Can communications teams take creativity in-house?

By Cornelia Kunze

Agencies in general value creative ideas, because they sell them. Or they sell the execution which follows. They celebrate their creative people, and they attract talent only, if they are perceived as creative. That is why they spend time and money to unearth and nurture creative ideas, to build creative eco-systems and inspiring environments, to train people to be creative or to work with Creatives and to win awards. They know creativity requires talent but even more so that it is a craft.

In-house teams can do that, too. If they apply the same dedication, rigor and passion to it. They might even have some advantages: they have easier access to the “client”. They have deep insight into the organization and its strategic priorities. And they have unrestricted access to data, mostly.

Here are five factors, which will determine whether an in-house communications team is successful to deliver a combination of magic and outcome.

1.    Focus and agility: Creative ideas cannot be born out of thin air. They rarely happen by coincidence. They need focus, space, a decent timeframe to go through all the steps required and some kind of agility. Somebody experienced and feisty (who is NOT the creative director) has to sit in the driver`s seat and got to orchestrate the whole process as her main job.

2.    Protection from in-house politics: even agencies protect their creative ideas during the process. Ideas and creative assets need to be shared carefully at the right time, in the right context, to the right people. In an open space under constant interference of everybody with an opinion they will be watered down and might never see the light of day.

3.    Diversity of talent: The process needs a team of specialists with a broad range of talents and clear roles and responsibilities. Data analysts, insights planner, creative director, earned and paid media channel strategists, copywriter, producer, designer. And access to industry experts and stakeholder representatives. And let`s not forget: the unique strength of communications practitioners is to flex the strategy, the timing and message to the needs of a variety of stakeholders, a trump card not to underestimate.

4.    Access to ‘client’ and decision-maker: Whoever they are, they need to make time and agree to discuss their ambition as well as offer a proper transparent briefing. The result of the project will depend on their input. Gold in, gold out and the reverse.

5.    Recognition and value attached to the creative work: Those who dedicate all their time to this project, need to know that their contribution and their career path is valued. Their job requires training, experience and talent. They are experts in their craft – as much as a sales people or engineers. The latter coming up with an outstanding creative communications idea in the shower is as likely as a creative person inventing the next cloud service app on the go.

There seems to be a trend to take services in-house. Organizations which understand the success criteria of an agency will be more likely to hit the road and close in on creative excellence in communications. What are your experiences with it? Do you believe in in-house creative development?