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HOW Design Live: Inside-Out Ideas!

Written by in Design, HOW Design Live

In-Housers & Out-Housers: All Together Now!

Pictured Above: The Pearce Family is part of an outdoor campaign created by in-house and out of house creative teams for ElectriCities of North Carolina.

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Inside-Out Thinkers, Leaders, Innovators: Froelich, Schiada, and Roberts at HOW Design Live

Ask any in-house designer about the challenges of being a corporate creative, and partnering with outside creatives is sure to come up at some point in the conversation. In fact, many in-housers view outsiders as the enemy — the ones who get all the juicy work while they’re stuck with the boring, cyclical stuff. But others regard them as a blessing, collaborators who provide supplemental services or fresh ideas that can inject new life into the brand and the creative team.

Meet Laurie Schiada, Creative Services ECD and Southwest region GM at Boeing; Amanda Froehlich, manager of Creative Operations at Saint-Gobain; and Ed Roberts, creative lead at ElectriCities. Sometimes they hire freelancers who bring much-needed skills to the table. Other times, they work with outside agencies for one-off projects or as ongoing partners. No matter how they tap outside talent, they all agree that having the freedom to work with outside creatives makes their teams and their work stronger. They will be speaking at HOW Design Live in Atlanta, May 19-23.

See You at How Design Live

HOW Design Live kicks off in Neenah’s hometown of Atlanta. Contributor Sarah Whitman gives us an insightful early look with insights from three leading in-house creative service directors. On Thursday, Donovan Beery and Neenah Paper will be chirping and blogging  from the conference floor. Sample from our swag-rich Booth 622, just inside the Exhibitor main entrance.

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The Hive’s collaborative approach leads to solutions tailored for each Saint Gobain subsidiary and sub-brand.

In what capacities do you work with outside contributors?

Laurie Schiada of Boeing: We use a variety of suppliers: large agencies for strategic thinking on large brand campaigns for external audiences; small local studios for creative specialties or to finish projects we have conceptualized in house like video visual effects; and individual contract labor, in nearly every creative discipline, to help with project surge support or who have specialized skills like UX/UI that we need more infrequently.

Amanda Froehlich of The Hive at Saint Globins: As an internal creative agency, we partner with external contributors to help handle the increases in workload and also in areas that we do not specialize. Knowing that we are able to offer the full gamut of creative services helps my team to be able to partner with agencies that specialize in particular areas, such as PR, for example.

Ed Roberts of ElectriCities: I have a small in-house team who are enormously talented. We work together on a large mix of projects that include print, broadcast and interactive tactics. It is necessary that I augment my FTEs with what I call “adjunct” team members. These adjunct team members are incredibly talented folks who we regularly collaborate with on delivering the best creative solutions to the problems we’re tasked with solving. On any given day, I could be working with external contributors who are film directors, designers, stylists, animators, graphic facilitators, web designers, copywriters and voice talent. I regard them as more than just freelancers, contractors or partners. Each person is a member of my in-house team. They’re family.

This video reflects the quality of  ElectriCities’ inside-outside collaborations.

What challenges and/or criteria determine when you reach outside for help with a project?

Schiada: We always strive to match the right talent to the right project. Other factors include utilization, availability and skill sets of our internal team—and of course, time and cost. We may not always have the time or budget to activate external resources.

Froehlich: The decision to look for external help is based on the volume of work within the department and the deadlines that we are up against. Also, being self-aware of certain areas that we may not have a full set of expertise, then it just makes sense for us to partner with groups that specialize in some of those areas, because the end result is that we want to provide our customers with the absolute best solutions to their business problems.

Roberts: It depends on the scope of the assignment, budget and what projects are being tackled currently by my internal team. If it’s a broadcast project with a ton of moving parts, I typically reach out to my external video production teams. If it is a fairly complex interactive project, I have one “go-to” guy who I trust completely. We have worked together for so long, our conversations are now like shorthand. He’s good at sensing what I need before articulating it to him. He gets me, and most importantly, he truly gets our brand and the audience we need to serve. That’s a very comfortable feeling.

Blessing or Curse?

“Many in-housers view outsiders as the enemy — the ones who get all the juicy work while they’re stuck with the boring, cyclical stuff. But others regard them as a blessing, collaborators who provide supplemental services or fresh ideas that can inject new life into the brand and the creative team.”—Sarah Whitman

 

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How often do you work with outside contributors?

Schiada: All the time. We frequently work with suppliers and contractors to execute our services.

Froehlich: We work with external contributors on a pretty regular basis, mainly due to high demand and tight deadlines. It helps us to serve our customers better by having resources available to complete the work on time and on budget.

Roberts: Every day. More than 60 percent of the work that is produced by my team is brand-level, high profile assignments that are critical to the success of our organization. To make sure that my internal team doesn’t get burnt out, we collaborate regularly with outside contributors. What’s nice for me and my internal team is that we partner with the same contributors over and over again.

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ElectriCities blends in-house talent with fresh external talent to create work that gets attention and industry praise.

Balance is Key

“There is a freshness when you work with new, smart, energetic folks like some outside collaborators can provide. There also is tremendous value our internal clients hold on the long-term relationships and expertise of our internal team. So it’s always a mix.” —Laura Schiada, Creative Services ECD and Southwest region GM at Boeing

Do you have a few valued partners you tap over and over, or do you mix it up?

Schiada: Both. Tribal knowledge is important with some of our internal business partners and for some types of projects like live events. But our creative directors are always seeking fresh inspiration, which often comes in the form of an infusion of external resources.

Froehlich: There are a several resources that we have worked with consistently over a period of time, and the advantage is that we have been able to build a true partnership with them. They understand our business goals, product lines and how we operate. At the same time, I am always looking for new talent to ensure that my department is able to keep up with the continually changing trends in both marketing and technology.

Roberts: Absolutely! I’m a creature of habit and very loyal. Once I get to know, appreciate and respect the talent someone brings to one or more of our projects, that person has got me as a client for life. Hopefully, it’s not a life sentence for them, though. LOL! In all seriousness, I touch base with my partners on a regular basis to keep the lines of communication open. I invite them to lunch or drinks after work and ask them as I would my internal team, “How are you feeling at this point in the process, and what can I do to support you and make your job easier?” This approach seems to be universally appreciated. Several of my partners have told me that their other clients don’t even ask for their opinions. That seems so very odd to me given the type of work that we do. By the way, the only time I bring a new contributor into our family is when someone from my internal team or one of my adjunct team members makes a recommendation. My team is not going to allow just anyone into the family. I trust and value their opinions and judgment.

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Above: This ElectriCities outdoor campaign involved both internal and external creative teams.

What value does your company derive from your team’s partnership with outsiders?

Schiada: Fresh thinking. Costs limited to defined projects

Froehlich: The biggest value that the company receives is the ability to stay on top of the never-ending deadlines and continual peaks and valleys of workload that comes into the department. Working with both staffing agencies to recruit top talent for specific projects, and external agencies that have areas of expertise, allows us to be flexible and grow with the demand of the businesses.

What are the main benefits for your team when it comes to working with outside contributors?

Schiada: Fresh thinking. More capacity.

Froehlich: One of the main benefits for my team is the ability to relieve some of the pressure. We all know that we work in a very high-pressure and deadline-driven industry, and having the ability to outsource some work to allow my team to really focus on the large, strategic projects is proving to be a helpful strategy to keep employees engaged and growing.

What are the biggest challenges for your team?

Schiada: Having the right tools, the right projects and the right infrastructure in place so our creative team can deliver their best work are always our most important challenges.

Froehlich: Sometimes working with external resources means you have to be able to dedicate time to get them up to speed on the processes and goals of the project. Continually trying to move past the mindset of “I could do this faster myself” is helpful, because then you start to build a network of trusted partners that are there for you when you need them. This investment of time is well worth the ROI that you will receive.

Are there any prejudices you run up against with your internal clients when it comes to keeping a job in-house or working with outside collaborators? Do they place a higher value on your team’s work vs. an outside team’s or vice versa?

Schiada: We are in a state of transition. Some are beginning to understand the value of our newly minted strategic approach, creative capabilities and professional execution. I think like most places I’ve worked, business partners have a variety of expectations and filters through which they determine value. There is a freshness when you work with new, smart, energetic folks like some outside collaborators can provide. There also is tremendous value our internal clients hold on the long-term relationships and expertise of our internal team. So it’s always a mix.

Froehlich: For my team, it is not up to the client as to when we bring in external help, so we don’t actually run into that issue. The work all flows through my department and then we make the decision of when we need to engage outside collaborators.

What have you done to overcome those challenges (if applicable)?

Schiada: It sounds cliché, but early collaboration with them at the conceptual level allows them to participate in the creative process without driving it. In-house or outside, the challenge is the same, you gain confidence and credibility one project at a time.

Do you have a prescribed workflow for working with outside agencies, or does it vary from project to project? In general, how does the relationship work?

Schiada: We follow a very rigorous process to negotiate with outside suppliers before they are engaged in a project. But at the project level, the creative process varies with who commissioned the work and the scope of the project itself.

Froehlich: It varies a bit from project to project, but essentially we try to follow a similar workflow process that we adhere to in-house. This ensures that the quality is maintained and the same level of checks and balances stays in place.

Does working with outside agencies and contributors inspire and motivate you? How so?

Schiada: Yes, when they are genuinely focused on helping us solve the right problems, mostly because they are typically unencumbered with our internal workings and priorities, and often given more latitude to actually conceptualize a real solution to a problem instead of responding to a demand.

Froehlich: I think that it does. It allows for a fresh perspective on things and creatively it does keep you refreshed and renewed. I think that it also drives the team to want to continually learn more and to try new things, or look at something from a different angle. It also helps at times to have an outside perspective on our processes and workflow, sometimes pointing out where things can be more efficient and therefore more effective.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Schiada: My career has spanned some interesting opportunities. I’ve led in-house creative teams at Fortune 100 companies in the entertainment and aerospace industries; and offered my expertise to public and private sector clients as a creative director at prestigious brand studios, and with my own brand consultancy. In my view, there are some universal truths: 1) Creatives will always prioritize great work. 2) Business partners will always prioritize cost. But when both respect the value of what each brings to the table, and work together to reach an audience, the result is always powerful and effective.

Froehlich: I think it is important as an in-house creative department to understand that there can be a benefit to partnering with external collaborators, whether they are freelancers or external agencies. Our industry is changing so quickly every day that having those external resources allows you to continually grow, develop and be the best you can be.

Thank you all for you time and insight. 

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    Some of my best experiences as a Photographer have been my collaborations with Ed Roberts. When he has chosen me as a collaborator, I know it is because he wants me to bring my particular aesthetic to the project rather than trying to force my work in a contrary direction. Thanks for the opportunities Ed, I look forward to more in the future!