Client Relations – Defending the Creative

Defending the creative

During the collaborative process of revisions, you and your clients will be exchanging ideas about how to improve the work and which creative options should be explored. You will often work with people who have little or no experience in the kinds of visual communication that you create. After all, that is why they hired you!

Under these conditions, it is not unusual for your clients to propose ideas that, in your experience, would not work very well for the goals of the project, or which simply do not work as an optimal form of communication. This can sometimes put you in an awkward position where you have to persuade your client not to pursue an idea that they have just proposed. And sometimes clients can take responses to their suggestions very personally.

How do you approach these kinds of situations? How do you defend the creative integrity of the product without irritating your client?

A matter of perspective

Engaging with your client when these types of situations arise requires considering several strategies. Each strategy is based upon communicating with your client from a certain perspective. There are no hard-and-fast rules for which communicative perspective to take under all conditions. You may choose to use one of them, or a combination of several:

From your professional perspective:  If your client proposes an idea that, in your opinion, isn’t going to work (for whatever reason), you can simply state that, from your professional opinion, it isn’t a good idea. In other words, you would be saying to your client, in essence, “It doesn’t work because I say so.” Believe it or not, even though this sounds arrogant, there are some instances where taking this perspective as you engage with your client would be a viable option.

Taking this approach largely depends on your individual relationship with your client, your status as a professional in the industry, and the circumstances under which the revision decisions are being made. In order for this strategy to feel appropriate (from your client’s perspective) they would have had to establish a high level of trust with you over time to the extent that they are comfortable with you making executive decisions.

You might also need to take an executive approach if there is an immediate deadline and decisions need to be made quickly and definitively, and your client explicitly requests this kind of leadership from you under the circumstances. In very rare instances, there may be situations where your high status as a professional allows you to call the shots simply because you are who you are. It is fair to say that there are very very few professionals who occupy this level of status!

From the perspective of the audience:  If your client proposes a bad idea, one strategy could be to explain to your client how the video will be perceived by the audience. In order for you to speak effectively from this perspective, you would need to develop the ability to see your visual media from an objective perspective (or a perspective other than your own), such as the audience’s perspective in whatever demographic or status they may have.

From the perspective of the context of engagement:  If you are aware of the set of circumstances under which the video will be encountered by the audience (in other words, the context engagement), you may explain to your client how their proposed revision might be perceived as inappropriate by the audience, given the set of circumstances of their engagement with it. For example, your client may suggest adding a certain humorous element to the video, though the audience might consider humor as inappropriate or offensive according to the context under which the video will be encountered.  Using humor can sometimes be very risky.

From the perspective of convention:  If the kind of visual media that you are producing fits into a certain genre of similar media, there may be an expectation from the audience that your production will be similar to other videos in the same genre.  If your client wants to deviate from the conventions of a certain genre of visual media,  there is a risk that the audience will be disoriented.

For example, if you are creating a video that demonstrates how to perform a certain task, there is a certain expectation from the audience that the video will show each step sequentially with a certain tonality and pacing. What if your client suggests that it might be interesting to do something a little bit offbeat just to make it different than the usual dry demonstration video? Your strategy here could be to explain that the product is, by convention, an informative video, not entertainment. To go “off the beaten path” risks alienating the audience, who may be wondering what we are taking such an unconventional approach.

Client Relations Scenario

In this scenario, you are creating a video that will be shown at a corporate presentation where the entire organization will be in attendance, both in-person and virtually. The video centers around the president of the organization describing the past years’ progress and growth strategies for the next three years.

The president happens to have a particular passion for presidential politics. She decides that she would like to add a new section in the video that describes how beneficial it would be if everyone in the organization supported a particular candidate for president since, in her opinion, it would be advantages for the organization.

There are no regulations in the business that prohibit advocating for any particular political position, so the president is not violating corporate policy. There isn’t anything in the political content she is proposing that contradicts the message or purpose of the video. However, you feel that there are several potential risks by including this information in the video, given its purpose, context, and mode of delivery.


What risks can you identify in this situation if a political advocacy component were added to the corporate strategy presentation video?

How would you approach communicating with your client about these risks to persuade them not to do this?  What alternative would you suggest instead?


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Foundations in Visual Media Production by Steve Covello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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