min read

How to succeed as a creative project manager

Article by 
Tefi Alonso
  —  Published 
December 22, 2022
June 7, 2023

What is a creative project manager

A creative project manager is responsible for projects and people in diverse creative roles. Creative teams are usually seen in marketing and entertainment, but it's not uncommon to see them in pharmaceutical or other industries.

Not all creative project managers are created equal.

A successful creative project manager understands the fundamentals of project management, is a skilled communicator and is more than familiar with the creative process.

Professionals that master these skills are well sought after.

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What are the creative project manager's skills


Leadership skills

Project management is a leadership position.

Like such, creative managers should be skilled in verbal and written communication, along with conflict resolution and effective confrontation skills. They coordinate team members and organize the workload, setting deadlines and ensuring that the project is delivered on time with the proper specifications.

Knowledge of the creative process

Creative project managers are creatives themselves.

The nature of the project and the team member's responsibilities and skills require creative managers to have a deep understanding of the creative process, its nuances and requirements. And there is no better way to achieve this than to be creatives themselves. Why?

Think about it in two ways:

First, they know exactly what to ask. 

Supervisors don't always know what kind of information to share with a project manager to accurately determine the project's scope. Like the objective of the project's deliverables, the timeline and other specifications that will inform the team's creative decisions. 

Second, they speak the language of the creatives.

Thus, they can translate the project's specifications into helpful and concise creative or content briefs that guide the creative production. As a result, it becomes easier to oversee progress, stay on top of the project and respect deadlines and the creative assets' specifications.

Proficiency in project management tools

To facilitate their responsibilities and focus their efforts. 

The bigger the project or the more projects a manager has taken up, the greater the need for advanced organizational skills. Reliable organization leads to effective prioritization. Effective prioritization protects the creatives from an excessive workload and the project from going over budget or getting delayed.

Certain project management software enables the manager to shift through the noise of the project's endless amount of details and get a concise and accurate overview of the project’s progress.

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What are a creative project manager's responsibilities


Align the project with the company's strategy

This isn't relevant only to projects that are developed in-house. Project managers in a creative agency usually don't have a say in their client's strategy. However, outstanding clarity of the project's goals protects from scope creep and informs trade-off decisions.

Monitor the project's progress

It includes supporting the creative team, keeping a close eye on the project schedule and ensuring everyone is working on what matters most. A good practice is to determine early on the metrics and the frequency of the reporting meetings. Use this template to automate the reporting process and focus on important work.

Make trade-off decisions

In the project's lifecycle, the creative project manager will face several crossroads that will determine the outcome. That's why it's so essential to have clarity on the project's objectives or its place in the company's overall strategy. Determine where your project stands using this battle-tested strategic planning template.

What successful creative project managers do differently

Exceptional creative project managers have mastered skills in two specific areas.

They get the right information to the right person at the right time

What sets exceptional creative project managers apart is their ability to clarify the project's objectives and create a transparent creative workflow.

Exceptional project managers go beyond asking for the right information. They educate their Supervisors. When Supervisors have little knowledge of the creative process, creative project managers teach them what's more effective and what's not possible. As a result, the perceived (and actual) value they bring to the process is increased.

Exceptional project managers give tailored instructions to each team member. Video creators, web designers and writers need different details to produce the proper material. Every person needs different levels of support to perform well. Some demand long blocks of time to focus on their task. Others need more iterations to get it right. Exceptional creative managers recognize these facts and act accordingly.

They have deep industry knowledge

Exceptional project managers specialize in a particular field.

They gain insider knowledge and can proactively support the project. For example, they know which milestones take more time and when the project is behind or ahead of schedule. As a result, they develop a keen eye for details that make or break the project's deliverables.

Exceptional creative project managers are very familiar with the industry norms and the audience's expectations. As a result, their creative briefs are much more specific and detailed.

Key Takeaways

So if you want to succeed as a creative project manager, here are the key variables you need to balance:

  • Be a creative or have a creative background
  • Develop your leadership skills and organizational skills
  • Master proper project management tools
  • Specialize as much as possible
  • Hone your communication skills

If you want to have a concise overview of your project and focus on what matters most, start a free trial of Cascade.

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