."
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
Companies always want more from the team, and rightfully so. My biggest and ongoing challenge is figuring out how to deliver on that expectation with less, all while maintaining quality and speed. It surprises me but I always go back to the basics and constantly re-evaluate resources, time, and scope—which of these levers can I pull to ensure we’re getting the best creative.
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
Something a friend/coworker once said about team composition always stuck with me. You can have all the right ingredients, but sometimes they don't make the best perfume. It makes me laugh but it’s so right. Team chemistry is everything. How all of the parts operate together can yield something pretty magical, sometimes not. It’s tricky work, but I’m excited to build a team that complements our creatives and helps them do what they do best.
"Giving feedback is an art. So is receiving it."
Q: What was your favorite campaign or project you worked on?
Visual Discovery. An incredibly meaty project with multiple product launches, videos, and a full-blown press event.
Q: How do you handle creative feedback and reviews for the work your team produces?
Giving feedback is an art. So is receiving it. A lot of people think providing feedback (especially criticism) is difficult, but hearing it can be just as challenging. I learn how the team prefers to digest info, interpret the comments that bubble up in reviews, and play them back in a way that's clear and productive.
Q: What tools, books, or industry resources help you in your day-to-day work?
Tools: Pinterest, naturally. We use it to collaborate on concepts. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate visually and help bring initial ideas to life. Other tools include Evernote for notes, Google suite for project hubs, and Slack for communication.
Books: Recent favorite: Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
Industry resources: The industry itself, meaning, the people! Tap into one great person and you’re likely to have a network of really talented, smart, and thoughtful people at your fingertips. I lean on them for guidance.
"Stories are inherently more approachable than hard data. But if you can use that data to develop a narrative that means something to someone, you’ll have left a deeper and more meaningful impression."
Q: How does creative drive business results for your organization?
At it’s core, creative is storytelling. We drive business results through our ability to distill complex strategies and make them resonate with different audiences. Stories are inherently more approachable than hard data. But if you can use that data to develop a narrative that means something to someone, you’ll have left a deeper and more meaningful impression.
Q: Tell us about some brands you admire. What makes them stand out?
Heath Ceramics. Simple, timeless, yet current. I think Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic have mastered the ability to make new and fresh a company that’s existed since the 50s, while honoring the handcrafted ceramics that started it all.
Glossier. Beauty brand celebrating real people and the imperfect, which contradicts what you typically see in that industry. Their brand is so cohesively played out in their packaging, ads, site, and social channels. Even their showroom florals feel on brand.
Outdoor Voices. Sporting brand for the recreational “athlete”, if that athlete shopped at APC and was more interested in a game of badminton over a marathon. I think it’s remarkable that they identified a gap in the tech apparel market, especially given all of the well known brands in existence.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to other creatives?
Kindness goes a long way.
A huge thank you to Nic for taking the time to share her thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon.