Don’t Ignore the High-Volume Content Elephant in the Room. Resource Responsibly. Please.
(One In-House that actually got it right.)
According to Cella’s 2021 In-House Creative Industry Report, resourcing remains the biggest challenge for in-house teams. Of the nearly 400 in-house respondents surveyed by Cella, 69% experienced increases in teams’ work volumes and 42% aren’t adequately staffed with either full-timers or freelancers to meet these demands. Project volume and scope for in-house teams isn’t expected to shrink any time soon, but if the team stays the same size while the workload continues to increase, is this responsible? IHA’s who ignore the high-volume content elephant in the room, leaving the current team to manage the overflow, will most certainly fail. (It’s just basic math after all.)
We’ve experienced firsthand the impact that irresponsible resourcing can have on the quality of brand content, and its seriously damaging effects to team morale, personal well-being and ultimately, the bottom line of the business. We could easily write a novel with our many irresponsible resourcing tales from the trenches. But instead, we’d much rather highlight one in-house that got it right and is thriving today as a result.
So, what’s the secret ingredient for this well-established in-house? Yes, they resourced responsibly, but with an authentic, commonsense approach to solving for high volume, coupled with a constant commitment from leadership to evolve strategically with the business needs, in a team-first approach. When we surveyed this in-house, they never once mentioned not having enough people to do the work, even though there is a lot of great work coming to the in-house team.
This stable in-house was rebuilt from the ground-up in 2013, during a time of rapid content growth. Traditional agency talent was tapped to take the helm, but the approach to building was far from traditional. With a keen awareness that the external agency ways wouldn’t match the unique needs of the in-house, leadership resourced responsibly, supporting with staff in all the right areas as workload increased. Resisting the urge to throw people at projects just to get them done “whack-a-mole” style, leadership staffed strategically with a full foundational plan that not only included forecasting the in-house work, but also (and perhaps even more importantly) they put guardrails in place to politely decline the inevitable in-house requests for fire drill work. The result is a current team size of approximately 45-50 creative and seemingly happy full-timers.
We were intrigued, prompting us to delve deeper. Even with a full-time staff of this ample size, we wondered, is everyone wearing multiple hats, and potentially stretched too thin in other areas, especially given the high number of deliverables going out the door on a constant basis? Nope. Our survey revealed that this in-house has very clearly defined types of work that the IHA team manages (Broadcast vs Digital, for example). The team knows who is dedicated to each bucket, therefore, no needless swirl. With more than enough good (and forecasted) work to go around, everyone happily stays in their lane, working towards the shared, strategic goals for both the company, as well as the in-house. Any content requests falling outside the dedicated teams’ forecasts promptly get outsourced to trusted vendors and freelancers, with little fanfare or time-consuming discussion. Creative and Production department heads are empowered to make good decisions on behalf of their teams, even pushing back on non-forecasted or low budget projects, because they have strategic plans laid out for the year, fully communicated, and supported by the IHA Senior Leadership. Everyone is aligned around the common goals, working in harmony.
We know all too well how challenging it can be to successfully navigate the unique resourcing challenges facing in-house teams. Even with the best intentions, the right mix of resourcing often proves elusive. With this almost calming semblance of order amidst the chaos of high-volume content, we wanted to know, does the team feel creatively inspired, and are their clients happy with the work? Our survey revealed that this in-house initially outsourced all the creative work to some well-known, heavy hitter agencies, but the external agencies didn’t understand the brands as well as the in-house team and came with the usual high fees. Over time, it simply made more sense to invest internally, building a dream team of talented creatives who understood the brands at a much deeper level, creating more inspired and effective work. But as the creative team smartly grew, so too did the production team, keeping responsible pace to execute and deliver the high volume at an equally high quality.
We hear so frequently that in-house teams are often blind-sided by the high-volume and constant churn of content deliverables, along with internal confusion around appropriate timelines for completing the work. Without clear prioritization or forecasting (a topic we’ll be exploring in depth in future (In)House (In)Order Chronicles), the approach is often reactionary, a constant treading water to stay afloat. Agreeing to take on more than what’s realistic for the current team, results in missed deadlines and team burn-out. It takes a commitment to not only understand the primary business function, but how the in-house can work within this complicated landscape. Talking to fellow in-house leaders from varying industries, listening, gaining different perspectives and bringing those perspectives back to inform a thoughtful path forward. When leadership at the top invests just as much time to get it right as the teams creating the content, it makes all the difference.
For this in-house, the high-volume content elephant in the room was never allowed in. Sure, they had high-volume, but they made a commitment to resource every step of the way. Responsibly.