Large corporations accept certain beliefs at face value. Among them is the myth that in-house organizations can never be as good or as responsive as outside agencies/vendors, particularly creative services groups. It is a daily battle to overcome the built-in prejudice against internal creative organizations.

As with most corporations, internal support groups are under intense scrutiny to justify their existence and value to the corporation. Generally, there is no corporate mandate to use the readily available in-house creative resources. Most want, and often encourage, internal groups and external providers to compete head-to-head and bid for the same work--may the lowest cost win.

Debunk the Myth: Position Your Team as the Vendor of Choice
Changing the perceptions of your internal clients requires the in-house team to change its focus. Creative teams need to focus on business results, take an integrated strategic approach to solving real business challenges and gain a solid understanding of the company's core business--instead of focusing primarily on design, copywriting or account management. In addition, your team needs to build relationships and become partners, "trusted advisors," with your internal clients. Your team must work with internal clients much in the same way an agency would interact with their external clients.

With that said, there is a need to market your "new and improved" organization to key stakeholders. Most in-house groups believe that marketing is unnecessary because they have a built-in client base, but nothing could be further from the truth. In-house groups must prove their worth every day and be proactive--do not wait for clients to knock on your door. Promoting your organization as "vendor of choice" is a never-ending job.

Deliver on the Promise by Recruiting the Right Talent
To build a team that understands and resolves your company's business challenges through effective communications solutions, you must identify, recruit and nurture the right talent. Position your team to deliver by:

  • recruiting and retaining talent that aligns with and advances business goals,
  • matching the right talent to each job,
  • investing in training to keep staff up to date with the latest technologies, industry trends and cutting-edge capabilities, and
  • investing in top-notch interactive, account management and strategic marketing staff.

A successful in-house team must have skills above and beyond traditional design and copywriting expertise.

Brand Your In-House Team
Successful in-house creative organizations should have significant advantages over external agencies. It is the role of the creative leader to inform key stakeholders of these advantages through active and regular communications. Advantages should include:

1. Part of the Corporate Culture
The in-house team is already part of the corporate culture, which steeply lowers the learning curve and thus results in lower costs for your internal clients.

  • Internal institutional knowledge means no wasted time in trying to understand the company's core business and brand
  • Access to proprietary databases, corporate resources and experts means that your team knows where to find key information quickly
  • Reuse of existing products and reapplication of expertise from past experience means increased effectiveness of communications and higher value for your communications spend

2. Lower Costs than Outside Agencies
So much of the corporate mantra today is "lower costs," not the long-sighted "excellent value." In the process of educating users to value, lower costs can matter.
  • Deliver clients above-market talent/creativity at below-market prices
  • Educate internal clients to value and superior results of your services

3. Experts in Company's Brand and Messaging
The majority of corporate employees don't understand the use or value of the brand, but they can come to your department for compliance support and guidance.
  • Create on-target brand applications
  • Demonstrate brand knowledge and leadership

4. Proven Performance Metrics
Creative departments with time and job tracking and customer satisfaction polling can speak objectively to the team's customer satisfaction, efficiency, and effectiveness metrics.
  • Communicate how the in-house team contributes to the profitability of the corporation
  • Provide clients with metrics on their projects; follow up with sequential projects
  • Conduct semi-annual customer satisfaction surveys and embrace development opportunities

5. Demonstrated Success
Often internal services groups are overlooked in favor of celebrating the external successes of those who make and sell product or services. It is the role of the creative leader to be chief evangelist for his or her team.
  • Let stakeholders know the awards you have won
  • Develop success stories and case studies
  • Broadcast client testimonials
  • Encourage corporate leadership to mandate work to your in-house agency, i.e., the corporation's employees

6. The Intangibles
The intangibles of using an in-house agency are things money cannot buy: trust, commitment and partnership, and the close involvement and dedication that come from being a part of the same company with a vested interest in that company's success.

These intangibles, and even the tangibles, are likely to be taken for granted by prospective customers within your company--unless you make them known by actively marketing your team as the vendor of choice.

For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training, please email cella@cellaconsulting.com.

Cella 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.