Building a Successful In-House Creative Team

Over the past decade, marketing has undergone an incredible amount of change. The marketing and advertising industries continue to evolve to meet the needs of the digital age and have begun to shift dramatically as three macro trends emerge:

  1. The demand for good visual content is on the rise. A recent report from Libris and Contently found that the need for photography and video is increasing — an overwhelming 70% of respondents found a marketer’s message to be more effective when it included visual content. And visual content is now much more than a simple photo or ad; today, companies are producing content for mobile, social, web, print, television, physical spaces, and a host of other channels.
  2. Creative is increasingly going in-house. In the past five years, Apple’s in-house design team doubled, Chobani’s creative was brought in-house and subsequently introduced a widely popular new identity, and Capital One acquired a design and user experience firm. Many feel as though in-house departments are better equipped to collaborate with internal stakeholders and are able to develop a deeper understanding of customers’ needs.
  3. The traditional agency model is being disrupted. Historically designed for long-term client partnerships and marketing plans, agencies are rethinking their business and staffing in an attempt to remain at the forefront of creativity and technology. Real-time marketing and the increasing focus on customer experience requires that teams be agile and nimble and willing to adapt to frequent change.

Amongst all this change, the good news for marketing professionals is that businesses and brands are starting to understand the real value of design and visual expression. More than ever before, creativity and business are closely aligned, and for some, good design has become core to good business. The bad news? Creative professionals are overwhelmed. A recent survey by InSource and inMotionNow found that creative teams are producing 10 times the volume of work than in previous years, and it’s not uncommon for a team of fewer than 10 creatives to support the demands of 50+ stakeholders. I suspect that many higher ed marketing teams are grappling with the same challenges.

As the role of your in-house design team becomes even more important, here are a few recommendations that can help set up your marketing communications organization and creative team for success:

  1. Provide adequate resources. The Libris/Contently report found 51% of companies have 2-5 full-time employees tasked with creating visual content. This is similar to the SimpsonScarborough and The Chronicle 2014 CMO study that found that Doctoral-granting universities have an average of 2.4 full-time employees dedicated to graphic design and .8 to creative direction. As noted, however, the demand placed on creatives has grown exponentially. Successful organizations staff to manage workload, whether that means increasing full-time employees or creating a more flexible operation that utilizes freelancers, part-time staff, and consultants to support design, writing, photography and video needs.
  2. Treat them as strategic contributors. While some still see designers as the mythical unicorns in the corner coloring, expected to generate an endless stream of original ideas, your creative team should have a leadership voice and strategic role in your marketing communications organization. Expect—and trust—your in-house creative team to be accountable for managing the brand as well as managing their workload.
  3. Create a sound asset management system. Not only does your team need to have systematic means to account for, complete, and work on deadlines, but more than ever before, in-house creatives must be efficient at managing assets to quickly locate and share visual content. Close to 40% of Libris/Contently respondents report that they do not have a clear method for tagging and organizing all their visual assets, and 1 in 3 report locating the right asset as the biggest obstacle in quickly sharing content. Ouch.

These considerations will empower your team to work smarter as the speed of delivery continues to accelerate and help define the business advantage of not only your creative team but the entire marketing communications department.

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