In creative project management, the execution phase of a project is where your project plan is put into action. This is where the actual creative work gets completed. That's why we call it "executing projects." That is – when the production, implementation and delivery of the creative work happens. Let’s dive in.
What to Expect
Creation and Production: During the execution phase, the creative team begins the work that has been scoped in the creative brief and laid out in your project plan. This phase could include tasks such as designing graphics, writing copy, coding websites, animating graphics, shooting and editing videos, or any other form of content creation as planned.
Collaboration and Coordination - This phase often includes close collaboration between various members on your team, such as designers, copywriters, developers, animators, editors, or other creative specialists. A traditional pairing for this work is a designer (or art director) and copywriter who work together to develop concepts. The creatives who are assigned to the work are also tasked with ensuring the work is based on the objectives outlined in the brief. Regular communication and coordination is essential among this pair (or group) during this phase to ensure the work is not disjointed.
Iteration and Feedback - Throughout the execution phase, it is expected for there to be rounds of iterations and feedback, which is necessary to make refinements or adjustments to the work. Typically, there are “internal” or creative-team only reviews/critiques where a lead creative or creative director will review the work of lower-level creatives, with the goal of refining and editing down to the “best” concepts to ultimately present to the project’s stakeholders.
It is also expected for there to be rounds of iterations and feedback from stakeholder reviews, however, each round should be moving the project forward and not adding scope creep. Ultimately, your team is working toward meeting the desired expectations of the stakeholder and also aligning the work with the project’s objectives (outlined in the creative brief), resulting in an approval of the assets.
Delivery - Once the creative work is approved, it is finalized for delivery or implemented according to the project specs, which are again outlined in the creative brief (you’re probably sensing a pattern here in the importance of the brief). Depending on the project’s requirements, delivery can look very different depending on the project. This could involve launching a website, prepping logo files for both print and digital applications, uploading content to platforms, or trafficking a spot to media agency for distribution, etc.
The Creative Project Manager's Role
Project Management - While it may seem obvious, this is your main role during this phase of work. As a project manager, you are responsible for overseeing this entire phase of work to ensure the work is progressing according to the project plan, timeline and budget. You should be tracking the status of tasks, managing resources, setting review meetings, addressing any issues or roadblocks that arise, and documenting progress. There are many tools and techniques you can use to help keep the project on track and ensure efficient execution, and I highly recommend some kind of master tracker.
Liaising - Another key role you will play during the execution phase of work is liaising amongst team members and also between your team and your stakeholders. You should be keeping stakeholders apprised of the status of the work and letting them know when they can expect to see rounds (which are explained under Iteration and Feedback, above). A reminder that the people you should be liaising with are those in your RAM, and make note of what level of communication is required based on their role.
You are both an advocate for your team and also for the brief (on behalf of your stakeholder). You should attend review meetings, take notes, and speak up if you don’t feel something aligns with the project request. You are there to make sure expectations are communicated and continually met.
Trafficking - In most roles, you are the trafficker during this phase of work. You will be asked to route rounds of work to the stakeholder (after it’s been signed off by your project’s creative lead) and also gather feedback as a result of those reviews. As the main project POC (point of contact), you are responsible for the flow of information needed to meet any key milestones in your project plan.
Occasionally, in a higher stakes project, a creative will route the work directly to the stakeholder. This is totally fine; just make sure you are copied on the communication. In helping traffic work, you should think of yourself as a creative partner who is facilitating reviews and being the first level of contact for your team to any outside stakeholders.
Quality Assurance - While this doesn’t rest entirely on the project manager, I highly suggest you carve out time to review the work to ensure the output meets the required standards/specs – not only for final work, but for the rounds of work submitted for stakeholder review.
You should also, and I can’t stress this enough, proof everything that passes your desk. No typos should get to the stakeholder, and if a prior request wasn’t implemented, find out why. There could be a rationale for not implementing a change (i.e. it doesn’t align with the brief) or it simply could have been missed. Your goal is to eliminate the back and forth for minor edits, and in doing so, you make your team look buttoned up in front of the stakeholder.
The execution phase of a project is a critical stage when the creative is being developed, reviewed and delivered. While you play more of a peripheral role, project managers still have a lot of influence over the outcome of the project. It’s imperative that you stay close to the work and team to ensure creative deliverables are developed according to the project plan, timeline and budget.
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