Being part of an in-house creative team is like working in the circus. There’s interesting people around you all the time, people are excited to see your work because it is entertaining, and it’s an environment of constant change. The latter — change — is the theme of IHAF’s newest Digital Marketing Benchmark Report. Particularly, the change is occurring in the typical expectations of what an in-house creative team is responsible for producing. In the IHAF report, eighty-five percent of in-house creative and production teams reported that their digital content creation responsibilities grew over the past year.
And that’s the cause of the biggest challenge creative leaders will face in 2015. With the increase in outsourced work, creative leaders must now add freelance and vendor management to their portfolio of work. How can creative teams manage piling work on top of an ever-multiplying list of freelancers and other outsourced support?
Consider this: the smartphone market grew almost 27% from 2013 to 2014 and marketing automation has gone from a $500m industry to over $1.2bn in the past 2 years. So it makes sense that the demand for digital content would grow as well given that so many people now have access to always-on methods of consuming content. But that doesn’t make it any easier to produce, develop, and deliver that content. About 74% of in-house creative teams report that in 2014 they were involved in projects spanning both print and digital. The biggest challenge is that almost 70% of in-house creative teams report they are not fully prepared to handle the increased workload for digital content production, especially video.
Why do in-house creative teams feel so unprepared?
In-house creative and production teams are starting to outsource more projects. Most notably, in-house teams are outsourcing specific kinds of work more often than others. A whopping 96% of teams report they outsource at least some of their other digital projects. Likewise, 57% of teams outsource 80% to 100% of their broadcast TV and radio work to an external freelancer or agency. As for other types of video, 90% of in-house teams report they are exporting upwards of 100%. There’s a ton of outsourcing going on that creates a new need for vendor, freelance, and agency management.
Digital media are vastly different from their traditional counterparts not only in design, but also development and distribution. A lot of the punch delivered by digital content relies heavily on the way it is developed (technically) and how it is distributed. With HTML 5, CSS3, and other front-end development languages becoming more commonplace, designers are taking advantage of the experiences they can deliver using these technologies. So it makes sense that creative teams should take on the added responsibility of developing and deploying quality digital content in addition to creating it. With the demand for marketing content growing so rapidly, it has become increasingly difficult for in-house creative teams to keep hungry content consumers full.
How can in-house creative teams prepare?
So ask yourself the question, “How do I now manage an ever-growing number of freelancers and vendors in addition to the projects and existing work my team does?” The good news is that the problem has been solved a few different ways. Perhaps the most effective way has been through the automation of workflows for vendors and other outside resource processes.
Unlike marketing and content delivery, you simply can’t automate the production of quality creative work — especially video production. We aren’t that lucky. And since automation in content consumption is growing experientially, the only thing in-house teams can do to compensate is to automate the management of outsourced workers. But how? The key is threefold:
- Identify the things that take the most time and create a plan to increase efficiencies
- Create visibility for processes with your core and outsourced team
- Put the right tools in place to automate as much as possible
A good place to start is with review and approval. There are just as many review and approval processes as there are outside vendors. Without a regimented process, a lot of time is lost in distributing vendor proofs to reviewers, consolidating feedback for the vendor, and keeping vendors informed of relevant project details and updates. Instead of learning to adapt to each outsourced vendor’s process, creative leaders need to develop their own well-documented process that is efficient and works for them. This process should be shared with vendors and they should be made to stick to it as much as possible.
Lastly, and most importantly, put some tools in place to automate as much of the process as you can. Is there a tool that will automatically route proofs to the appropriate parties? Can you create a single place for feedback to be funneled? Is there a way to track reviewers to see if they have provided feedback? These are just some of the questions you should be asking.
Keep moving forward.
As workloads increase for creative teams, tools will be put in place to help ease the load of vendor management. Ideally, creative teams should inly implement one tool to handle all creative workflow needs, but if you do need more than one, make sure they are easy to use and help you get things done faster — both with your existing team and with outside resources. Remember, the end result is more automation and less resource management.