Simplifying Project Management- Why too many captains can sink the ship

Project Management
You just landed an exciting new client or project. Congratulations. Your ideas, experience, and dynamic team closed the deal but now the real work begins.

We all go into a new project with a fresh slate. You are full of ideas and inspired by opportunities. The team is excited to get started. And someone (you?) need to lead them.

Despite the fact you have probably done this before, you may forget the problems you undoubtedly discovered on past projects. For some reason, creative projects are like child-birth, most forget the pain eventually and just go for it again. And it’s a good thing, or there would be a shortage of creative (and people) in the world.

But here are a few CLEAR reminders before you plan that first team meeting to help keep things orderly. In fact, it may be helpful to keep these printed, front and center and review them with your team ahead of time.


And that leads me to our first tip:

1. Clear the Air.  Some of you may have worked on projects together before. Talk about those. What went right and what went wrong. This gives the entire team who may not be privy to those inside moments a better understanding from where you are coming from. It may also allow you to bury the old hatchet in case someone is still reeling over their concept being selected to present. During the Clear the air process, be sure to discuss a clear set of rules upfront. This ensures no ones feelings get hurt and eliminates misinterpreting a scolding for process management when things get heated in the middle of project chaos (bound to happen at some point). If you have clearly identified the rules, it’s easy to issue a simple reminder.


2. Clearly identify the scope, timeline and budget. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve led and/or worked on where this wasn’t somehow clear to the team. There is nothing like your creative director delivering that great idea you’ve been waiting weeks for to discover it can’t be executed due to scope limitations. How does this happen? I don’t know but it does with the best of teams so talk openly about the contract, terms, and make sure all questions are answered upfront. Trust me, even after you do this, someone will come out with a “when is this due” and you will want to clobber them. At least you will have company from the rest of the team.


3. Clearly communicate. With each other, with the client and with outside vendors. Upfront from day one, have a communications plan. Where will documents reside. What is the file storage and naming procedure. What tools, blogs, apps will you use and does everyone understand how to use them. Simulate a test run if you have doubts. I once led a project for 4 months that tracked time using a specific piece of software and realized a critical billing team member didn’t understand how to use the app and was faking it. Not a great scenario. Even if you have done this before with the same team, make no assumptions. Your client may have unique requests to integrate with their team. Be sure you discuss all of this upfront and layout a written strategy for how to manage day-to-day communications and you will be leaps ahead of every corner. 


4. Clear the path. As a leader, you need to keep the path clear for your team. Ensure they have everything they need upfront. By following #2 and clearly identifying the scope, you should have few surprises when it comes to tools of the trade your team may need access to. Ready those as soon as you can so your team can keep working and strike when the creative energy is hot. Clearing the path applies to keeping account or client drama away from the team as much as possible. Be selective with your feedback to convey what is needed while keeping them inspired. Control changes to scope that wont benefit the account but will moreover send your team into a whirlwind of frustration. And whatever you do, don’t feel the need to share your clients personal stories he  confided in you after a few too many cocktails with the project team. It may feel like good harmless fun but it doesn’t build good trust in leadership.


5. Clearly state your role – For goodness sake, be a leader. That does not mean being bossy by the way. It means, making sure everyone knows why you are there. If you do the 4 items above this  is a pretty good “I’m the leader” indicator. Being a good leader also means selecting the right people for the team and owning the responsibility for (most of) their actions. If you put someone on the copy team because you think they are going to have a great experience remember, that is what you will get….them having an experience. But not necessarily you getting what you need for copy. Team failures are on the shoulders of the coach and your team needs to know you accept these and want to lead them to victory. Watch for apathy which can come from being over tired,  feeling left out or frankly an overbearing client. As the leader you need to pick up on these cues within your team and take action to make the project fun and inspiring again.


And lets add a bonus tip here: 

6. Clearly define the end When is this thing over? What constitutes the end? It isn’t always clear with creative or campaign projects. Is it deadline driven, when the media schedules ends, when the event is over, when the client achieves their goal or even when the checks stop coming?  And when the end comes what do you need to do? I have seen so many wonderful projects end unceremoniously only to a few months later hear “Hey what ever happened with that project” from a team member who was just moved on to another task. Not only should you have an upfront plan on how you will consider the project complete but you should have a plan and task team members with documenting the project along the way for awards submissions and portfolios, as well as celebrate a job well done (or just a project that is finally done).

American Advertising Federation awards Silver Medal

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2017) Last night at the Addys Live Gala Night at Baystage LIVE, the American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay (AAF-TB) presented its Silver Medal Award, the organization’s highest honor, to local advertising executive Eric Polins in recognition of his contributions to advertising and commitment to actively furthering the industry.



The Silver Medal Award is bestowed annually by American Advertising Federation (AAF) clubs throughout the country to outstanding members of their local advertising community. The award was presented to Polins by last year’s winner, Barry Wallace at the 2016 American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay ADDY Awards Gala.

“It makes me feel old,” Polins joked. “I’m honored to win such a prestigious award doing what I love. It feels good to live your passion…and it’s a pretty cool job too!”

“The Silver Medal represents a strong commitment to our industry and a significant contribution to the community. As a professional organization supporting and protecting the advertising industry, AAF Tampa Bay is dedicated to recognizing the achievements of those within our market,” said Jenn Greacen, Founder of and President, AAF Tampa Bay. “I understand the importance of ensuring that message is heard far outside our market. Tampa Bay is a major contributing force in the Advertising industry and should be on the advertising radar nationally as a resource. It’s the real deal here. Eric Polins and his leadership at HCP Associates are on a tremendous track and emulate that model of pride in Tampa Bay advertising.”

Polins has more than 23 years of marketing and advertising experience with an emphasis on creative direction, writing, broadcast production and technology. Polins is a Senior Brand Strategist/Partner at HCP Associates. He is also the co-founder of Gulf+Atlantic Films and remains in the indie film industry.

Prior to HCP, Polins served with Amherst Marketing, the Lipphardt Agency and Inteledigm Communications.

He has written and directed over 100 commercials, films and videos with awards ranging from Tellys to Addys. He executive produced his first SAG motion picture film in 2006 starring Gary Busey and Charles Durning. In 2010, Polins achieved second place in the industry ad giant Ogilvy’s “Greatest Sales Person in the World” competition. He was the only American finalist out of 18 competing countries.

Polins is a graduate of Leadership Florida XXVIII and Leadership Tampa 05; he serves on the Board of Directors at the Tampa Theatre and is an advisory board member and past president of the Gasparilla International Film Festival. He’s an active member of the Penn State Alumni Association (Tampa Bay) and a member of the Marine Corps Association.

Polins is also a published author, professional artist, husband to Maria and father of two boys, Zane and Lacher.

About AAF – Tampa Bay
The American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay exists to support its members, the community and the advertising industry. Its mission is to promote fellowship, education and career enhancement among members of the advertising community; foster and recognize excellence in advertising; champion public service causes; build an understanding of the role and benefits of advertising at all levels; and encourage advertising self-regulation and continuous improvement to raise industry benchmarks. For additional information on the American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay, The Silver Medal Award or the ADDY Awards, please visit

About The Silver Medal Award
Silver Medal recipients are selected by a panel of judges consisting of past Silver Medal winners and past presidents from each local club of the American Advertising Federation. Judges use the following criteria when making their selections: contribution to the community, creative ability, contribution to the advancement of advertising, betterment of his/her own company. More information on the Silver Medal award is available at

Thinking Caps On… Tips and Tricks from the Pro’s

Is your site ready to help you achieve your 2017 Goals?

January is a time for a fresh start. Goals are set. Resolutions are made (and broken). For your business, it’s a great time to evaluate your progress and position.

Where are you now and where do you want to be?

This evaluation often comes with the inevitable punch list of to do’s.
Changes to be made and new tactics to deploy. If your website is part of this list, remember to stop and ASK WHY BEFORE figuring out the HOW.

“We are often drawn to the things we can change now, most immediately in that list. The things that are in front of us that bugged us the most like a design issue or content that didn’t flow just right. But making these changes won’t help you achieve your business and marketing goals. Before making a punch list and putting too much emphasis on the obvious issues, stop and consider the big picture” says Jenn Greacen, Director at Clear Labs and Branding Strategist.

• When you started your website/ business- what did you hope it would achieve for you?

(Brochure for credible validation or to conduct transactionary business)

• How is that goal aligned with your goals now?

• Has anything changed- if so- what?

• How is your website working for you now?

• How are you measuring your results?

“Once you know what you need your site to actually achieve for you, you can focus your punch list on those items that are most directly going to impact your goals”

Here are the top 3 items you should consider to aid in your website based on possible goals:

If your site is for conversions (E-commerce or a service marketplace) :

Fitts’s law is all about the importance of eye flow- size, distance, and the way we as humans interact with targets as a function of the distance to and size of the target- in this case it can be applied to the digital experience. Implementing changes using this law to items including Buttons, margins, pop up menus, and call to actions can significantly increase conversions.

    2. Take a trust fall.

Sales guru Zig Ziglar once said that there are only 4 reasons why people won’t buy from you:

• no need,

• no money,

• not in a hurry,

• no trust.

You can’t do much about the first 3 reasons, but you can build trust. Add trust elements to your website (reviews for example from satisfied customers) and see your conversions increase.

    3. A/B Testing.

Page Layout and Navigation. The offer. The flow of your information. Use the data available to you to spot the most important projects to focus on. Google Analytics is a great (FREE) tool that can help you determine your consumers preferences. And never stop testing- once you have a winning page- move on to the next then return to the old. What works today may not work tomorrow. So plan for this to be an ongoing ever-experimental part of a successful conversion driven site.

If your site is a brochure for validation and credibility (vanity site):

    1. Do you have an upfront and clear value proposition? Many marketers try to improve results by changing page elements like font colors and sizes, button shapes, images, incentives, and so on, when the first step should really be focusing on strengthening their value propositions.

If your home page or the product page says “Welcome!” or lists just the name of your company or the product, you’re missing out. Note that there is a difference between the value proposition for your company and your product. You must address both.

The legendary ad guru David Ogilvy once said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted 80% of your money.”

And don’t forget to cut the jargon. Clarity trumps persuasion. Always.

    2. Testimonials, Experience, and Certifications. These need to be upfront and personal- not buried in pages or drop down menus for people to have to search and find them. Tell everyone how great you are- upfront.
    3. An easy way to contact you. Google loves contact information in the upper right hand corner of yoru site, and in the footer. Guess what? So do your customers. Make it easy for potential clients, to call, email, linked in and Facebook friend you upfront. Close and personal.

The Price of Celebrity

Think Michael Jordan and you may think Nike, Gatorade, or Hanes. William Shattner will inspire you to up your negotiation game ala Priceline while Sex in the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker attempted to make Gap a fashion forward choice.

But Bill Cosby was the famous face and voice for Jell- Uh- Oh.

And Tiger Woods took a swing at endorsements but led over 10 brands (who were using him all at the same time) like Tag Heuer, American Express, Gillette, and Buick into the sand trap.

In 2013- our own CLEAR LABS hired Ryan Lochte for Yogurtology to launch a new line of flavors and give to charity with success.

But three years later, Lochte is fighting for his name and fame after the RIO 2016 scandal. Pine Bros. Cough drop company decided he was Gold immediately thereafter deciding he should be a spokesperson for the – ahem- “forgiving on your throat” product. CLEAR still loves working with Ryan (for the record) But, it made us take a deeper look into the risks and benefits of celebrity endorsements.


Pros (and we’re not talking sports)
• Can help Build brand equity and enhance recognition
• Can help give a product credibility
• Help people remember ads
• Connect to a personality or perception
• Make people believe the product contributes to their own superstar status.
• Stand out from the competition
Con’s (be careful- some are)
• People change. Your brand may be forever linked to that “used to be great” person
• People are people and people do stupid things.
• Limits to the brand pivot. You are forever aligned with that personality- or at least it takes a long time to convince people otherwise
• Your brand can be forgotten under the shadow of the celebrity


Okay, so lets say you weighed out the pro’s and cons and decided it was worth the plunge.
Your brand is your company asset. Don’t give it away to anyone. Advertisers need to select celebrities who represent the image and promise of their brands- well. Very well. One size wont fit all.

For example, when Sarah Jessica Parker signed with GAP her role on Sex in the City presented her as a style diva- haute couture- bring on the shoe closet. This didn’t relate to Gap’s consumers. They quickly replaced her with Keith Urban but oh the cost of that change.

Will you make money? No doubt the value of a celebrity endorsement can be recognized in terms of a sales spike. But it wont come cheap. It takes time and repetition for association to occur. Celebrity endorsements are not short-term tactics. And thus, they are often costly in dollars and cents.

Most advertisers can’t afford the millions of dollars it takes to ink a celebrity endorser.
Your own backyard “celebrity”

Social media marketing and referrals may not be a bad option in lieu of the risk (or cost) of major celebrity.
A Forrester Research survey says about 56 percent of respondents reported friends or family influenced them when they were choosing which brands to purchase in a given category of products. This is no surprise given the power of online reviews and product rankings.

The indisputable take-away regardless of your decision- opinions and testimonials of real people matter and ultimately that is what we look for (supercharged) with a celebrity endorsement.

Tips, tricks and things I never thought I’d learn.

Being an intern at CLEAR LABS has been such a great learning experience. The way you are treated is almost like family. You aren’t even really an intern; you are called an Account Associate, and are treated as a contributing team member. This can at first be overwhelming. On the first day, our Director gave me projects for that day and others to be worked on throughout my time here all aimed at teaching and helping me grow. These are some of the things I learned. IMG_2293

1. Always say yes.
Every thing at an internship is an experience. Theses experiences can help you prepare for the real world or open your eyes to see that this isn’t right for you. Regardless always say yes. If you are asked if you want to sit in on a meeting, or to handle a project that seems overwhelming or create something that you know nothing about, say yes. You can always ask for help but that trial and error and experiences can help form you into the person you want to be.

2. Ask and you may receive
There are always new and exciting projects and clients coming through our doors here. Some may intrigue you more than others and our Director is a big fan of self-initiative and self-learning. So if you see a project that you think is cool or a client that you want to know more about (or even a colleague of hers) don’t be afraid to ask. If I ask and the time is right she has no problem with doing that for you.

3. Don’t sit around.
There will occasionally be some times where you finished your daily tasks and you’re just sitting around. I mean, where do you think I found time to write this blog. Instead of taking your phone out and playing games, be proactive! Start creating content for next months Facebook posts or look what there is to do on the traffic chart. If you’re feeling really brave you can ask our Director if she wants you to do anything, but be ready to handle a big task. Conference room

4. Great idea, make it happen
We love to brainstorm and shoot around ideas on campaign slogans, promo ideas, places to do events and thing of that nature. Occasionally you’ll have a really good idea and shout it out. You better be careful though, our Director loves those ideas but its up to you to figure out the logistics of it and how to actually bring that good idea to life.

5. Carrie is your best friend.
Our director has a right hand woman and her name is Carrie. She has been working under our Director for almost two years now and has a feel for her personal style and the way she likes to execute things. So if our director isn’t here ore you just have a question, she is your Google. She’s also great with editing software and a delightful person to talk to.

6. Observe first, question later
There may be things that seem inefficient or pointless to do at your time as an intern. Usually though there’s a method to the madness. Instead of coming off unaware and uneducated on a topic by giving advice for a process you know nothing about. Sit back, observe and then make a suggestion abut efficiency. Then your opinion will be valued more highly and you can make a name for yourself.

7. Goal, then idea
There’s a lot of work in the execution and development of a campaign or promotion. However it’s easy to get caught in what our Director calls the “idea hamster”. That’s where you basically just come up with idea after idea after idea but no real solution to your goal. You have to really concentrate on what your goal is and what you want and figure out how to execute it. photo

8. Focus and Direction
This is another important aspect that you learn at your internship and can be applied to all your future jobs. You need to have a sense of focus, whether completing a task, staying on brand, or creating a new brand identity you need a sense of focus to reach your goal. Direction is also important because what use is it being focused in the wrong direction. You need to know which way to head before you can focus to achieve your goal.

9. Ask questions
Like I mentioned above its important to observe first before you offer improvements. What if you don’t understand the process or why they do things and dot have any input. That’s ok too, you need to ask questions to learn and grow Jenn is more than happy to explain why she does something or her reasoning behind her decision-making. It additionally shows that you are interested in you work and is a powerful tool to help you become more knowledgeable and eventually offer improvements.

10. Have a sense of humor
Jenn is one of the most charismatic and upbeat people you will ever work for, and with that comes all her energy. You’ll need to know that sometimes you need to be able to take a joke. She lets you see that even in a position like hers its not all just work. Sometimes you just have to let loose and have some fun, joke around, shoot Nerf guns and just have a good time.
Business man wearing a brain-control helmet, forced ideas extraction

Content is King!

You may have heard “Content is King”.
Content is what you use to grab your audience and keep them interested. Without fresh content people will become bored or worse yet, never engage. One aspect of content is a trending theme towards conveying perceived experiential. That is an experience that you see on TV or online and feel a similar type of feelings being conveyed in the commercial.

We all operate with an emotional data base. It’s a record bank of memories and feelings. Sight, sound, touch, taste call bring memories back to you as if they were yesterday. But what happens when those same senses can recall a memory of something you just simply viewed as a second hand participant?

A relevant experience can be found in the history of our own work for Yogurtology. This family friendly soft serve yogurt brand was launching several new stores and wanted to make a big impact on the experiences of others.

We partnered with non other than Ryan Lochte, Olympic Swimming Great and named flavors after him to benefit his charities. We then had Ryan go to family’s homes and deliver them the two new flavors. Ryan Lochte  ryanlochte  on Twitter

Traveling by Limo from home to home, he would arrive, cameras in tow of course, and visit, laugh, play and even sit down with the families in their own living rooms as he shared his Yogurtology frozen yogurt flavors.

Now while only a few lucky homes and families got to experience Ryan first hand, as our videos released the viewers at home and via digital channels were able to experience it and feel similar emotions of happiness, joy, and comfort seeing the smiles and emotion from these surprise home visits. h2

When you form your content around a very specific feeling, whether it’s happy, sad or exciting, if you can give a person a perceived experience directly with you, they are sure to impact that connection in their emotional data base.

Check out this video to see exactly what we are talking about.

Its Film Festival Season

As the 10th Annual Gasparilla International Film Festival approaches and we are preparing for the exciting public unveiling of Carmelita’s Rum, we are also reminiscing of

GIFF 2014- The year we “made magic”

It’s a Gold and Silver for Clear Labs!

The Projection event was part of the “You are my Sunshine City” multi-media campaign for the City of St. Petersburg. The Sunrise Skyscraper combined art, projection mapping technology, and social media engagement to create an interactive experience power by participants #sunshinestpete posts. With every hash-tag submitted by the engaged audience, the comments and pre-collected images would project across the 28 story canvas that included a sun, rising to the top of the building by midnight. Over 1500 posts were collected using this hash-tag and projected over the 3 night installation. Also projected were over 50 custom created animations and a collection of images submitted to Instagram by citizens and lovers of St. Pete.

The ADDY Awards is the world’s largest advertising competition with over 5,000,000 entries annually. Clear labs received a Silver Addy for Out-of-Home and Ambient Media/ Event and, a Gold Addy for Elements of Advertising/ Most Innovative Use of Interactive Technology.

The Gold Addy will progress to the District Addy awards in May. The District Addy’s will be hosted this year in Tampa and will see competition from over 1500 agencies and we could not be more excited to be part of such an exciting competition. Congratulations to all who won, and good luck at Districts!


There’s a Seat at the Lab With Your Name (Almost) On It!

waiting roomWorking from home sounds nice, but sometimes you need an office that is away from all of the distractions in your life…without being stuffy. So, Clear Labs takes the suit and tie executive space and throws it out the window!

We’re a co-working space in the heart of the Grand Central District of St. Pete and for one LOW rate, you get to work in the coolest office space in the area. With included business and personal amenities, utilities, production support and access to equipment, it’s the ultimate environment for business professionals.Conference room

Bonus! It’s just super cool here.

Transform how you conduct your business. Host a client meeting or presentation. Use our conference room to give you an aura of professionalism with a flair of modern creativity.

Need someone to bounce ideas off of? Look to your side and talk with another freelancer who is willing to lend an ear. Need a little extra help with a project? We have interns eager to learn and can provide that extra set of hands and refreshing perspective.

At Clear Labs, we don’t just incubate, we Co-LabR8! We’re more than a group of freelancers who just so happens to be sharing a space. We’re a community that supports each other, leans on each other and grows together. And the best part? We have seats readycandles to share with your name (almost) on it!

Open seats start at just $125.00 per month and include 24/hour security access

Dedicated desks available for $250.00 per month.

For more information, contact

Take Flight with Clear Labs


Clear Labs will make just about anything happen for a client. Just ask Fitlife Foods. When they came to us looking for an extremely fun way to get people active and healthy, we thought big and dreamed up a 120 yard, 360 foot zip line that would run down nearly 4 city blocks of downtown Tampa. We had a DJ, rock wall and an after party event as well. But we couldn’t do it alone. To bring this innovative feat to a reality, we partnered with our favorite event gurus at Big City events in Tampa. Together, we combined our big ideas with an enormous amount of resources and project management and made Fitline hugely successful. We had a phenomenal turnout and everyone had a blast. We are so honored that we had the opportunity to bring this crazy event to life. We had so much fun at the Fitline event and cannot wait to take the flight again.


Browse photos from the event by clicking here

Watch our fearless leader, Jenn Greacen fly across downtown Tampa: