A Modern, Blended Family: Five Tips for Agency and In-House Creative Collaboration

By Miriam Bookey, CSO

Two decades ago, when Redbird was known as Mind Over Media, our clients made products and provided services while we made their marketing assets – simple as that. If a client had an in-house creative team, it was likely for product and packaging design. For almost all communications, advertising, and branded content, they looked to us.

In the digital-first, always-on era, many brands we work with have creatives in house — creative directors, brand managers, designers, and copywriters — who create everything from daily social media posts to offline experiences. There’s just too much content to create (and too many platforms) not to! 

So, we’ve evolved. Today, with almost all of our clients, Redbird acts as an extension of the in-house team. We bring multi-industry best practices and fresh thinking, while their internal teams bring the passion and help us learn the brand language so we can make magic happen together.

Here are my five tips for agencies who wish to successfully work with in-house creatives.

  1. Build partnership into your proposal. If you know your prospective client has enthusiastic creatives, assure them that you’ll happily act as an extension of their team. Mention specific team members or roles in your proposal and get specific about your intentions as partners instead of making generalizations. 
  2. Kick-off with an energetic workshop. A face-to-face confab is a great opportunity to find talent, get alignment, and win project champions. In this workshop, you can confirm goals, develop a RACI, excavate client knowledge and documents, brainstorm audience needs, map out user journeys, etc. Don’t be afraid to lean into each other’s strengths in this moment. 
  3. Create cloud-based project plans and updates. Find a method that is easily accessed by ALL client and agency stakeholders so you can surface opportunities for client teams to weigh in and contribute ongoing (see #4). Our faves are simple but tried and true: Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Slack. 
  4. Co-create co-create co-create. Whenever possible, work directly with the in-house creatives to weigh in, add to, or help evolve the work. We’ve found, consistently, that our clients love to participate in works-in-progress. Plus, insider perspectives can add immeasurably to the work’s impact.
  5. Celebrate with acknowledgment. If a member of the in-house team participates in the work, ensure they get credit for their contributions. This helps everyone feel a sense of ownership and pride in the work, driving all to a successful long-term partnership.

By blending teams, we find efficiencies, help eliminate redundancies, and make everyone’s job more purposeful and delightful. And best yet, we build longstanding trust and relationships with our clients — and their entire teams.

Cover Photo: Remixed Illustration from Pablo Stanley’s Open Doodle Library