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Play to Win: Collaboration between Creatives and Strategists Leads to Unbeatable Customer Experiences

If you’re going to create winning customer experiences for global brands, then be a team player, enthusiast, and leader. It’s not enough to know your role, deadlines, and deliverables. Everyone on the team needs regular access to the playbook and the freedom to question and contribute.

Here’s how strategists and creative teams can work together successfully — without anyone calling a timeout.

Start with Strategy

Strategy is the alpha and omega of the customer experience creation process. Before a single page is wireframed, a word is written, or a site component is chosen, the strategists are behind the scenes, collecting and analyzing segmentation data to learn as much as possible about the brand, customers, and prospects. This team is responsible for defining the top-line roadmap and developing customer personas and journeys. But things don’t happen in a silo. Creatives are often pulled in to share ideas and perspectives to help round out content recommendations.

This marks the start of the collaboration process.

The critical information outlined in the first phase of the project will be the baseline.  Everything the team creates should ladder up to these findings — and be the North Star all along the way.

Keeping the Content Ball Moving

Next, the content strategist (CS) works with different creative teams — the user experience (UX) team and the user interface (UI) team (more commonly referred to as visual designers) — as well as the search engine optimization (SEO) team to move the top-line strategy to the executional level, from the taxonomy to the home page content hierarchy to directional headlines for the writers. This work powers the creative direction for all content and ensures the right experience, messaging, and visuals will move brand objectives forward.

Collaboration Is the Name of the Game

While certain steps must happen in sequential order, most of the content creation process isn’t linear, especially if you’re working on a robust project like a digital transformation or site revamp with multiple phases that requires teams to work on different objectives at the same time. The teams that have the most success are the ones that adopt a collaborative mindset.

In other words, everyone must know what everyone else is doing — and be willing to work together.

“Collaboration at every phase of the project keeps the ball rolling,” explained Julie Kinzie, Sr. Content Strategy Director for Merkle, and it also promotes accountability and transparency.”

It’s not enough to collaborate some of the time, and success requires much more than kick-off calls and workshops. Collaboration is a purposeful process whereby teams regularly meet, question, consult, and share.

“Without checkpoints along the way, there’s a high probably for costly mistakes,” Julie explained. “Not everyone needs to have input – but everyone should have eyes on the project.”

For example, a site’s taxonomy is typically a reflection of two distinct perspectives: the CS thinking through content hierarchy while UX aims to create a seamless user experience. If each person produces their taxonomy recommendation on their own, the result will be two very different websites. This is because both teams come at content from different perspectives, so collaborating during this stage can lead to the best of both worlds. And don’t forget about SEO, which needs to be integrated at the beginning so that the team is teed up to use the most efficacious keywords for navigation and content categories.

And what about the need for writers to stay within character counts and site component guardrails? Without UI collaboration, a headline may be way too long, or the body copy may not be enough to fill the designed space. And speaking of components, what happens if UI has an amazing design that the client loves and approves, but then finds out in the development stage that it isn’t feasible?

Collaboration is key to mitigating these timely and costly speedbumps.

Checkpoints and Collaboration Tools

Collaboration may sound like a core component of any project, but it actually needs to be planned and scheduled. Regular checkpoints will facilitate collaborative efforts and can be anything from daily standup meetings to dedicated Slack channels for real-time communication.

Your teams may use some of these, but a sample of popular, user-friendly digital workspace tools includes:

  • For CS and SEO: Screaming Frog and HubSpot
  • UX and UI: designed-based workplaces like Figma and Zeplin
  • For writers and editors: SharePoint sites, shared Google docs, or a content repository platform like Gather Content
  • Project managers: work management platforms like Monday.com or global spreadsheets like SmartSheet
  • For UX, UI, and developers: Confluence
  • For team brainstorms and ideation: workspaces like Mural and Miro

“The customer experience creation framework is a tried-and-true process, but there are always curveballs,” Julie said. “Each client is different, and things won’t go as planned. The most important thing is to ensure that everyone on the team is briefed so that there’s ownership all around. If you want to know the leading play for strategists and creatives, it’s having no surprises.”