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Making the most of the in-house creative team

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I’ve had the good fortune to work with some amazing creative folks throughout my career, and while I don’t consider myself the creative “type,” I’ve spent a good deal of time both as a client of various marcom departments and in managing them.

When it comes to hiring and motivating talent, sure you want the best creative folks you can find, but if you need to adhere to corporate style guidelines I’ve found you need to find a specific personality type. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve interviewed with award-winning portfolios and stellar references, but when it comes to working within a specific (gasp!) corporate structure or, God forbid, following brand guidelines, they can’t do it.

So before you hire anyone, give the prospective employee an assignment using your guidelines, whatever those may be, and see what you get. More important, have them talk through why they did what they did.
Being an experienced designer or copywriter is one thing, but having the ability to articulate their ideas (especially in front of key stakeholders) and defend what they produced is another. Also, see how they handle feedback on their creation. A defensive attitude or ego won’t work.

For existing employees, make sure they are getting out of the office and going on customer visits or observing sales calls. It’s vitally important that the team gets to see how the end-user is ultimately receiving what they produced.

A few years ago, our creative director and I actually hand-delivered product to local customers over the course of a week. We watched how they interacted with our packaging and marketing materials. The onsite customer visits were definitely an eye-opener and got us to think about things differently. At the end of the day, you want your team to know that what they do matters, and knowing that will help with their motivation.

Know your costs so that you can prioritize. Even if you aren’t in a charge-back situation, you should know what it costs you to produce certain work. I would recommend you assign a certain fee to each work type (copywriter, project manager, designer, etc.) so that as you scope out a project, you have an idea of its cost,

Having this information is key to your prioritization process. In my experience, the in-house creative team has more work than resources, so it often comes down to a prioritization process and one in which your stakeholders aren’t always happy. If you can properly articulate what a job is costing you and see if it is helping the business meet its revenue goals, it helps.

There are always exceptions, but this is information I’ve found useful. You’ll have to decide what makes sense for your organization.

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