The unfortunate fact is that in-house creative teams are often viewed as back-end production within organizations. Creative teams often find out about jobs at the last minute, without the proper time to do their best work. Many times, clients present a project that they have already "thought out" strategically and mocked-up, and just want the creative team to "make it pretty." This thinking is outdated and doesn't give the creative team the credit or respect that they deserve as professional designers. It also doesn't create the most compelling experience for your team. Company leaders often do not realize how graphically based their brand experience is. What the creative team contributes not only represents an organization to the public, but also attracts and resonates with current and potential clients. Further, it attracts and recruits future employees that will (hopefully) help both propel the organization in the direction and vision that the executives want and set the standard for the reputation of the organization.
Oftentimes, Marketing leadership will meet in a regular forum that does not include a representative the creative team. While this may be an oversight, it may also be that the mindset of the Marketing team is that Creative Services is merely "back-end" production and thus will not have a contribution to offer earlier in the process. The inclusion of Creative Services is important on many levels, e.g., a more well rounded approach to problem solving, collaboration and understanding of campaign/project goals and earlier consideration of creative and production timelines. In addition, being included demonstrates respect for the creative team's point-of-view. The challenge then is how to get and keep a prominent seat at that Marketing table. Here are a few ideas:
1. Develop a Strong Partnership with Marketing
Help Marketing achieve their objectives. This can involve anything from helping them educate internal staff on the brand, apply the brand, create executive presentations, execute critical special projects, develop promotional items for high-visibility CEO appearances and more. Your team can provide more than design support; when partnering with Marketing be sure to demonstrate your project management, writing, concepting and strategy skills.
2. Build Strong Relationships with Marketing Team Members
Become the go-to group when Marketing needs assistance on a project. Give them your professional opinion and recommendations. Ensure that you use a creative brief with them, as well as a system to track results and important metrics. Demonstrated results are the best way to convince them of your value.
3. Develop Your Own Reputation and Brand Within the Organization
Your team's demonstrated success (as proven through industry awards, client feedback and positive metrics) provides the foundation for your internal self-marketing campaign. Develop your own brand and marketing efforts within the organization, e.g., send out e-newsletters that include your current industry-winning work or post a "Tip of the Week from the Creative Problem Solvers" on your internet portal. You can also invite clients/partners to a monthly Open House showcasing your work and the business problems you have recently solved. You should also plan a series of "roadshow presentations" and request to attend clients' monthly staff meetings with the explicit purpose of showing work you've done for other groups and why it was successful. Be sure to demonstrate examples of how partnering with the Creative Team will help them meet their business objectives. (Learn more about marketing your team to your internal audience.)
4. Know Your Company's Business: Be a Problem Solver.
In order to build credibly from the creative point-of-view, you need to understand your organization's core business and the challenges they are facing. Your team should strive to be problem solvers. Encourage your team members to follow some of the sales team on their calls, to meet the Product Managers and to take part in other activities that will grow their understanding of the business. This first-hand knowledge will help your team increase their value to the Marketing team and the greater organization.
5. Ask for the Invitation
Just because you are working with your marketing partners, have built a strong relationship and trust, and have become known for adding value to projects and goals, doesn't necessarily mean you'll get asked to the table. You need to ask! Unless you voice a desire to participate, the head of marketing may not want to "burden you" with another meeting.
6. Speak Up/Contribute When Appropriate
When discussing wider marketing objectives and plans, be an active participant in the meeting. Speak up for the creative point-of-view to partner with them and help them solve their problems. They may not have a creative perspective and by offering your perspective, you will make a valuable contribution to the discussion and impact of decisions being discussed. As with all meetings, make sure your contribution is not duplicative and offers valuable insight. Your contribution in these meetings reflects broadly on your team. Therefore if you delegate this role, ensure this point is well understood.
7. Follow Through and Build On Success
Follow through on any action plans and anything you volunteer your team to do--not following up in a timely manner is a quick kiss of death. Also, be a part of the team--participate in the blogs and marketing team discussion sites and wikis. In time, your help will be accepted and you will be viewed as an integral part of the Marketing Team.
Marketing an organization takes more than the official Marketing team. Strategists, PR specialists, investor relations experts, product specialists and creative professionals all support the total marketing effort. The truth is, you are already one marketing team with a common goal. It's just a matter of acting on that truth and getting a seat at the table.
*** Seats are still available for Cella's "Beyond the Creative: Business Operations for Creative Leaders" training in Washington, DC on April 13-14. Learn more, including what last year's attendees had to say, at https://www.cellaconsulting.com/beyond_the_creative/. ***
Cella Consultant Susan Hunnicutt is an expert in using marketing and communications to achieve business objectives. She works with organizational leaders to assess their needs, determine their goals, analyze their resources and develop an action plan and recommendations to meet these goals. Susan's value proposition is taking a growing in-house creative team "to the next level," not only in metrics but also in systems and processes, quality control and increasing the number of high-profile and quality client projects.