Posted by: bluesyemre | June 11, 2021

The Future of Work: How to Collaborate with Purpose

We spoke to Square on how the 2021 Webby Winner works with external partners to create powerful branded content.

For the past year-and-a-half, as people have endured the challenges of an ongoing pandemic, companies have been called to collaborate in new ways. From adopting new tools for remote workflows, to rethinking when to be synchronous with a distributed team. Moreover, brands and their partners have been called to produce content while seriously considering its impact.

This is the final part of The Future of Work series, made in partnership with MarketerHireBelow we explore how 2021 Webby Winner Square is creating branded content in a world that is increasingly concerned with purpose, and how they find the right collaborators to get it done. 

Produce Work with Purpose

The past fifteen months have forced brands to implement digital-first strategies, while also creating with more empathy. This shift has benefited not only the work companies create, but also their employees — nearly 50 percent of US-based employees reported that the pandemic has caused them to rethink the purpose of their work, according to a 2020 McKinsey study. The end result? An acceleration of creative work that highlights authentic and diverse stories, and gives back.

Family-run restaurant Five Loaves Eatery is a mainstay on Chicago’s South Side. Historically, for most Black families with dreams of departing the South, Chicago represented a land of liberation and economic prosperity. Now, after decades of systemic and environmental oppression, Constance of Five Loaves Eatery, and the community she serves, is setting up the South Side of Chicago for a comeback. From financial struggles to fires, this small business remains a survivor with the support of its community, and a dedication to legacy. “Black and Brown girls and boys are watching. I want to see them blossom. I want to see them owning their own, to reinvest in our own neighborhoods.” —Constance Simms-Kincaid, owner Five Loaves Eatery

Months into the pandemic further strengthened the reach of companies that were already doing this work, like Square. Since 2016, the financial services and digital payment company has told authentic stories of diverse entrepreneurs that are central to its brand values, like Sister Hearts and Black Owned, both Webby Award-recognized films and series. This work is possible with the right external collaborators, and an agreed upon set of values.

According to Square’s Global Head of Creative Justin Lomax, they found both in production company Even/Odd, which led to the creation of “Sister Hearts”, its film on a Black woman entrepreneur. “With work like this, we’re looking for more than production services and a director for a one-off project. We want to collaborate with them to develop the work from the initial ideation, through the final edit.”

Find the Right Partners for Your Collaboration Style

When looking to create meaningful content, like Square’s “Black Owned” series that shares the experiences of Black business owners in the Midwest and South, finding the right partners that share your vision—and collaboration style—is imperative. According to Lomax, staffing up is useful when his team has identified an opportunity to push their creative thinking.

Whether that’s an agency, a production company, or a freelancer, we see our creative partners as extensions of our internal creative team,” he said. “We aspire to collaborate with them the same way we do internally because we’re here to establish long-term relationships. In my experience, those partnerships, built throughout several projects together, establish a creative shorthand, which results in the most compelling work.”

Maryam Henderson-Uloho spent thirteen years in prison in Louisiana, seven in solitary confinement. After her release she struggled to find housing or employment. She began selling secondhand goods out of a suitcase on a street corner in New Orleans. In just three years, she grew her business to a brick-and-mortar thrift store—one that also provides housing and employment for other formerly-incarcerated women. She calls those women—and her store—Sister Hearts. “When I got out of prison, they wouldn’t allow me to open a bank account. I could not rent an apartment. I could not get a job. So I started just selling stuff out of a suitcase on the street corner. The first day I made $40. And I just kept doing that. Three years later, I have a 15,000 square foot thrift store and transition housing facility for other female ex-offenders.”

Companies in Transition Will Need Immediate Resources

Since March 2020, companies worldwide have been prioritizing agility and growth. Now, as leaders navigate the reality of hybrid work models or slow returns to the office, they must find ways to sustain their current speed and growth. For Square, tacking on both full-time and freelance resources has helped them sustain this speed.

The first step is recognizing that your team needs additional help.

“There used to be a relatively predictable annual campaign cycle to plan around, but now we’re in growth mode,” he said. Square’s internal team has doubled in the last 18 months, but they are still focused on “growing and diversifying [their] freelance talent pool and establishing new relationships with agencies and production partners worldwide.” Lomax believes all three fronts are needed to sustain a growing company.

Decide Where to Find Them

As more brands look to execute meaningful projects, from new business tentpoles to human-driven marketing, they are elevating the work of their internal teams with external contractors. Square uses an internal sourcing team within Creative Operations to build a diverse talent pool—but that isn’t the only solution to making great work. 

Our partner MarketerHire helps connect companies with pre-vetted freelance talent across content marketing, brand marketing, and more. Their pool of talent helps in-house teams across the U.S. execute on initiatives that are meaningful Their pool of talent helps in-house teams execute on larger business initiatives and meaningful projects.

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