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Megan Youngblood

Coaching in-house teams

Work like an agency: power up your team

November 10, 2016   //   Megan Youngblood

“All I want is a postcard.”
“And I need it by tomorrow.”
“Your department covers the printing costs, right?”

How well does your marketing and communications team respond to these types of demands? Is your department set up like an in-house creative agency? Or are you just winging it?

Departments that operate like creative agencies know that a project management infrastructure is key to responding to these types of demands with confidence, reassurance and effectiveness. Because you can honestly say how many projects are in your queue and where the next one fits in, project management tools also empower teams to build rapport with clients.

So it’s time to start treating the people you serve across your institution like clients. It’s the first step to unclogging the pipeline of requests that your team receives, to meeting expectations and to building your internal reputation.

Before you dismiss project management tools as overly time-consuming, overly formal or just plain overkill for your in-house projects, consider how these three tools can help you deliver on time, on strategy and on budget.


Clarify goals with a creative or project brief

Designate an account manager from your team — an editorial manager, marketing specialist, designer — to act as a consistent point person for your internal clients. After you’ve established account managers to interface with your internal clients, initiate step one: the creative brief. Through initial discussions and/or a form submission process, an account manager should work with the internal client in outlining project strategy, goals, audiences, key messages and scope of work.

In addition to identifying what type of piece is needed, your creative brief should also answer:

  • What is the scope of work?
  • What is your budget?
  • What are your goals?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the call to action?
  • Who is responsible for copy, art, data, etc?
  • What are the deadlines?
  • How will the final product be distributed?
  • How will you measure success?

This document will become a contract between you and your client, as well as a resource for your entire creative team. So keep it updated with info that will inform your team and drive your creative strategy.


Manage workflow through an integrated network

Create a master list or spreadsheet to track every project that enters your department. Or better yet, use project management software. Cloud-based project management software helps you get organized. It gives creative teams and clients instant access to project information all in one place, accessible from anywhere, anytime. We use Basecamp at Zehno as our go-to project management tool, but there are many other software options available — Asana, FunctionPoint, Teamwork, Workfront, to name a few.

Here’s why Basecamp works for us. You can:

  •  Share files and edit live documents. You don’t have to comb through your overrun inbox for buried emails to piece together project docs.
  • Assign to-do tasks and deadlines to anyone on the project team.
  • Post a project schedule that can be shared with everyone and updated in real time.
  •  Discuss a project, idea or deadline. Your clients can provide proof feedback to everyone at once. And your team can brainstorm in private discussion posts, if needed.
  • Report on project progress and set expectations. You’ll get a big-picture snapshot of all steps involved and a blueprint you can share with future clients.


Track your time

Even if your team doesn’t use a chargeback billing system with internal clients, tracking time arms leaders with the evidence to calculate returns on investment and prove their team’s value. More and more in-house teams are tracking time. The 2016 In-House Creative Services Industry Report cites 57 percent of in-house creative teams across 25+ industries reported tracking time, with 43 percent of teams tracking time through a database system. Workfront, Basecamp, Jira and Workamajig are at the top of the software heap. At Zehno, we track projects, time and expenses in Workamajig. Imagine how much more efficient your team could be if you knew:

  • How many and what kinds of projects your team is working on at any given time.
  • Whether most of your work is small scale vs. large scale projects.
  • How much time you should dedicate to different types of projects.
  • How well you are delivering on your deadlines.
  • Which clients use your services most.
  • Which team members are overworked or have bandwidth.

So how do you actually get your team to track time? Make it easy. Don’t mandate an overcomplicated software system. Maybe you could leverage other software being used throughout the institution.

Squelch fears and suspicion that time tracking is your micro-managing way of monitoring staff. Explain how it will improve your overall team’s productivity, ability to estimate projects and overstuffed workloads. In the future, you can use this info to make sure you’re focusing on the right projects — ones that are typically more rewarding to work on — instead of the daily grind.

Ease your creative team into the idea of time tracking by providing incentives or building in time-tracking categories for brainstorming and inspiration — two steps that matter and should be formalized if you want good work. You don’t want overbearing deadlines to work against you.

Learn More

Get more tips to inspire and invigorate your creative team with our Coaching for Creative Teams white paper.

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