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Three Tips to Building a Hybrid Communications Team

As the job mar­ket is spring­ing back to life and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tal­ent becomes hard­er to find, now may be the per­fect time to con­sid­er cre­at­ing or max­i­miz­ing a hybrid com­mu­ni­ca­tions team that blends in-house and out­sourced experts to get the job done. The Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness Com­mu­ni­ca­tors (IABC) Min­neso­ta chap­ter recent­ly host­ed a pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment pan­el dis­cus­sion on this hot top­ic. Host­ed by Tam­my Nien­aber, direc­tor of fran­chise com­mu­ni­ca­tion, enter­prise, at Self Esteem Brands and IABC Min­neso­ta vice pres­i­dent of pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment, and expert­ly facil­i­tat­ed by inde­pen­dent com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­al Lee Carey, pan­elists rep­re­sent­ed a range of per­spec­tives, including:

  • In-house com­mu­ni­ca­tions leader: Camie Melton Hani­ly, glob­al mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, hydraulics at Eaton Corporation
  • Freelance/independent con­trac­tor: Ellen Van­der Linden
  • Staffing solu­tions group: John Arnold, man­ag­ing part­ner and co-CEO at Celarity
  • Strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tion agency: Yours truly 😊

Lever­ag­ing agency part­ners or con­trac­tors as part of a hybrid team can bring a new, fresh per­spec­tive, ideas and ener­gy to an exist­ing team – as well as become an exten­sion of your team to pro­vide a spe­cial­ized skill on a project or ongo­ing basis, or off­set work­load if your exist­ing team’s band­width is too tight.

If you’re con­tem­plat­ing devel­op­ing or max­i­miz­ing your exist­ing hybrid team, here are a few key take­aways to con­sid­er from our conversation:

  • Con­sid­er the skill set and fre­quen­cy to deter­mine the best fit. Camie leads teams in the Amer­i­c­as and Europe that are split near­ly 50/50 between in-house, agency and con­trac­tor part­ners. The key fac­tors she looks to when decid­ing between hir­ing in-house or out­sourc­ing include the type of skill need­ed, how often that skill set is need­ed and if it requires a lot of expen­sive equip­ment (e.g. video equip­ment). If it’s with­in a fam­i­ly of skills that would be lever­aged fre­quent­ly, they typ­i­cal­ly hire in-house. If it’s a spe­cial­ized skill that would be lever­aged on occa­sion, they find an agency part­ner or con­trac­tor. For exam­ple, Camie sup­ple­ments her in-house team with con­trac­tors and agency part­ners for media buy­ing, graph­ic design, email man­age­ment, long-form writ­ing and video production.
  • Set clear goals and expec­ta­tions. It may sound like a no-brain­er, but this is a big­gie that can mean the dif­fer­ence between pos­i­tive results and total frus­tra­tion for both par­ties. John not­ed that when he’s match­ing tal­ent with clients, the most suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships are made when clients are crys­tal clear about what they’re look­ing for, bud­get para­me­ters, time­line, num­ber of hours, etc.
  • Pro­vide feed­back. Being Min­neso­ta Nice, it can feel dif­fi­cult to pro­vide feed­back to agency part­ners and con­trac­tors – but we wel­come and need feed­back to make sure we’re deliv­er­ing on our clients’ expec­ta­tions. At Bell­mont Part­ners, we sched­ule ongo­ing check-in con­ver­sa­tions with our clients to dis­cuss expec­ta­tions, any shifts in pri­or­i­ties or bud­gets, and make sure we’re all on the same page. At Celar­i­ty, they have an auto­mat­ed month­ly check-in email that goes to both the client and the con­trac­tor, ask­ing both sides to rate the part­ner­ship on a 10-point scale. If the response comes back at any­thing oth­er than a 9 or 10, they ask for more feed­back and com­mu­ni­cate with both the con­trac­tor and the client, bring­ing them togeth­er to make them aware of and fix trou­ble spots.

Your hybrid team – whether it includes agency part­ners and/or con­trac­tors – should be col­lab­o­ra­tive, flex­i­ble and trans­par­ent, which are our core val­ues. For tips on find­ing a good agency fit, be sure to check out this post. And if you’d like to dis­cuss part­ner­ing as you build your hybrid team, we’d love to hear from you and explore how we can sup­port your team’s goals and needs.

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