/writing/ The In-Between

ART DOESN’T JUST happen. It’s a dirty little secret that most artists don’t want you to know.

But it’s true. I was fortunate to learn this lesson from my father, an artist. Some artists like to create the illusion of creative brilliance that is free from the constraints of the world around them – my work [read my brilliance] comes out in a way that I can’t explain, it just happens.

They conveniently overlook the “in-between”, which I’ll crudely define in the following visual.

Meet Tim. He is an artist. Let’s follow his creative journey.

THE BEGINNING: Tim has a brilliant idea. He can’t stop thinking about this idea. He loves this creative, non-binding exercise. He has nothing to lose. But Tim knows what’s coming next.

THE IN-BETWEEN: Tim is faced with a choice: abandon the idea, or further develop it. Tim commits and now he is officially in the in-between: countless hours in the studio, waves of self-doubt, minutia-level decision making, and existential dialogues about his self- worth. The in-between is a painful place.

THE END: Tim fights through the pain. His hard work is rewarded. Tim sells his work for loads of money. The in-between is officially over. Even better, he doesn’t need to acknowledge the in-between. After all, he’s rich now; his brilliance unquestioned.

The in-between happens to apply to organizational communications.

All the best NGO communications / media campaigns are built on the aggregation of a lot planning, production, editing, revising, final polishing, distribution. And in the end, the audience has been manipulated to think that the product just happened. But this is a purposeful mirage – the more manipulative, the better.

The same dynamic takes place within the organization.

Senior management teams love a well-produced documentary or beautifully shot photography spread that highlights their organization’s work. But like the audience, they generally don’t care about the in-between; they are happy with the mirage (so as long as you produce quality products).

Your job as a comms person, like Tim, is to create brilliance, which invariably means you’ll have to manage the in-between.

But how?

Creativity is important. But so is developing a product or launching a campaign on-time, under budget, and on-message. Invest in the practical skills. In communications strategy and implementation, the fundamentals of project management remain as relevant as ever. Treat communications implementation the same as you would program implementation: plan, execute, track, report, assess, revise, and repeat.

The process of arriving at the final product will be a painful learning process. The more organized and skilled you are, the less it becomes each time. Own the parts of the in-between that you can control.

In fact, the more you and your organization focus on the hard skills of managing the in-between, the more time and space you’ll create to explore creative concepts and to execute more dynamic and effective products.

There are many angles to the in-between. We’ll continue to write about this topic.

What does the in-between look like to you?

Thanks for reading.

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