sharon tanton portrait

An interview with a design client

So how exactly do I help design agencies? What’s it like to work with me?

It’s always tricky to put into words exactly how you help, so I asked the fabulous Eli Barbary, another Valuable Content associate, to interview one of my clients.

Creation is a traditional graphic design consultancy, with a mix of small regional clients and some very big names like Sainsbury’s and Philips. They offer a whole range of design services from corporate identity, branding, brochures, new media, websites through to exhibition marketing and stands.

Nick Woods is the Account Director.

Here’s how the conversation went.

Can you give me a bit of background on the work that Sharon’s been doing for you?

I first approached her because she sent me a link to her website a year ago and Creation was going through a lot of changes. We had joined forces with Event Exhibitions, (a company that specialises in Exhibition stands and Events management) – primarily working as a design consultancy to their other clients, but with the aim of expanding Event’s offer to cover all the pre and post event marketing. It was a new venture for us, and I knew we needed to look at how we were presenting our offer.

We started looking at our own marketing and the kind of messages we were communicating – how we talked about ourselves really. We were looking for someone who had a good understanding of the design industry and would be able to help us reposition Creation from Event’s perspective and bring these two companies together in the way they talked about each other.

Why did you choose Sharon?

There was something about Sharon’s site that caught my eye. She really seemed to grasp the challenges that we were facing in terms of realigning our business getting our message right. She came to meet us and I felt that she understood our problems and that she was someone I felt we could work with. We would be able to have open and honest discussions with her about the types of things we were doing. She seemed to have that creative spark – understanding what we were trying to do and where we were going with our two businesses.

What has she written for you, and how has it helped your business develop?

From that initial meeting she has been involved in reworking the tone of voice and the copy platform for both Creation and Events -looking at the whole style of language we use, how we talk about the company. Getting the people within the organisation to talk about the company in the same way – so that we are one entity. Getting people to talk about ‘us’ not ‘Creation or Events.’

I was able to present all our staff with the new copy platform, which has helped people understand and get on board with the new venture.

Sharon has written the copy for the new Event website and the Creation one, and some important sections where the companies work together. Traditionally the two companies have been quite different in their approaches so it has been quite a challenge for her to get under our skin and move us away from always talking about ourselves in the same old way, and challenge us to think of things afresh and try new directions.

What difference does Sharon’s input make?

It is really going to help us go after the big clients where we are up against London agencies. It’s working already, we are starting to win, we are picking up more work from the big clients like Philips and Sainsbury’s. I certainly feel much more confident that how we sound and what we say about ourselves is good. We don’t sound like a provincial design agency, we can hold our own. She is making a big difference.

Has she worked for your clients?

Our clients are very diverse they’re in lots of different markets.

She did some stuff for us for Sainsbury’s – she wrote all the direct mail and correspondence to their farming community for a big Farming Conference.

She has worked on a project for the BSAVA, (British Small Animals Veterinary Association), creating the tag lines to go with the logo and branding that we’ve developed for them.

Her advertising copy is good too – she’s done a few ads for us, for everything from parking meters to aluminium doors. She is able to turn her hand to quite a lot of different markets, which is important for us.

Any other kinds of writing that have helped you?

She’s helped with big pitch work. I put our presentation together and she went through it all with me and made it read fluently and checked there were no stupid mistakes in it! It gave me the confidence to present well – it took the pressure off. When you’re not worrying whether the presentation is right, you can concentrate more on getting your message across and making sure that you having good interaction with the people you are presenting to. That was really useful and we won the contract. It was a competitive pitch and that was a fairly big deal for us.

Is she a key person?

Definitely. She really gets involved which is great, she doesn’t just writes a bit of copy and send it over. For example, for the pitch presentation she came into the office and sat down with me at my computer and went through the whole thing with me. She gave me advice not just on the words, but on the content as a whole – what we were saying and what the key messages were – so from that point of view her input is really really useful.

What do you particularly like about Sharon’s approach?

She is just really easy to get on with, easy to chat to, she comes into the office, sits down, gets involved, gets on with it. She is part of our team. That really comes across that it is not that kind of supplier client relationship. We value her opinions and it is nice to have her involved in the whole process.

How does she compare with other writers you have used?

We’ve always been challenged by copywriters because the ones we’ve used in the past have never quite understood what we are trying to do and didn’t really get that involved in the creative side of what we are working on. So they would just churn out the words and we’d drop them in place. Sharon seems much more willing and wanting to get involved in the whole sort of process. And will give us ideas not only from the perspective of the words but how they work on the page, which is really important.

Does she deliver what you want?

Absolutely, and the copy she writes goes directly through to our clients, with very few corrections. We get there pretty much first time out with our design work so it is good to find somebody whose copy gets there pretty much first time too. From our point of view we don’t want people saying the design was great but the copy was rubbish! Both elements have to work together, or the whole job fails, and that would reflect badly on us. Sharon’s copy works well.

In terms of results, how does Creation benefit from Sharon’s work?

Sharon’s very good when the pressure is on, for example the Sainsbury’s job. We were up against a really tight deadline. We had to organise a conference for 1200 farmers in Leicester in 4 weeks. We had to do everything. Not only doing the invitations we were building an exhibition hall, building a conference centre, putting 1200 chairs in it, sorting the catering, the guest list…the whole thing. To the clients it seems like a small component – getting the letters out – but getting the correspondence to people is equally important as if no one is there the whole thing falls apart. Sharon really understood the challenges we were up against. But she turned them all round really quickly, I mean within hours of me sending her the brief I had copy back which went through to the client pretty much unscathed and within another day it was all printed and everything was being mailed.

The feedback from Sainsbury’s on the whole job was ‘great delivery,‘and Sharon’s contribution helped with that.

So you’d say she understands the pressures facing design agencies?

When she knows that you are really up against it and you’ve got really tight deadline she really responds. I feel confident now that I can chuck stuff at her and say ‘look I need this in a real hurry because of x’ and she will understand. What I get back is always good well thought out copy not something that has just been bashed out that afternoon.

Any longer term benefits?

The work she has done with us in refocusing Creation’s offer and Event’s and how we start to integrate these two companies with a common purpose and common voice is going to be really good. I think long term she’ll really become part of our team and not only help us with presentations that we do but also do more copy for clients. I’d feel very comfortable in recommending that we’ll take on the copy element which is something we had shied away from in the past because I’ve never been entirely happy with people we were using. It makes our job easier if I know that when the copy is briefed and it comes in I don’t have to start looking at it and thinking ‘is this any good?’ We don’t have time to do that.

A confidence comes with working with her. All the suppliers that we have around us are people I know and I can trust that if I give a job to them they are not going to damage our reputation by turning out something that is a bit second rate and a bit shoddy. I feel confident that Sharon is in that league.

If you had to describe Sharon to a colleague, what would you say?

Quirky. Definitely she’s quirky, great fun. That’s good and we like that.

What other companies do you think would benefit from Sharon’s services?

I think everybody involved in the creative industry would find her really good because she really understand the problems that we are up against. She spends time trying to understand us and what we are trying to achieve. With us the diversity of our clients is so incredibly varied that all makes it fun for us and I guess will do for her as well. One day she is working on vets the next day doors and windows and the day after that Sainsbury’s. We never know what is coming next.

Finally, would you recommend her?

Absolutely I would. Definitely. I hope she’ll do the same for us; I’m sure she will.

We really do enjoy working with her and I hope she does with us as well. I think for us it’s that whole cliché ‘win win’ – we’ve found a gem in her.

Thanks to Eli and Nick.
http://barbarysolutions.com/ www.creationdesign.co.uk

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