Several months ago, Forbes published an article entitled “Can In-House Agencies Ever Be Great?” Now, I’m not one to obsess over things (or maybe I am…), but that question and the assortment of editorials that followed debating both sides really stuck with me.
One of the things I see in-house agencies struggling with time and again in the consulting work I do is defining who they are, why they are, what they do (and don’t do), and how they do it within their respective companies. Ensuring your purpose is clearly defined and communicating it to internal partners, external partners, and especially the team itself is essential to enabling the potential of the in-house agency model.
Define who you are.
The most successful in-house agencies have a clearly defined “reason for being” within the corporation. They have an established vision (desired future state of the in-house agency) and an aspirational mission (intended purpose of the in-house agency) as well as clear business and team objectives. They also have a strong foundation when it comes to agency operations and day-to-day management.
Define your relationships.
Are the people whose lines of business you support referred to as clients or colleagues? How does the label you put on that relationship affect the way you engage? The same goes for the external agencies that support your company. Are those relationships competitive or collaborative? Both internal and external agencies create assets to promote the business and the brand. It comes down to whether you’re fighting for dollars or working together to optimize what you have.
Develop your team charter.
Your in-house agency may also benefit from the development of a formal “team charter” which includes specifics regarding your organizational model with roles, responsibilities and inter-dependencies defined, a summary of operating practices required to support the in-house agency, and detail regarding the behavioral norms required to advance a high-performing team. Tools and technology may also be considered as part of your team charter, with top-line strategies defined.
All of this leads me back to the question: “Can In-House Agencies Ever Be Great?” I believe they can—and they are. Greatest among them are those who take the time and apply the discipline to define who, why, what and how across the organization before it’s defined for them.