Several years ago, I worked at a creative consulting agency that focused on brand strategy and naming for organizations both large and small. Our clients were local non-profits, regional medical centers, multinational technology companies, and all sorts of enterprises in between.
We worked often behind the scenes, building style guides and brand scorecards and nomenclature recommendations that were all later white-labeled by our clients. It was the kind of job where placing a finished piece in your portfolio felt a little disingenuous as, at the end of the day, it had someone else’s name on it.
We were like corporate ghost writers.
Sometimes, though, the projects we worked on required skills outside our areas of expertise. For these projects we hired out to other create firms, subsequently white-labeled their work, and passed things on to the client. I felt a bit guilty as I saw companies like Honda take full and complete credit not only for our work, but for our vendor’s work as well. 1
Once, while working with a large, multinational computing firm I saw a marketing director take credit for a naming idea I had proposed in a team meeting. Their product (currently) wields just shy of 20% of their market. I never wanted individual credit, but having some sort of credit for my team would have helped sooth the launch of their product.
Why Give Credit
There is no worse a feeling than giving your time, sacrificing weekends, compromising time with family, and running yourself into the ground on a project than watching someone else stand up and take credit for your work.
I have worked on teams where we’ve white labeled vendor work before passing it along – we’ve still given them credit in the footnotes of the project, but their name isn’t on the finished product. I’ve worked on teams where clients have white labeled our work before publishing it – often we’ve still gotten credit in project footnotes, readmes, or internal presentations about the project.
I’ve also worked on teams where clients have both white labeled our work and taken sole credit for the project in public. These are the kinds of clients who I’ll never work with again and, if asked for references, will actively condemn partnership with them.
I am very protective of my team. If I ask a team member to sacrifice their evening, or give up their weekend, or take a phone call while they’re on vacation it’s because I truly believe in the quality of the project and that their contribution is vital to its completion. 2 I’ll give them all the credit in the world internally, and also let the client know what lengths we have to go on their behalf because we believe in and value the relationship.
At the end of the day, all I’m expecting is acknowledgment of my team’s contributions. No co-branding, no press releases, no outrageous publish statements. Just when you or your team call out your own contributions, mention the external teams that backed you up and helped drive things through to completion.
- Particularly when I later saw members of their internal design team use said work as part of their portfolios when applying for and getting jobs in the future. ↩
- Note: The times I make such requests from team members are extremely rare and only happen when I’m also giving up personal time and weekends and whatnot. I will never make a request of a team member I’m unwilling to fulfill myself. ↩