Monthly Archives: September 2014

Creativity in Communication

By Kara Jensen

You are looking at a product of human creativity. That computer, the one you’re using right now, is one of the most recent pieces of creative innovation. We need creativity to both survive and progress in this world, so it is no surprise to find creativity in communication. When we communicate, we create, and if we can create the right message, we will reach larger audiences.

Working in communications means solving problems that don’t even exist yet. Professionals must think in new and unique ways—both of which require creativity. In the past, many have associated creativity with being “right-brained,” since this hemisphere is responsible for generating divergent thought. However, recent research has found that people use both hemispheres when thinking creatively: the right generates the “out of box” ideas, and the left analyzes and evaluates those ideas. With this circular pattern, new and exciting ideas are formed, many of which turn into tangible products—like your computer.

Creativity graphic

Cultivating creativity at home and in the workplace starts with a passion to persuade or reinforce an existing message. Follow these steps to get your creative juices flowing, and remember, once you start, the stream only gets stronger.

  1. Inspiration includes everything: if you find yourself stuck, get some new ingredients. Go to a new restaurant, listen to different types of music, or read a text you wouldn’t normally pick up. The more options you have in your recipe book, the more possibilities you have, so try something outside your comfort zone. You might be surprised; inspiration can come from anything.
  2. New experiences = new perspectives: when we meet new people or travel to new places, we build new connections in our brains. These connections can be important when creating unique messages. Reaching one’s audience starts with understanding the people within the selected group, so developing new relationships can give you a new lens and a significant advantage.
  3. Record, record, record: you never know when that creative spark will come, so keep a way to record these new ideas nearby. With today’s technological advances, this can be as simple as viewing an item you already have differently: now your cell phone is no longer just a phone; it’s your journal, your record-keeper, and a place to keep those hidden gems, so you never lose them.
  4. Be conscious of your environment: if you have a certain spot in your home where you tend to work, start there. But, if you find yourself sinking, all you have to do is swim to another island. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside, or as drastic as changing a wall color. The trick is to be conscious of what’s around you. If it’s not working, don’t force it. There will always be another island in the distance.
  5. Create with the door closed, edit with it open: a large part of developing something new is collaboration. People who take time to incorporate constructive criticism are usually more successful. So set your ego aside, because more heads are better than one when it comes to the editing process. Choose a small group of people you trust, and remember, you’re the one that ultimately decides, so all ideas are good ideas.
  6. Time to reflect: self reflection helps ground your thinking. Take time to keep a record of your developments over time, so that you can see your progress and your weaknesses. Working on your weaknesses starts with identification, so those who know where to improve tend to do better. Reflection is also a time to pat yourself on the back. Creating isn’t easy, so it’s important to recognize your talents because you have many.
  7. Inviting extreme ideas: the very essence of creativity is doing something new. Sometimes this pushes us outside the social standard of “normal.” Embrace these moments as reflections of your individuality, but keep your intended audience in mind. The trick is to find ways to intrigue your audience without pissing them off. After careful research, go for it, because many risks are rewarded.
  8. Set time limits: when developing something new, the editing process could take longer than the process of creation itself. Setting realistic time limits will ensure that your hard work will pay off. Use your knowledge of past projects to sketch out a rough schedule. Do your best to keep to your schedule, but also realize it may change along the way. Fuzzy boundaries can help during the creation process, but deadlines should stay. Set your individual deadline a few days early to ensure your best work.
  9. Focus on passion, not money: if your incentive is purely monetary, you’re doing yourself an injustice. Creating is difficult, so you need the passion to pursue your effort. If money is all you’re after, you won’t take the risks needed to really make an impact. While working, keep this in mind: make money to live; don’t live to make money. We are liable to miss the best in life if we don’t know how to live. A creative life is a happy one, so kick back and enjoy the ride.

 Let’s hear from you. What advice do you have to feed the creative spirit in communication? Do you agree that we should make money to live, not live to make money? What do you think of the woman artist in our graphic? Is she a stereotype or would Maya Angelou wonder why her quote is used in this mash-up?

Kara pic

Kara Jensen teaches remedial English and reading courses at Georgia Military College in Warner Robins, Georgia. In 2009, she earned her bachelor’s degrees, a B.A. in English and a B.S.Ed. in English Education. In 2010, she graduated with her M.Ed. in secondary English Education. Kara is currently working on a M.A. in Communications through Johns Hopkins University. In 2013, Kara Jensen won Georgia Military College’s Educator of the Year Award. On her days off, she enjoys walking her chocolate Labrador, Summerbun, reading, writing, and traveling. You can contact Kara at kjense11@jhu.edu or view her LinkedIn page.

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Communication Consulting: Is This the Right Career For You?

By: Robin Walden

As a little girl, I never dreamed of becoming a consultant. A teacher, lawyer or doctor – yes. But a consultant was certainly not on the career list. And yet, 20 years later, I can’t imagine a more exciting career choice. What other career allows you to move between industries, interact with countless personalities, and help all types of organizations improve their effectiveness at communicating with internal and external audiences? o-nas

Consulting in the field of strategic communications is a rewarding career, but is not always easy. Here are a few best practices and challenges when considering whether consulting is the optimal career path for you.

Consulting comes in all shapes and sizes

Consulting can take many forms – working for the big consulting players, partnering with a boutique firm, or venturing out on your own. Having worked in different consulting environments, I have found that each option has advantages and disadvantages:

  • Large consulting firms provide exceptional resources and training and can teach the fundamentals of consulting. But junior consultants often have less opportunity to interact with clients, and may get relegated to more tactical work. And as consultants gain seniority, there may be less focus on training and reduced commitment to personal development.
  • Boutique firms provide more hands-on experience and client interaction. And you can find a firm that specializes in niche areas that excite you. Smaller firms often afford more hands-on experience and project accountability. But smaller firms may lack stability or a strong infrastructure to support consultants on a day-to-day basis and may lack a structured career path.
  • Independent consulting provides the most freedom and allows you to pursue exciting business opportunities and set your own hours and travel. But it also is less stable, and projects may either be too plentiful at times or lacking. A key to independent consulting is to secure a strong and reliable network. Elance is a great tool to search for experienced resources to utilize when certain skillsets are needed for an engagement.

Consulting is a lifestyle, not a job

Consulting is not a 9-5 job and requires a person to be highly adaptable. Nights, weekends, and interrupted vacations are not unusual and a consultant is expected to always be available to meet client needs. A consultant needs to be flexible about skills, time, travel, and work style.

Speed is also of the essence and consultants are expected to quickly ramp up on projects and do whatever it takes to get work completed on time and on budget. Clients can often be demanding and are not always receptive to partnering with consultants. Therefore, a consultant must have exceptional people skills and be well versed at partnering with a broad range of personalities to achieve mutual success.

Detective work is a key to success

Consultants work across industries and must be well versed on the challenges and opportunities of their clients. Fortunately, with research and competitive information available online, this information is readily available. Consulting involves a lot of behind-the-scenes research to uncover the following:

  • About the industry: What are challenges within the industry? Who are the key players? Where is this industry heading?
  • About your client: What is their history? What is their vision? What are their core competencies? How do they differentiate themselves in the marketplace?
  • About the situation: What are their most pressing business issues? How can communications support achievement of their business goals? How can they measure whether communications are achieving the desired result?

Mark Haas has published over 800 daily tips for consultants on an Institute for Management Consultant blog. Tip #703 says that consultants can take a few tips from Sherlock Holmes to do detective work to figure out the root of the problem, what caused the failure, and how to fix it. If you are the type of individual who likes problem solving, consulting can be an ideal career path.

There is no such thing as a small project, only a small result

Communication consulting is not always glamorous. Projects can range from creation of marketing collateral to crafting complex communication strategies. No matter how tactical the project, it is critical to add strategic value – whether refining the messaging, proposing alternative channels to better reach audiences, or crafting a measurement plan to monitor success. Clients may not initially understand the value that strategic communications can play in achieving business success.

In my experience, small projects have often led to multi-year engagements. It is critical to get your foot in the door, demonstrate your value, and invariably more projects will follow. A pro bono project or non-profit assistance can be a great way to showcase your expertise, network with potential clients, and generate new business opportunities.


Consulting is not for everyone. But, if you are ambitious, a self-starter, a people person, and adventurous – consulting can be a fantastic career.

Let’s hear from you. For those of you with consulting experience, what have you found to be the biggest challenges? For those of you considering this career path, what advice can help you get started in this exciting career?

WaldenRobin Walden has been a Management Consultant since 1993. She started her career at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), spent many years in a boutique consulting firm in NYC, and now enjoys the flexibility and challenges of independent consulting in the healthcare arena in Connecticut. She is happy to address questions about this field and can be reached at robwalden@cox.net or on LinkedIn.

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