What collaboration means to 10+ brand marketing experts

According to the Oxford Dictionary online, the word ‘collaboration’ has two meanings with opposite connotations. Interestingly enough, the context of the meaning seems to come from the person you’re actually working with or how others perceive that work to do good in the world. For instance, if you want to be seen as a ‘good’ collaborator, you’ll work together to produce or create something that’s inspiring, helpful, or beautiful, but if you traitorously cooperate with an enemy, then you’d be committing the crime of collaboration. Surely, no one ever wants to be the latter, but who knew!?

At PhotoShelter’s fourth installment in the virtual summit series—20/21 Vision: The Collaboration Summit, 14 brand marketing experts focused on creative communications strategy development, social media, photography and video production, and more walked us through their philosophical and tactical approaches to collaborating internally and externally.

Though every brand aims to build processes that help colleagues synergize strategies to meet business goals, sometimes all it takes to effectively work together and build strong partnerships is honesty, kindness, and a shared mutual interest. As Nate Edwards, BYU photography director said during his session, “collaboration happens when there’s a feeling of trust and respect,” so let’s dive in and learn how communications professionals in healthcare, humanitarian aid and advocacy, sports, education, entertainment, and food collaborate to create lasting stories and experiences their communities love.

Jessica Carroll, Major League Baseball Photos Senior Director

“[PhotoShelter] has become an integral piece of our workflow. It functions as our searchable photo database and being that it’s web-based, all of our assets have been seamlessly accessible as we’ve shifted to remote work over the past year. Our users comprise over 600 stakeholders across MLB clubs, MLB departments, and MLB external partners. They have the ability to log in through our portal and search through the library’s assets to fulfill various end uses. Additionally, we have integrations in place that allow us to feed images directly to our licensing partner which is Getty images and to Greenfly which feeds the player social program.”

Terrell Lloyd, San Francisco 49ers Director of Photography Services and Lead Team Photographer

“There were no fans in the stands; everybody had cutouts, so I thought about it and I worked with our partnerships and marketing teams to think about what we could do to help out our partners with images that we were capturing. So, we came up with shooting all their tarps from different angles…and then I said, ‘Well, why don’t we do it with players in the background? Then we had to, from a field level or from within our ozone layer from the stands, shoot part of the game with the brand marks in the back and that’s how we were able to provide our outside partners with their branding [shots.] … Basically, I’m trying to shoot the game from the field, but also look at branding and get multiple other shots at the same time, so you really have to stay on it, you have to keep thinking, you have to really be in tune with what you’re doing.”

Rankin White, Austin FC Photographer

“So, I’m down on the field, and we need to get photos up to our social media managers live in-game as fast as we can. The cool thing is we have some FTP hard wires on each end of the stadium that allow me to transfer photos that I’ve tagged from my camera up to our social media managers from the game as they’re happening.”

Beth Allen, Food for the Hungry Senior Communications Manager

“Making the process agile for us isn’t just about it saves time, it saves money, we can also save lives by getting things out more quickly and PhotoShelter is very intuitive. It’s easy for those 25 partners that I mentioned to be able to go in from the link that we send them and to be able to pick up photos from there, so that has really fostered faster emails, faster social media campaigns, supporters and just supporters worldwide in various countries.”

Mike Ruddock, University of Maryland Medical System Director of Creative Communications

“So as the pandemic wore on, an important initiative was supporting team members’ morale. We created an internal campaign combining the pride of our state of Maryland flag with inspiring messaging. So, here are examples of the initial creative all centered around the theme of ‘home of the brave,’ which is from the Star Spangled Banner written by Marylander, Francis Scott Key as he watched the flag fly above Fort McHenry which is located in Baltimore. As you can see, the theme took off and was used in thousands of communications all accessed by our team members using PhotoShelter. We wrapped buildings, we captured videos of our experiences, and our team members shared their stories. Our external partners were integral to our success and documenting the production was a part of our story and many of our local politicians and celebrities wanted to uplift us with videos of encouragement and we stored them on PhotoShelter as well.”

Linda Praley, University of Maryland Medical System Creative Director

“How do we stay connected when we can’t be there and while fear and uncertainty is the new normal? To gather frontline team member experiences, we set up a submission form online to capture their stories. We received more than 3,600 submissions in six months, all which were loaded and shared through PhotoShelter.

“When one of our respiratory therapists lost a family member to COVID, he decided to use his photography skills to capture these emotional portraits of his coworkers. We uploaded all of his photos—more than 100 team members to PhotoShelter and we were able to maximize the reach by creating a campaign around masking.”

Sydnye White, Special Olympics Senior Director of Content and Storytelling

“So this year we had the Russia winter invitational games, a.k.a the Kazan Test games, so Kazan is the city where the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2022 will be held and our Invitational games are an opportunity for us and all of our partners and participants to kind of through what a global games would look like. In this case, because of coronavirus we had to limit it to just Russian athletes—usually we have 10 to 15 countries participating in the test games, but we needed to keep it small and safe as everybody else has been discussing. The teams that were involved in the collaboration was: me at Special Olympics headquarters and in this case, I was the only one doing approvals, so having a platform like PhotoShelter really makes it easy to collaborate with people on a global level. We work really closely with our Special Olympics Europe Eurasia region; Special Olympics is globally sliced up into seven regions which is further sliced into national programs, so that we can really reach each other on a grassroots level.”

Kentrice Rush, Jackson State University Digital Media Manager

“Even though there’s only two of us in this area of digital media, there’s a lot of collaboration that goes in to what we post on social media. It’s a collaborative effort. From the stories that we post, (a lot of them are created by our public relations team,) they craft the stories and they get photos from the photography team…also within those stories could be some graphics that are created by the creative services team, usually in collaboration with the marketing team, and they may also put some videos or links to social media posts in them to help tell the story; so a lot can go into just one story before it’s posted to social media.”

Carina Petrillo, Hulu Social Engagement Manager

“I love playing devil’s advocate and I love when other people play devil’s advocate. Challenge me, challenge me on how someone could perceive this post – even if it’s something as silly as a misplaced exclamation point. Tell me how that could be misconstrued. I want to hear that… let’s talk tonality, let’s talk about how this is going to be perceived and if one individual can see that, the more eyes the better. It takes a village to run a successful social platform. Anyone will tell you that.”

Daryl Heiberger, JUDY Social Media, Brand Content & Partnerships Manager

“One thing that our whole team realized was how awesome each of us are at communicating because when you don’t know how to get through it or you don’t know something, you get through the thick of it by asking questions and getting on the phone. And I think the beauty of Judy is they really setup the small team we have with distinct verticals…I think the point of collaborating and the beauty of that is when you don’t know something, have a team where it’s okay to ask. And you might feel a little silly and stupid at first, but we all feel that and I think that’s the key lesson.”

Randi Bohler, Savannah State University Marketing & Communications Specialist

“Student success and their experience is our top priority and I think knowing that and having that shared vision is first in collaborating and making sure that we’re successful in everything that we do. And then of course, along with enhancing their experience, we want to make sure that we are graduating successful global leaders.”

Samuel Wallace, Western Carolina University Director of Photo & Video Production

“In 2019, our marching band had the privilege of going to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the second time. And this was a big step for our team because for the first time we decided we wanted to embed our team with the marching band to capture this experience from start to finish – not only during the week of the parade, but the months leading up to it.”

Kelly Frazier, McMenamins Social Media Manager

The McMenamins content collaboration workflow for promoting the Dance on Air outdoor concert series.

“We’re definitely not short for content at McMenamins. We’re [Kat Nyberg and I] the two content creators for the company and we get to create content that aligns with our core values in our business goals, whether that’s brand awareness on social, selling tickets to concerts, brew fests, or other events, the storytelling piece, historical education, and we also have an e-commerce site that we sell a lot too, so we highlight all different aspects of the company. We’re able to collaborate with the marketing department, which is a smaller team of about 14 and with the wider McMenamins team to gather and produce all of this content. Collaboration for us really means a lot of communication and organization through all these different departments.We have a lot of employees, a lot of locations, so we have a lot of stories to tell, and PhotoShelter really helps keep us all organized and succinct so we can do that quickly.”

Raven Ellis, GoGo squeeZ® Senior Creative Design Manager

“There’s no bad ideas in this process of collaborating and getting through creative work. Be open to absorbing feedback, try to fight your ego, test things if you’re not sure (or if there’s a disagreement,) but don’t say no to people’s ideas—everything can be tested. Get a little weird! Stretch outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of failure; if you never fail throughout a process, I would call that the failure. You need to push a little further in your collaboration to find some ideas that fail, because then you have data to work with. You can figure out what went wrong, to know what you can do right. And, of course, brush yourself off. Collaboration requires resilience; it’s going to be a process, there’s a lot of people involved—it’s a group project! So you have to be resilient especially when you’re in the creative seat and you’re taking in a lot of feedback, understand that the project is the priority and collaborating is the goal…not someone being the winner. It’s all about the team effort.”

As at-home entertainment moves outdoors, food and friends reunite in safe settings, and we all as humans find grace in the aftermath of the most unprecedented year in most of our lifetimes, we should all seek to collaborate with compassion and learn from the lived experiences of our colleagues, industry partners, and friends and family. Take one step toward making strategic moves to help your team stay focused on the creative tasks at hand and lean in to all the inspiring insights from The Collaboration Summit, below.

What collaboration means to 10+ brand marketing experts is written by Larissa D Green for

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