Those awkward first phone calls

Think of your initial phone conversation with a potential creative hire as the beginning of the collaboration, whether you’re considering one firm or ten. The idea is to sow the seeds for a great partnership from the beginning by setting a positive tone as you determine if your communication styles jibe.

The best approach is to just talk broadly about your school and your project: tell us how you got to where you are and what you hope to achieve; describe the culture, the people, the approval process. You’ll ask questions and we’ll ask questions and you’ll see how well we communicate with each other. It’s just like dating. See if you like the cut of our jib and how we think. See what it’s like to have a conversation with us, because if we work together, you’re going to have lots of conversations with us. When you get off the phone, you want to be able to answer “yes” to most of the following questions:

  • Did we ask thoughtful questions?
  • Did we listen to your answers?
  • Did you understand what we said?
  • Did we seem to understand what you said?
  • Did we sound like we were responding specifically to you (as opposed to speaking in generic platitudes)?
  • Did we have the same cultural and/or business references?

If you’re not sure what to say to a creative firm, start by asking them, “How can you help us?” Their answer should help you understand what they can do for you.

And pay attention to the questions they ask you. That will help you understand their process and what they need to know. This is a collaboration and, as with dating, you should both enjoy and learn whether you can work together from this conversation.

This is also the time to begin establishing trust (see page 17 of School Marketing Journal Term 4 2019, ‘Honest about creative’). So, tell us if you’re making ten calls before deciding which three firms to meet with (perfectly okay) or if you already know that you want to hire us because you’ve heard great things (even better). This kind of information is valuable to us ­— but also to you, since it will help us to determine what to provide you to best assist your decision.

Reproduced from Dear Client by Bonnie Siegler. 

Bonnie Siegler is the USA-based Founder and Creative Director of multi-disciplinary design studio, Eight and a Half, with recent clients including The New Yorker, HBO and Random House. Bonnie is the author of two books: Signs of Resistance, A Visual History of Protest in America and Dear Client. Instagram: Bonnie8point5

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