In-house agencies in Fortune 500 companies are often seen as the small fish in a very large pond. Their values are frequently overlooked because their objectives and needs are very different from the organization that they sit within. The lack of visibility of the In-House Agency within the larger organization can result in a lack of funding, in addition to a lack of appreciation for the unique skill sets required to market and communicate the primary messages of the overall business.
A frequently heard story is one where the agency is underfunded but the expectations of project throughput continually increase. While the argument can be made that this is unfair to the agency, the reason for it is rarely spoken about or even understood.
Through many conversations with both in-house agency leaders as well as C-suite business executives, we know there is a consistent reason for it: The business of an IHA is often so vastly different than the business of the company the agency sits in that its needs and values are not simply misunderstood, they may be completely unknown. It is the appreciation for understanding the seemingly slight difference between “misunderstood” and “completely unknown” where an IHA can find the answer to gain the support needed to be successful.
When communicating the need for additional resources or support when working with internal client partners, we must first appreciate the fact that we are, in general, speaking with people who don’t truly know what we do, let alone how to help us. As such, the first part of any communication to senior team leaders should be to provide a cogent description of what we are and what we do. Don’t take it for granted that because the agency has been in the organization for a significant amount of time that it is understood how your creative team operates or what you do.
Here are some simple steps for getting started:
Explain the mission of your agency.
- It is important to help your senior leaders appreciate that while the agency works in a very different way, your vision and mission is in alignment with the primary organization. Their goals are your goals, the agency simply approaches them in a different way.
Share what services you provide.
- Perhaps use an example of a well-known advertising agency name to provide some context as to the services your team can (and has been) providing.
Explain the differences in the roles between the primary organization and the in-house agency.
Is your in-house agency properly staffed?
Once you have effectively communicated what the In-House Agency is, it’s time to spotlight the benefits of your team and its services. These primary benefits need to be presented outside of the special services your agency provides and should speak in a more global language … namely money.
Having a financial- and business-level conversation, outside of the unique services provided by the agency, allows the senior leadership team to contribute to a conversation in a meaningful way and provides a common ground for partnership.
KEY IN ON COST AVOIDANCE AND COST SAVINGS
While there are many benefits of an In-House Agency, one that is hard to dispute is the high potential for cost savings or cost avoidance.
- Are defined as providing a service for less cost than if that same work were produced outside of the organization.
- Is defined as allowing the In-House Agency to provide certain services that the organization requires either on a regular basis and/or at a high demand.
Both of these methods can provide significant financial benefit to an organization and are something that senior leaders are comfortable discussing and measuring. These are tangible business practices that will provide the executives comfort and assurance that the In-House Agency is indeed looking at their service at the business level. But it also provides them access to a conversation about the service that remains within their comfort level, meaning they don’t need to understand all the intricacies of the agency, its roles or deliverables, to be able to help and support your needs.
HIGHLIGHT YOUR TEAM’S INVALUABLE INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE
The next area to ensure is clearly communicated is the vast amount of institutional knowledge held by the creative team members. The value of institutional knowledge has become much clearer to senior leaders, thanks in large part to the significant and rapid changes that were required of us all when COVID first hit in 2020. A high level of organizational-wide communication was needed to realign the full business and, of course, the In-House Agency played a critical role in those communications. These internal communications were ongoing before COVID and will continue post-pandemic, and they contain important company culture and priority information that is crucial to the success of the primary business.
This information is often next to impossible to translate to an external agency. Being a fully integrated agency inside an organization saves time (cost savings) when aligning with the marketing team/internal client request. In addition, it can reduce the amount of revisions an external agency (cost avoidance) might have to make due to the lack of “firsthand messaging” from the internal corporate communications group.
Conversations with senior leadership about expanding the In-House Agency’s service offerings or adding headcount don’t have to be confrontational – ones in which both parties end up frustrated. And you don’t need to leave discussions disappointed with the belief that the other party doesn’t fully understand or appreciate what your IHA can bring to an organization.
Remember, your senior leaders don’t do what you do, that’s why you are there. Help them understand what your team provides and speak to them in a mutual language of financial and business benefits. You’ll be surprised how quickly you find common ground and a solutions-oriented partnership is forged.
Need more money and resources for your IHA? Getting the conversation started with senior leaders can be difficult. Reach out to a Cella consulting expert for advice as well as support in providing the best quality services possible.