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4 Ways to Create Relationships and Gain Strategic Recognition at Work

Tracey Smith of Zumiez talks studio culture on The Creative Operations Podcast. 

Whether you relish or dread the more inter-departmental relational side of your work, it's a necessary part of promoting the valuable work of your studio and team and the ways you contribute to the business's bottom line. Tracey Smith of Zumiez gets it. She's helped her studio team avoid an isolated artists-in-the-corner vibe that makes it tough to gain support in times of departmental need.

That's why we brought Tracey by The Creative Operations Podcast to discuss strategies you can enact to keep your team feeling connected to your organization and earn the company-wide recognition you deserve as a strategic part of your business. Hear Tracey's full chat with podcast host Daniel Jester (find it on our site or on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or Spotify), or read on for a few quick thoughts from their banter.

Breakdown Siloes by Explaining Content Production & Its Value

At the most basic level, you want to start by helping other departments in your organization see content production as integral. Part of that is showing them just how much you can do to support the work and goals of their respective departments.

"I think when your organization understands what your team does and what they're capable of, and in turn, your team also understands the needs of the business, then your studio plays a hugely strategic role in your company's success," Tracey says. "So you're hopefully collaborating with others on decisions that affect the direction you take in the studio, instead of working in a vacuum."

Meet and Mend Gaps in Your Organization

Get face-to-face time with leaders in other departments, because, as Tracey points out, it'll help you feel comfortable approaching them in the future to collaborate on solutions for your organization.

As she says, "it can lead to, 'Hey, I understand your business needs a little more. I can help you with that. Maybe we should shoot this thing to help support that.'"

Don't wait for a need to get that in-person time. Start now, in a context that's less self-serving, and invest in relationships that will benefit everyone if they're stronger for the future.

Celebrate Colleagues & Their Success

Need the right context to further foster cross-departmental bonds? Do things to acknowledge those colleagues personally and professionally. Tracey's team at Zumiez does this by taking coworkers' portraits for the company's annual employees of the year event. The recipients get to interact with photographers from Tracey's studio, and retouchers stand nearby to perform some quick touch-ups. Then they post the portraits in the office cafe for what Tracey describes as "a little mini party in the studio where we celebrate that person's accomplishments."

While this is going on, friendships are being forged and coworkers are being informed. The studio puts up posters with a few key stats, explaining what they shoot in different areas of their facility and how much throughput they manage in a year. "It's really amazing to have people from the finance department come up and be, like, 'Wow, I had no idea what you guys did in here-it's really cool,'" she says.

Host an Open House to Give Coworkers a Tour

Looking for even more excuses to bring coworkers by your studio and help them make sense of your space? Sometimes it's as easy as hosting an open house. "We do the holiday parties and company events-things like that," Tracey says.

When the Zumiez studio team moved into a new space, they invited clients in for a happy hour. It's lighthearted and fun, with green screen images being subbed out for playful backgrounds, and helps make the studio space imaginable to clients, adding a personal touch.

While the open house teaches clients about the studio, it also educates in the other direction, Daniel points out. He loves the concept because it "gets team members learning who the merchandisers are, who the web team is, everybody that does upstream and downstream processes from them that they may not have an understanding of or a relationship with." For everyone's benefit, open your studio doors and welcome your business partners for a fun time.

You have a great start for making your studio visible to other internal teams or outside clients. But for more tips, and a free-flowing chat that drops a surprising "Parks and Rec" reference, listen to the full podcast episode with Tracey Smith. Find it on the website, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music.