7 Traits of Effective In-House Creative Teams

As companies further recognize the importance of branding through digital marketing, the idea of bringing your creative work in-house is growing. Ask any seasoned in-house creative leader how much their role has grown and evolved in the past decade, and you’ll hear how much the digital era has changed the value perception of in-house creative teams.

With that rapid growth comes a unique set of challenges. Being solely responsible for a company’s brand in a medium that is constantly changing means companies need creative teams to not only understand the market landscape they also need to have an intimate understanding of the brand.

In this article, we’ll look at essential elements required to build a thriving in-house creative team for your company.

What Roles Do You Need for a Perfect In-house Creative Team?

Depending on your company size, industry, and scope of products and services, you may have some or all of the following positions:

1. Copywriter / Content Executive:

Everyone knows that “Content is king” in the marketing field. Having a person in charge of planning and creating content is crucial no matter your industry. A content creator needs to understand the target audience, the channels they engage with, and how to effectively connect your brand with them. 

It is also important to consider the preferred content types of your audience. For instance, a B2B company may prioritize long-form articles and whitepapers, while an F&B company may focus on videos and visually appealing images. Therefore, the content creator should have industry-specific experience and be adaptable in creating various content formats that resonate with your customers, ultimately driving leads and conversions for your business.

2. Designer:

Designers and copywriters usually work in pairs to ensure seamless alignment between content and visuals. A good designer should have in-depth industry experience and various technical skills. Additionally, strong collaboration skills are required for designers to incorporate feedback and deliver high-quality work. With the nature of in-house design work, designers often juggle multiple projects and collaborate with various teams, which makes the ability to thrive under pressure essential.

3. Digital Specialist:

As digital marketing become a must-have in this era, a digital specialist also plays a key role in an in-house marketing team. Acting as a thought leader in digital marketing, this person should have extensive knowledge and skills in performance KPIs and search with a proven track record of delivering ROI. Moreover, the digital specialist needs to stay updated with algorithm changes and has an analytical mind to evaluate SEO and campaign performance, and interpret data into actionable insights. 

Finding someone familiar with your tech stack is crucial so they can quickly adapt and contribute effectively. Make sure to access their experience based on your company’s nature, since B2B and B2C marketing often require different strategies and approaches.

4. Social Media Executive

A social media officer is responsible for both content creation and managing social media platforms. In the case of a small business, this role can be fulfilled by a single person. When hiring for this position, you should find someone with relevant marketing experience in the social channels where your target customers are active. For instance, creating social posts and campaigns on LinkedIn would be very much different from platforms like Instagram or TikTok. Therefore, hire someone who can create tailored content for specific channels and, ideally, has the flexibility to manage multiple channels.

5. Marketing Manager:

The marketing manager is the chief strategist that will plan and steer the marketing direction while aligning with your business goal. They should have a deep understanding of each member’s roles and expertise to assign proper tasks. They’re responsible for overseeing all marketing projects and deliverables and seeking opportunities to enhance the customer experience. When searching for a marketing team leader, look for someone who surpasses your knowledge in marketing with strong leadership skills.

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4 Types of In-house Creative Team Structures

To choose the right structure for your in-house creative team, consider several factors like your team size, marketing scope, and your business goals. Here are the most  common team structures you can choose:

1. Functional teams:

Organize your team by functions, such as content, design, and social media. Each person works on their own projects and collaborates when necessary.

2. Project-based teams:

Create a cross-functional team to handle a specific project. After completing the job, the team is disbanded, and each person moves on to another project.

3. Pod-based teams:

Teams are established into small pods, each consisting of necessary positions like a designer, a writer, a developer, and a project manager. The pod works together over a range of projects, unlike the one-time project-based team structure. 

4. Agile teams:

This structure is based on the agile methodology, where teams are organized around sprints. Team members will be assigned certain tasks to work on each sprint and regularly meet to review progress and make adjustments.

Traits of Effective In-House Creative Teams

Here are some key traits that effective in-house creative teams share and how you can continue strengthening your brand’s team.

1. A Holistic Understanding of Their Industry and Brand

Unlike generalized marketing and advertising agencies that take on a jack-of-all-trades approach, in-house creative professionals are seasoned in their industry and live and breathe their brand. By working with only one “client” – the company itself, the internal creative teams can develop profound industry expertise that outside contractors often lack. Their daily tasks are emerged by the industry’s best practices, allowing them to build connections with thought leaders and thrive in the specific working field. 

Cella sites that creative leaders identified brand knowledge, high-end creative quality and cost savings as the top three value drivers from the client’s perspective. In-house creative teams fundamentally understand the brand and, thus, better encompass culture, coworkers, and customers than external agencies.

If you’re a budding creative with a particular passion for a particular industry, moving into an entry-level position within an in-house team is the best way to grow your portfolio and build experience. Here, you’ll find managers who are passionate experts in their industry to follow in their footsteps.

2. Powerful Branding

One of the benefits of being so specialized is the ability to continuously fine-tune your company’s brand and image. But great branding extends beyond your company’s brand. In-house creative teams also need to consider their own brand and perception within the company.

While most companies understand the overall value of marketing, creative teams risk being seen as a commodity rather than a strategic department. Managers with a willingness to push back and stand up for their team’s importance, workload and abilities are generally more respected within the company.

3. Strong Relationships with Stakeholders

Being on-site allows your in-house team to strategically be where your client and stakeholders need you at all times. To create a successful marketing campaign, internal creative teams need to centralize ideas from all departments, understand them, and translate the vision to life. Hence, being an effective team is more than just being in the right place at the right time, it’s about the relationships you build with multiple roles in the company, including the top management board who shape the business’s overall direction.

As in-house creative teams support a business by solving problems through creative thinking, collaboration across departments is a essential. Strategic creative partners take full advantage, listening for opportunities to position their company for growth, rather than just churning out the expected creative materials. This requires the team members to possess good listening skills, and an ability to gather insights from customers and coworkers to unlock new ideas.

4. Time Management Skills

Making sure that your company understands the true value of creative work often comes down to proper time management. In-house agencies are not immune to the common misconception that creative work is “easy”. Proving the time investment of your work means ensuring your team is tracking time accurately.

Function Point’s project management software makes it easy for creatives to track time as they work, and easy for managers—and stakeholders—to understand time management and progress using FP’s work planning view.

5. Continuous Evolution and Innovation

Any creative team will have peaks and valleys within a workflow—it’s how you engage people during downtime that strengthens your busier weeks. Reserving a budget and time allotment for skill-building activities like webinars, conferences and courses not only improves team know-how, it also prevents boredom and burnout, and improves employee commitment.

As the marketing landscape is ever-changing, in-house creative teams must stay current and quickly adapt to new trends, technologies, and market conditions. They need to improve their marketing strategy with innovative approaches.

It requires “outside the box” thinkers to work in this fast-paced environment. The internal marketing team needs to be flexible to experiment with new working ways and formats to optimize for their target audience. As the creative team leader, you should encourage your team to embrace change and to be open to new ideas. Some suggestions can be organizing training, workshops, and conferences for everyone to share knowledge, and foster a culture of adaptability.

6. Knowing Their Strengths and Weaknesses

Being the leader of an in-house creative team also means knowing where your team’s strengths lie, and where you’ll need external resources. Rather than hiring full-time employees, you won’t need year round, or whose salaries are not in the budget, identify where contractors, freelancers, and agencies are a better investment of time and money.

“8 out of 10 creative leaders utilize freelancers, and 68% of in-house creative teams partner with external agencies for particular projects.”
– Creative Industry Report

7. Keeping Things Fresh

The only pitfall of knowing your company intimately well is the potential pitfall of staying with what worked in the past, rather than taking risks with what might improve the future. As a creative leader, it’s up to you to know when to push back with stakeholders when you know it’s time to shake things up. By having proper processes in place, documenting your work flow and proving results, your in-house creative team will be able to garnish enough respect to be allowed the freedom to stretch your creative wing.

8. Results-Driven

Being results-driven is a vital characteristic of an effective in-house creative team. They need to set clear objectives and know the key metrics to track for their content and campaigns. Analytical skill is also important, as the data insights will inform your decision-making process. Therefore, it’s important to balance creativity with a data-driven mindset to ensure the marketing products not only look great but also deliver measurable results for the company.

Final Thoughts

If you have enough resources, building an internal marketing team is a valuable option thanks to its advantages over hiring an external agency, such as a deeper brand understanding, a faster turnaround time, and better alignment with the business goal. With the 8 traits above, you can look for the right mix of talent to assemble a team that will produce outstanding work, thus increasing efficiency, consistency, and your company’s success.

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