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A chat with Kate

Organising things is her bread and butter. We chatted to our Project Manager, Kate Van Arts, about the ins and outs of managing creatives, clients and getting the most out of every project.

What got you into project management?

I studied a Bachelor of Communications at Massey and loved it, then went into my first marketing roles and hated it. Project management was my last ditch effort at trying to make it work. I fell into this role, and found it ticks a lot of boxes for me. Planning, budgets, to-do lists and organising things are my bread and butter.

What makes a great PM?

The ability to plan ahead is fundamentally needed. When I first started, I was only thinking a week ahead because there's just so much going on. But now the idea of that really stresses me out. So, thinking weeks in advance, anticipating and understanding the speed bumps and being ready to face them is key.

What's the biggest challenge with managing a creative team?

Everyone's really excited by the work, and ready to work hard for our clients. So, the challenge lies in balancing the ambition of an idea with the reality of timelines, budgets and expectations. It’s tricky being the bearer of bad news sometimes; obviously I want everyone to be their best creative selves, but sometimes the constraints mean having to bring it back. It’s taken a while to have the confidence to keep things in perspective and be honest. But I’m also realistic - I’m always asking, how can we scale it up or down, how can we keep the intent of the amazing idea?

What is your tip for keeping teams on track?

For our internal team, I have a lot of faith that things will be delivered on time. So instead of constant check-ins, I’ve built relationships with our team that focus on openness. If something’s not going to plan, we tackle it early and get it sorted. For clients, my main tip is to just stay in touch. It helps them feel heard and makes sure they’re feeling comfortable about how the process is going. 

How do you maintain positive client relationships?

For me, a huge thing is honesty and keeping everything transparent. Whether it's speed bumps, concerns or wins - I get it out in the open. Creating foundations of trust and openness means it’s a partnership that goes both ways. Really understanding the client and organisation helps to tailor our service to exactly what they need.

Why is it important to be an advocate for the client?

It’s really valuable for the client to feel heard in a project. Sometimes it’s about taking them along an education process to work out what they actually need, and other times, it’s about meeting those needs from the get-go. Being their voice throughout the project helps to deliver an effective solution and makes the most of our partnership with them. 

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Don't say ‘um’. It's stuck with me because the minute I was told, I noticed everyone else did it. It makes me slow down and formulate what I'm trying to say - working out what's fluff versus what’s actually important.

What's your favourite thing we do as a studio?

It’s a small thing, but we have a cup of playlist suggestions. We don't have to listen to the same playlist on repeat or the same type of music every single day. That means diversity, tunes and, most importantly, country bangers.

What do you think the industry can do better in terms of studio culture?

We all know that burnout is a common plague. The team here is really good at advocating for taking time off, having a good work/life balance and not working to the point of death-by-InDesign. Balancing that is about knowing when to push and when to pull. What are the boundaries, what’s happening within the team, what are the skill sets, what do we need to learn? It would be awesome to see that attitude employed by many more agencies around the world. 


Reading Sorrow & Bliss by Meg Mason

Listening to Dirt on my Boots by John Pardi

Watching Thank You for Smoking

Wishing I was in Ölüdeniz, Turkey.

Obsessing over the entire universe of Yellowstone.