Roundtable Recap: What Bloomed?

Spring. Every year, it brings new growth in the form of buds and blossoms outside and connectivity and conversation inside. You see, spring is the time of year when IHAF offers its Regional Roundtables—discussion groups held in various cities throughout the country where members discuss and debate what’s topical for internal agencies today. Here’s what bloomed in 2018.

From the Big Apple to the Golden Gate, over 200 in-house professionals convened in six cities, going behind the scenes with six remarkable companies. Our first stop was Atlanta where we met the high-performing team at Boston Consulting Group. From there we jetted to NYC and spent time with the fine folks at Equinox. Next up was Robert Half in San Ramon, CA. Then, on to Chicago where we opened things up at Trunk Club.

Our last two stops were with Kronos, just north of Boston and Hallmark in Kansas City, which wrapped our whirlwind tour. Each new conversation was as informative as it was inspiring. We even got to explore the workspaces these teams occupy. Some were corporate, some were creative—each was dynamic in its own unique way.

Timely Tiering

A common theme in many of our sessions was the notion of project tiering. More and more in-house agencies are implementing tiering systems to enable scoping, prioritization and resourcing of projects. Tiering can also help align the work with the goals of the company, ensuring high-impact campaigns aren’t compromised by ankle biters.

Tiering has remedied capacity issues for some, enabling senior contributors to spend less time doing executional work and more time driving the business. External partners and freelancers also play a part in tiering as teams decide what should be insourced and what should be outsourced, particularly when bandwidth is a concern.

Want to learn more about project tiering? Contact us and we’ll connect you with other IHAF members who have proven the concept and are demonstrating it best.

Process Precision

Another hot topic at this year’s roundtables was the aversion some people have to the P-word: Process. In fact, process popped as one of the leading challenges in-house agencies face particularly when it comes to project intake, creative briefs and client reviews. For each new issue that surfaced, a host of solutions were offered by those in attendance.

Creative briefs and briefings is always a hot topic and this year was no different. For some, the internal client or business partner writes the brief. For others, the account team or creative team crafts it. A few in-house agencies have even added a step called a “client discovery meeting” that precedes brief writing. This step was said to drive alignment between clients and internal agency teams, resulting in better work and more directed feedback for streamlined review cycles.

The best news about briefs is that you don’t have to go it alone. IHAF has three proven creative brief templates available for members to download. We also offer a recorded webinar that walks through the best (and worst) practices for writing creative briefs.

System Satisfaction

From processes to systems, automation was also on people’s minds. We talked about everything from what it takes to evaluate system providers to the steps and stressors of implementation. From projects to digital assets, we tossed the ball around on a variety of solutions with some of the most common being Adobe, Workfront and Slack.

Regardless of which system people used, two key learnings emerged to help benefit those poised to make a change. First was to take it slow when it comes to training and adoption. Teams need time to acclimate before rolling out any new system enterprise wide. Second was about customization—ensuring that the tool(s) you choose allow for a certain level of customization so they can flex to meet the changing demands of the business without considerable engineering. 

Is your team actively shopping for a new system? IHAF members have access to download our own system comparison charts. We have one for automated workflow and one for digital asset management.

Creativity  Competence

A lot of the in-house  agencies we visited this year talked about how they keep their teams inspired and pushing the boundaries of creativity. Team Equinox spends one week together each year at AIGA’s Design Ranch in Austin, TX. No cell service and you’re bunked in a cabin with a co-worker, yet they say it’s rejuvenating and credit their team’s collaboration to this annual retreat.

Hallmark’s Creative Marketing Studio offers an incredible program to team members called #My5Days—which is just as it sounds. Everyone is given five days a year to spend doing something creative whether that means taking a knitting class, painting a mural, or carving a totem pole of Where the Wild Things Are characters. Whatever your approach, allowing space and time for creative teams to recharge was cited time and again as an absolute necessity for in-house talent.

Productive Partnerships

Many attendees shared that in an effort to build stronger partnerships with their internal clients, they’re trying to enact the “Yes, and…” rule. This helps them say yes more often while keeping an open mind (and open dialog) with their clients. It’s a minor shift that was characterized as yielding major results for some teams.

Another way our attendees are building stronger partnerships with clients is by asking for feedback. Whether it’s annual, bi-annual or on a project basis, assessing team performance is vital. If you’re not surveying your clients and would like to begin, IHAF can help. The IHAF Performance Evaluator is an online survey tool for members to use as often as you like, at no additional cost. We’ve found it to be one of our most useful, highly valued member benefits.

With Thanks!

IHAF Regional Roundtables are made possible by many, especially this year’s warm, welcoming host companies—Boston Consulting Group, Equinox, Hallmark, Kronos, Robert Half and Trunk Club. We’d also like to thank our event sponsors, all of whom we consider to be value-added providers to the in-house agency community—Adobe, Aquent, Express KCS, Deltek and TeamPeople.

To those who joined us as participants throughout our multi-city series, we value your questions and contributions. IHAF is a community of like-minded peers with much to share. Your involvement and passion for what you do combined with your willingness to offer your experience to others is what brings our mission to life.

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