Combating the never-ending demand for creative content.

Your in-house agency vs. the burnout cycle

By: Corey O’Brien

Combating the never-ending demand for creative content.

It is very likely that your in-house creative agency is treading water right now. Metaphorically. The pace, breadth, and scale of marketing and creative demands have accelerated to an unprecedented level. In-house agencies (IHAs) must produce more content for more channels faster than ever. Some are thriving, but others are just treading water, working to clear requests that keep on coming.

So what sets successful in-house marketing and creative agencies apart? They’re built to get ahead of the demand for content, not just to keep up with it.

Don’t be at the mercy of every incoming request.

Many IHAs are reactive, responding to an ever-increasing project queue and constantly triaging incoming requests. These requests will often drive workflows and ensuing staffing decisions. As requests continue to come in, the cycle will continue. And the projects that get prioritized are not necessarily what you want your team to work on.

When you approach work by request, you end up falling further and further behind, because, let’s face it—there’s always more to be done. You also don’t give your team the whitespace they need to truly be creative or earn the strategic work your team craves. Rather than focusing on the work that creates the biggest impact, you are looking for a better band-aid. Not solving the problem.

Become planning-driven to have a greater impact.

The most forward-looking, impactful in-house agencies have transformed from being request-driven to planning-driven. This type of transformation should be the goal of every IHA, regardless of where you are on the organizational maturity ladder. With a planning-driven approach, you build relationships and partner with stakeholders and internal customers much earlier upstream. By understanding their priorities, goals, and needs, you can incorporate all of this into planning the priorities and work of your in-house team, identify the work you really want to be doing, and stop operating reactively to the flood of incoming content requests.

This transition can be challenging, but having the right roles and supporting processes will set your team up for success. For example, when Lumen Technology’s in-house agency became planning-led nearly three years ago, they created a new campaign management role to work in concert with project managers. Their campaign managers are responsible for meeting with the business and talking to product marketing and communications partners. The campaign manager asks questions like:

  • What are your top priority projects?
  • What are the launches?
  • How do we align everything to product roadmaps and other things that are coming?
  • What is the work?
  • What are the key inputs? What are the key outcomes or behaviors that marketing is trying to elicit?

This new team structure and approach to work is what allows Lumen to be planning-led. The campaign manager works to establish a scope of work (SOW) agreed on with business partners. Then the Project Manager steps in to figure out what needs to be done to make that happen, building a plan to execute.

Plan to become planning-driven.

Lumen was able to create a solution that best suited the needs of their IHA as well as the needs of the business. Is this the only solution? Absolutely not. Did this type of change happen overnight? Definitely not. Your solution will be unique to your business needs. And it will take time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Our client Chick-Fil-A worked over the course of a year to figure out the solution they needed: an integrated design production center to take on tactical work, freeing up their creative team to focus on more strategic work and priorities.

By developing a team structure and processes that support planning-led creative operations instead of being led by incoming requests, IHA leaders can help their teams to not just survive as they meet the increasing demand for content, but thrive.

About the Authors

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Corey O’Brien

VP, Strategy and Solutions

As Vice President, Strategy and Solutions, Corey leads new business development efforts and supports new client engagements. Corey has helped more than two dozen in-house creative agencies and marketing teams solve challenges across marketing, creative, and experience design. With a background in creative arts and business operations, Corey’s blend of strategy and creative execution is an ideal fit for marketing organizations trying to solve challenges around efficiency, new capability development, and scalability of in-house agencies.

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