Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing firm placing a comprehensive range of interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of organizations. In this position, she manages operations for the firm's locations in major markets throughout the United States and Canada. Donna has presented at industry events, including the HOW Design Conference, the American Advertising Federation National Conference and the American Marketing Association's International Collegiate Conference. She also has delivered webinars for the American Advertising Federation and Graphic Artists Guild, and has contributed articles on career-related topics to various publications. Donna has more than 25 years of marketing, business development and management experience. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, with a minor emphasis in systems analysis, operations research, accounting and psychology.
Interview With Donna Farrugia
How have the needs of brands and clients changed in the last 3 years?
Certainly, keeping up with consumers' ever-changing tastes and preferences is a big challenge for companies of all sizes and in all industries. With more channels for communicating messages than ever before, brands are having to find the right media mix to reach their target audiences and make meaningful, lasting connections - all while staying innovative and true to their core values.
What challenges are agencies/companies facing today in sourcing talent?
Despite a high unemployment rate, recruiting for certain skill sets - either for full-time or freelance roles - can pose a real challenge, even in this environment. Many companies are looking for creative professionals with very specific, high-demand skill sets, and these individuals may be reluctant to leave stable positions. Employers also are being inundated with resumes - many of them from applicants who don't meet their qualifications. Working with a specialized staffing firm can help streamline this process as they can narrow the list of candidates for employers to choose from.
When do you feel is the best occasion to use freelancers: for existing projects, new business or as an ongoing resource?
It's wise to think of freelancers as an ongoing resource and build flexibility into your staffing strategy. Agencies have long done this, which allows them to staff up and down as accounts fluctuate. Companies are increasingly turning to this model so they, too, can keep their staff levels fluid as business demands change. We are finding that more organizations are bringing in creative freelancers to support core staff during busy times or to access specialized skills.
Has the definition and role of an 'agency' changed?
Many businesses are having to reinvent themselves, and are turning to creative and marketing professionals for ideas and innovative solutions to business problems. They are recognizing that these employees can do more than just develop eye-pleasing designs and catchy ad campaigns.
We recently launched a new research program called The Creative Team of the Future. One trend that rang clear was that creative professionals are playing a more strategic role in business. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American Advertising Federation Ad Club and corporate members we surveyed said creative professionals will have more influence on their companies' business decisions in the future.
How can agencies provide more value to their clients?
Our research for The Creative Team of the Future project reinforced the importance of problem-solving skills for creative and advertising professionals. As companies and clients more often turn to their creative teams or agencies for help coming up with innovative ideas to solve business problems - like attracting new customers, improving customer service or boosting Web traffic - problem-solving skills will become indispensable. Agencies that can conduct research, observe and analyze customer behavior, brainstorm multiple options, and weigh choices to help determine the best solution to a business problem for their clients become true consultative partners, rather than simply vendors.
What are the benefits of clients involving creative teams/agencies in the planning and decision-making process?
The saying, "Two heads are better than one," sums it up well. Organizations that tap various functional teams - including creative, IT and human resources, to name a few - often can deliver more innovative ideas and business solutions. Challenging times, especially, call for creative solutions. Creative teams often can provide valuable insight into current market trends and identify ways to solve business problems at a lower cost or via new methods.
Technology is making it easier for people to work remotely - and this seems to be a growing trend. What tips do you have for ensuring strong collaboration among dispersed work teams?
As more companies provide telecommuting options to employees and utilize offsite freelancers, maintaining strong team dynamics and effective collaboration will become a growing priority for many creative teams. Even though tools like Skype or Google Chat make it feel like you're right beside your teammates, it's still a good idea to schedule at least some true face time for relationship building when possible. Also, when you work remotely, it's important to maintain regular communication. The saying, "Out of sight, out of mind," can hold true. As a creative professional, you don't want to miss out on a plum assignment because you weren't top of mind.