“Collaboration Over Competition” was the theme at Create & Cultivate’s New York City event in May, which gathered creative women for a day of networking and encouragement. Since seeing this phrase on Instagram, I’ve spotted this statement (and various renditions of it) on numerous social channels. Even organizations, such as the American Alliance of Museums and the Nonprofit Learning Lab, are incorporating sessions at their conferences revolving around this topic. This seems to be the statement of the year, as more influencers and groups are being created to promote collaboration … and I couldn’t agree more! As creatives, we need to shift our focus from seeing each other as competitors to seeing each other as our greatest source of inspiration.

Photo by Becki Smith for Create & Cultivate’s event in New York City on May 10, 2017.

INSPIRATION VS IMITATION

From a surface perspective, it’s hard to spot the difference between inspiration and imitation, but take a closer look and they couldn’t be farther apart. To imitate someone would be to take their ideas and mirror them on your platforms as if they were your own. To be inspired by someone would be to use a concept they’re implementing on their platforms and mold it into a way that still feels like your brand and not theirs.

To find sources of inspiration is simple. Take an hour out of your day to just go online and find similar organizations or influencers that have marketing techniques that stand out to you, and follow them, subscribe to their newsletters, and maybe even go to one of their events! Get inspired by what they’re doing and find a way to use this inspiration in your next campaign. See how multiple organizations are using social media at their events and create a combination of your favorite methods to try out at your next event. This concept isn’t hard to start incorporating into your routine—just keep yourself in check so it doesn’t turn into envy or a race to be the first.

Some of my favorite sources of Instagram inspiration come from Miami City Ballet, Chameleon Cold Brew, Prism Creative Group, and WeWork.

Quote by Robert Ingersoll. Image found on Pinterest.

COFFEE AS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

Whether you’re new to the game or have been in it for years, you can never stop learning, and one of the best ways is to ask someone you admire out to coffee. Shoot them an email, find an amazing coffee shop near them, and just sit down with a notepad (or iPad, for the tech savvy folks) and have a conversation with them—but make sure you do your research prior to your meeting! Knowing about their career shows you respect the time they’re having with you. Plus, it gives you a head start with talking points so you can avoid possible awkward silent sips of coffee while you think of a new topic.

One tip I received from someone is to not go at it expecting something. This means, don’t ask them to meet up and expect an internship, job, or immediate connection to the person. Just approach them as a new source of inspiration. And if it goes terribly, at least you went for it and added someone new to your network.

If you’re heading to the 2017 NAMP Conference in Memphis, consider having your coffee meeting(s) at one of my favorites—City & State, 387 Pantry, or Café Keough.

Photo by City & State. Posted on April 19, 2017 on Facebook.

FIND YOUR GROUP OF INSPIRATIONAL WARRIORS

Being a part of a group of influencers in your field can be extremely beneficial not just to your work, but to your spirit. If you’re stuck on an idea and need some help to move forward, you can count on each other for advice with the unspoken trust that they won’t bring you down so that they can rise above. They also know the trials you might be facing and can offer encouragement to lift you back up.

There are some great organizations that provide resources in this spirit. The first is Creative Mornings, which is a free monthly morning lecture series for creatives that happens in about 165 locations across the globe. Each month they have a new theme and speaker to share their story. These series are a great opportunity to meet people who work in the creative field while enjoying some local treats and getting encouraged to start your day off on the best foot. Another organization is Create & Cultivate. This one focuses on empowering and enriching women in the creative industry through their blog and themed meet-ups in cities around the U.S. If neither of these organizations come to your area … start your own! Put those coffee meetings to the test and see the community you create!

Photo by Jasmine Hirt. Taken on June 21, 2017 at The Butcher’s Daughter in New York City.

So, let’s make a vow to continuously encourage each other, because it’s hard out there for an arts marketer, and the last thing we need are more obstacles bringing us down.