In February inMotionNow and InSource teamed up to publish the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report. The report features survey results from over 600 marketing and creative professionals and key insights and best practices from leading industry experts. In March we sat down with these industry experts to take a deep dive into the report in our 2020 In-House Creative Management Report: Meet the Contributors Webinar Series.
In part one we spoke with Kim Conder, Brand Marketing Consultant, and Adam Morgan, Executive Creative Director at Adobe, while part two featured Ilise Benun, Founder of Marketing Mentor, Justin Ahrens, Chief Evangelist at Rule29, and Molly Clark, Director of Marketing at inMotionNow.
In each webinar the panelists shared powerful insights that will help you transform your creative team achieve unicorn status in 2020.
Businesses continue to invest in in-house creative teams
Why is that, and how can creative teams continue to grow (and prove) their contributions to the business?
There is no denying that the prevalence of in-house creative teams is no longer a trend, but a paradigm shift. In order to keep up as business partners, in-house teams need to focus on speaking the language of both business in general, and the language of their business, as Ilise Benun pointed out:
“Creatives are increasingly moving between working in-house, for agencies, and freelance. This fluidity means you need to be able to understand the language of the business.”
Justin reiterated the importance of an open dialogue between creatives and the business:
“In order for creatives to continue to educate the business and have a seat at the strategic table they need to be able to facilitate a fluid dialogue and speak to the business solutions they are providing.”
Molly shared a real-world example of the evolving relationship between her marketing team and their newly in-house designer:
“We are getting to experience this first hand as we bring our designer in-house and closer to the team. She’s becoming more fluent in our business and forging her own seat at the strategic table.”
Creative work drives business objectives
What makes in-house teams so integral to the business, and how can teams continue to expand their role?
One of the most exciting findings in the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report was that organizations are increasingly seeing the value that creative teams have to offer the business. As Kim pointed out, in-house creative teams have a unique opportunity to impact the business:
“Being a part of the business itself is one of the best competitive advantages anyone can have in the creative services field. You have the benefit of talking to your stakeholders everyday, seeing their wins and losses, how they are evaluated, and what the business’s biggest challenges are. As an in-house agency you have the ability and the responsibility to go directly to your stakeholders and say ‘how can I help?’”
Adam agreed and pointed out that creatives have a superpower that makes them uniquely capable of driving business objectives:
“If marketing were a science we would have figured out the perfect formula by now. The reality is that people make decisions based on emotion. Tapping into that emotion and using it to drive business outcomes is the creative superpower.”
When asked the question “what one piece of advice would you give in-house creative teams to continue to grow as strategic partners” Kim and Adam each offered great actionable advice.
Kim encouraged creatives to start with the why.
“Always ask ‘why?’. Why does this project matter? What problem are we solving? If you keep asking ‘why?’ eventually people will get used to answering that, and you’ll open up the door to collaborative conversations.”
Adam encouraged creatives to give themselves a pep talk to change their mindset.
“Say to yourself ‘I am no longer a set of hands. I’m a strategic partner’. You can’t wait on the business to decide that you’re a strategic partner, you just have to change your mindset and begin making the change yourself.”
Creative teams are taking on new responsibilities
Why is this shift taking place, and how can creatives use these new responsibilities to their advantage while still mastering their current role?
The 2020 report found at a whopping 2 out of 3 creatives are taking on new roles beyond traditional creative responsibilities within their organizations. When asked to react to this statistic, Adam highlighted that this is a natural evolution for creatives.
“Most of these [new responsibilities] are not a surprise because they are a natural progression of creative core skillsets, like emotional intelligence and empathy. Creatives are well-positioned to take on roles that require those soft skills.”
Kim and Adam both had great advice for creatives that are struggling to juggle new responsibilities while still keeping up with their existing workload:
“You have to prove that you can do the work. You have to be meeting a certain level of those volume and speed challenges to prove that you can be a strategic contributor.” – Kim
“’Content Velocity’ is the situation where we have so many new channels and ways to interact with customers that we are overwhelmed. You solve that with Computational Design. Instead of making 1,000 one-off pieces, you build a system that allows you to scale.” – Adam
Operational challenges slow creative down
How can creative teams manage these challenges, both internally and by turning to external resources?
In-house creative teams often feel pulled in multiple directions. That’s where bringing on an agency or freelancer can help, as Ilise pointed out.
“Agencies and freelancers have specific strengths and capabilities that can help an in-house team tap more resources. It’s important for each team to know their own strengths and how they can demonstrate their unique value.”
Justin outlined how in-house teams should evaluate their need for an outside partner:
“You want to think about two things. First, what can your team handle in terms of capacity? Second, what projects would benefit the most from getting an outside perspective?”
Finally, Molly pointed out in-house teams don’t need to see agencies or freelancers as competition.
“The more the in-house creative team is a strategic partner to the business, the more they are able to see freelancers and agencies as a resource, rather than competition.”
Performance measurement is the secret to improvement
Why are performance metrics so important, and how can creatives ensure they are getting the right ones?
Everyone can agree that metrics and feedback are critical to the improvement and evolution of creative, yet very few creatives are actually receiving it. Kim provided some tips for getting feedback from your stakeholders:
“First you have to genuinely want feedback. That means both actually asking for it and responding well to it. Marketers and stakeholders are busy, so you need to own the process of stopping and asking for that data, doing the retrospective. And then, when you get it, be grateful for it.”
Adam went on to challenge some of the conventional measurements creative teams often fall back on.
“Creative teams need to stop measuring people and start measuring projects. Timesheets are not the answer. Find an internal metrics to help you measure capacity, but when it comes to talking to stakeholders, stop talking about hours and start talking about the value of the work.”
By increasing collaboration, streamlining your workflow, and building stronger relationships with your stakeholders, your in-house creative team can be a unicorn powerhouse for your business. Check out more insights by watching the full webinar recordings for part 1 and part 2 here.
Elise Hauser is a product and content marketer with a passion for telling brand stories. She has produced inMotionNow’s annual In-House Creative Management Report for 3 years, webinars, content sessions for major industry events reaching audiences of 1,000+, and of course, countless blog posts. When Elise isn’t writing about the marketing and creative industry at inMotionNow she is teaching economics and hanging out with her cat, Tucker, at her home in Raleigh, NC.