You are the leader of your company's creative services organization, have responsibility for the oversight of the company brand, external-facing collateral and, perhaps, internal communications. You have a staff of writers and designers, as well as maybe account and project managers. You become aware of other like groups within your company who perform some of the same functions and provide some of the same services as your group. Should you view these groups as competitors? How can you work with and help these groups for the greater good of your company?

In our 2013 In-House Creative Services Industry Report, 34% of respondents indicated another creative team exists in their organizations--the smaller teams are sometimes referred to as "splinter groups." A splinter group is defined as a small organization that becomes separated from or acts apart from an original larger group with which it would normally be united[1].

There are different reasons for having like organizations within same company. Three of the most common reasons are:

  • Geography--When companies are expanding their geographical scope and markets, often the company starts with a local approach and staffs with people who know the new cultures, languages and markets best. Make no mistake for the legitimate business reasons for not lumping everything under your management and oversight.
  • Contract Support--When your company is awarded a large-scale contract, one contractual requirement may be to provide dedicated, on-demand, on-site resources such as writers/editors and graphic designers to provide the communications and documentation/publications support for the contract. The products produced by this group are in compliance to the specifications and timetable outlined in the contract. And, are almost always branded to the contract and/or customer and will fall outside of your corporate branding guidelines. Keep in mind that these contract support groups are generating real revenue for your company.
  • Proposal Support--Mid- and large-sized companies generally have a centralized proposal center staffed with writers and editors, graphic artists and publishing specialists, project coordinators, and digital print services. These resources are proposal savvy, understand RFP compliance issues and are accustomed to following high volume production processes and procedures for "working" multiple RFP responses simultaneously. The deliverables they produce, though not flashy, should follow your corporate branding guidelines while at the same time, meet the specific publishing requirements as outlined in each RFP (Section L in Government- issued RFPs). This group is responsible for generating potential revenue for your company.

  • Each of these groups is different, and so each will have slightly different definitions for the roles individuals play in their organization. These organizations may not have all of the functional areas and responsibilities of your corporate organization, but they play an important role and are a necessary part of your corporation. With this in mind, how you can support them? They may reach out to you for guidance and help with:
    • recommendations for staffing positions
    • training and staff development
    • process, quality and customer satisfaction best practices
    • equipment and software
    • brand compliance

    Create Positive Group Dynamics
    When communicating with these groups, it is essential, to approach them with honesty, respect, and trust. Let them know that that you understand the essential role they play and that you and your team are available to lend a hand when asked. The "Big Brother" approach generally doesn't work.

    Communicate Appropriately
    Appropriate communication and understanding these unique groups' objectives shouldn't be forgotten or dismissed. By communicating appropriately right from the start, you can avoid rumors and misinformation, raise awareness of the team's objectives, and build relationships that will be needed later.

    Understand the Uniqueness of These Groups
    Splinter groups are significantly different from the team that reports directly to you. Your team members generally "speak the same language," and they have a solid understanding of what your department is trying to accomplish. Splinter groups work in unique environments and have unique missions, responsibilities and issues.

    Tip: Organize a social function for the groups located in your area where the teams can interact.

    As the creative leader for your company, be a good corporate citizen and invest your time and effort to understand and build relationships with these groups for the benefit of the company you serve. It's worth your time.

    Some Splinter Groups Exist for a Good ReasonCella Consultant Ceil Wloczewski is a 30-year communications veteran in the IT services industry. Managing annual budgets averaging $12-million and local and virtual teams of 100+, Ceil's primary focus is marketing collateral, branding, Web/interactive and publications work. Since 1990, Ceil has actively contributed to companies' growth and success. She transformed an in-house communications department into an industry-lauded, key strategic partner in sales and new business development, customer retention, staff recruitment and training.



    [1] Dictionary.com: http://m.dictionary.com/d/?q=splinter+groups