In the current landscape, cooperation and the creation of synergies is becoming a key factor for professionals, brands and small businesses of all kinds to survive in this unfavourable environment. However, for creative activities this approach is not new, as collaboration is one of the characteristics that shape it.
As you have asked me many times about this subject, in this post I’m going to talk to you about the power of collaborations and strategic alliances, and how to carry them out to make your project grow.
That union is strength is a reality and in the artistic and cultural world collaboration agreements reach different levels: Museums that join collections to co-produce a travelling exhibition; galleries that realise joint exhibitions to reach different audiences; artists that join forces to increase audiences; curators that contribute value with their collaborations to professional texts; and many other agents that in some way contribute with their collaboration to the whole process.
However, not all collaborations are the same, or to put it another way, we shouldn’t camouflage a collaboration with another type of agreement. Therefore, let’s start by looking at the meaning of different concepts that are associated with an agreement between the parties: contract, collaboration and alliance.
According to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), contract is “Pact or agreement, oral or written, between parties who are bound by a specific matter or thing, and to whose fulfilment they can be compelled” and adds a list of different types of contract; for collaboration it has two meanings: “Action and effect of collaborating” and “Text written by someone who collaborates with a newspaper or in a magazine”; and for alliance, among the seven meanings we find: “action of allying” and “Union of things that concur to the same end”.
In all of them there is an agreement between the parties, an exchange of interests and a definition of rights and obligations. However, if we compare the three concepts there are nuances, such as that in the case of alliances and collaborations there is a position of equality between the parties, while in the case of a contract this is not the case, since it establishes an obligation from which a remuneration is to be obtained. Furthermore, a collaboration and an alliance differ mainly in that the former is a one-off union between two or more people, while in the case of alliances, the agreement is made with the vision of creating a new joint value proposition between brands or companies, whose bond is stronger.
The project manager, according to the annual objectives, is the one who establishes the needs in terms of collaborations or strategic alliances. He or she establishes the terms of the alliance (resources to be provided, deadlines, criteria for evaluation and improvement) and, if the negotiation is successfully concluded, leads to the signing of the collaboration agreement by both parties and communicates the signed agreement internally.
Within this sector, in addition to the examples mentioned above, we can find these other examples of collaborations and strategic alliances that can give you ideas:
- Collaborations between artists. An example is the co-creation of a song by several music artists or a joint exhibition based on the works of several artists from different visual disciplines.
- Collaborations between artist-cultural magazine, with which to increase visibility and reach another audience in exchange for topical content for the magazine.
- Collaborations between artist-gallery, where the artist’s work is occasional. For example, by inviting the artist to participate in a group exhibition.
- Collaborations between artist-University through a collaboration agreement. A collaboration agreement could also be signed between the University and a company that involves the participation of an artist to carry out a project or an internship.
- Alliance between two non-profit organisations (foundations, associations) that join forces to jointly develop new projects that provide social value and contribute to improving a problem in society.
- Collaboration agreements between a company and a non-profit organisation to collaborate in activities of general interest. Cases regulated in article 25 of Law 49/2002.
- Sponsorship contract, regulated in Article 24 of Law 34/1998 General Advertising Law, where the sponsored party, in exchange for financial support for the performance of its activity, undertakes to collaborate in the sponsor’s advertising.
n the world of arts and design, collaborating with other professionals can be one of the best ways to increase your outreach and open up new opportunities, but also a way to learn and experiment with new media and methods, cultivate critical thinking and ultimately generate more profit. However, for any professional collaboration to succeed, it is important that it is based on a win-win relationship. That is, the strategic collaborations that really work are those in which both parties win.
After carrying out many collaborations both in EXPRESSAN and in other projects, I am going to give you 10 recommendations to succeed in your next collaboration:
You should be selective and choose people/projects that have the same objectives as you and with whom you are in sync. This is very important as you will be working for several months on the same project and not everyone has the same time and motivation.
Regarding where or how to find them, there are connections that are like love at first sight and lead you to want to make many collaborations immediately. In other cases, it takes time to get to know each project or how each party works. We can find like-minded people anywhere, from art fairs or exhibitions to social networks. And it is advisable to network and connect by providing value before asking for anything in return.
Once you have found that person (or project) to collaborate with, it is time to prepare the proposal. Take your time and think not only about your benefit, but also about what you can bring to the other person or what the other party can benefit from a collaboration with you..
Set out your proposal for strategic collaboration. When presenting your ideas, you should be specific and emphasise the benefits that the other party will obtain from this collaboration or alliance. If you are not clear on this aspect, you will lose the opportunity to reach an agreement. The initial ideas for collaboration are often adapted, as there are aspects that have not been taken into account or that need time to mature.
Once the negotiation between the parties has been completed, it is time to establish guidelines. From the beginning, and better in writing, so that any problems or doubts that may arise can be referred to this document. Here you can include, for example, the limits on the use of resources and audiences, the forms of compensation, the use of each brand or the percentages of profit for each one if there is direct sales.
It is normal for each party to have its own way of working, so it is also advisable to establish guidelines and ways of working to be respected. These could be about the duration of the collaboration, how to carry out the joint work, deadlines or who is responsible for which party.
In case you are approached with a proposal for collaboration and you are not convinced or it is not your time, say NO before starting the negotiation. Don’t waste time and be honest.
Importantly, don’t get distracted from your mission. Sometimes we receive a very attractive and brilliant proposal, a platform with many followers or a brand with a high budget, but if it is not in line with your principles and values, it is not a beneficial collaboration.
Once two or more organisations, brands or professionals have agreed to work together, they must make an action plan to carry out everything agreed. It is necessary to work on this collaboration with 100% commitment and trust in the other party.
Don’t be afraid to propose collaborations. They will often say no, or even not reply to your emails. However, in each one you will learn something that will be an essential contribution until the time comes to carry out the best strategic collaboration for your project.
There are certainly many ways to collaborate. Brands can and do collaborate with multiple professionals, often from multiple sectors and on a wide variety of initiatives. In fact, today more than ever, professionals need to collaborate, both broadly and deeply, because that is what is needed to address the complex challenges we face.
Let us look at collaboration as the opportunity to explore vistas beyond the expected. The tricky part is daring to send the first email, so I encourage you to consider everything I explain here and set in motion the next collaboration to grow your project.
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