Seeing the “Craft” In Communications

Posted on: December 7th, 2017 by Jamie MacLean

I admire the creativity of artists and designers, and their talent for making beautiful objects. What most draws my eye though, is pottery. I have an extensive collection to prove it.

When I moved to the UK, I found an opportunity to merge my work in communications with this passion for pottery. In helping artists build their brands, I had the pleasure of admiring their work while honing my craft. Helping them with their communications strategy was the closest I imagined I’d ever get to being “behind the scenes.”

That is, until a few months ago, when I signed up for a beginner pottery class. I had just moved back to Toronto, and having left the creative circle in London, I wanted to connect with the local arts community — beyond picking up yet another mug for my collection.

I quickly learned that tapping into my artistic side was not my only challenge. Pottery is a skill that requires a lot of practice. And as my frustration grew to determination, I started to appreciate more and more similarities between working with clay and working in communications.

Wedging – aka Planning: One of the first steps is to prepare the clay by kneading it thoroughly to remove air pockets. It requires elbow grease, which tests my patience when I’m eager to get started on the wheel; yet, it’s an essential step if I want to prevent my piece from cracking later in the process. Similarly, a communications strategy requires a lot of planning to strengthen the foundation of a campaign.  It can be tempting to bypass this step, but it’s necessary to first understand business needs, identify influencers, research the industry landscape and examine target audiences. Both require pressing hard and digging deep!

Centering – aka Focusing key messages: Centering involves forcing the clay into the middle of the wheel, and is achieved when the clay is spinning smoothly — this is not often accomplished on the first try. Similarly, finalizing key messages often requires cycles of drafting, honing and refining in order to remain on-point and focused. It is essential in both that all runs smoothly here — otherwise, there will be a “wobble” that remains throughout the rest of the steps.

Pulling – aka Implementing the strategy: After completing the essential first steps, the next stage of pottery is to pull up the sides of the pot. In communications, it’s time to implement. Both require a controlled approach. The walls need to be pulled up smoothly and steadily; otherwise, the entire structure can buckle. In communications, a hurried approach can mean missed opportunities in media coverage, influencer relationships, and other key elements that could lend to a campaign’s success.

Trimming – aka Refining: This stage in pottery is where imperfections are evened out, and is also an opportunity to add details and intricacies before entering the final stages. Throughout a communications strategy, it’s important to continuously refine the approach. Evaluate how the plan is progressing and determine what aspects can be smoothed, trimmed or enhanced.

Glazing – aka Evaluating: In both pottery and communications, the results might be surprising! In pottery, the glazes used as the finishing touches can offer unpredictable and varying results. A similar evaluation process is used for a communications plan: review the outcome, record what worked and identify methods to tweak next time.

My lessons in pottery have given me an appreciation for the communications process.  They have also reminded me that all plans not only require a vision, but also the discipline and persistence to create a piece to be proud of.

Does your hobby give you new professional perspective?  Tell us about it!