Insourcing Helps Higher Ed Marketers Cope with New Communications and Marketing Demands
Insourcing Helps Higher Ed Marketers Cope with New Communications and Marketing Demands


Insourcing Helps Higher Ed Marketers Cope with New Communications and Marketing Demands

Sep 24, 2019By Michael Stoner

Marketing industry trend watchers have identified and are following a relatively new strategy used by for-profit companies to meet the need for expertise in emerging marketing channels: It’s called insourcing. This is when an organization uses its own staff or resources to accomplish tasks that formerly were outsourced to third-party partners.

The Shift to Insourcing

Marketing industry analysts confirm that insourcing is increasingly common. For example, this year, “marketers continue their inhousing shift, with 78% of marketers reporting some form of an in-house team today, up from 58% five years ago.” The roles that most companies are bringing in-house include “content, creative strategy, analytics, media strategy, programmatic, and social media.”

We see a similar shift happening in higher ed. Many institutions are developing more robust in-house creative capabilities and charging these teams with the responsibility for brand strategy, creative execution, and content creation and distribution across print and various digital channels.

Savvy institutions are supercharging insourcing by balancing their internal capacity with outsourced capabilities for special projects or work that requires expertise or special skills that can’t be brought in-house. An internal creative team may direct day-to-day activities and handle a much greater range of creative implementation themselves. They’ll augment their capabilities by working with external specialists for large projects that require larger teams or specialized skills that may not be found on campus for projects such as market research, brand refreshes, and website redesigns.

In the past, external partners for these projects might have provided a much greater range of services. Under the new model, partners may conduct focus group and surveys that guide an in-house team’s creative development. Or external creative development may consist of prototypes and templates rather than a suite of fully realized brand deliverables, once more typical of this kind of outsourced relationship.

Four implications of this shift that are particularly significant:

  1. Specialization: When building an in-house team, a leader needs to think carefully about what capabilities the institution really needs in-house and what it can outsource. For example, with training and some help from specialty firms and freelancers, institutions can often cover their SEO needs. But beware: It may be too costly to hire someone for a full-time role on the inside when competing against private industry for the best staff. For example, it’s very difficult for colleges and universities to hire highly skilled programmers when startups and other businesses offer much greater financial incentives and benefits. That’s one reason why many institutions are moving away from customized or homegrown solutions — which were the gold standard in higher ed in the past — to cloud-based services. They can no longer afford to hire the skilled staff to develop and maintain those systems.
  2. Training: In-house teams need ongoing training to do their work more effectively. Leaders should anticipate larger budgets for training and staff development. The good news is that many great training resources are available online. And rather than sending a dozen people to various conferences with costly travel, many institutions save money by bringing experts to campus to provide in-person training or by purchasing online courses that any staff member can access. For example, we’ve sent mStoner team members to campuses to conduct immersive training in storytelling, using resources from the host campus to illustrate how content creation and storytelling can be done effectively right there, on-site. And we’ve conducted experience mapping exercises, with a train-the-trainer approach, to help teams understand and better serve the needs of key audiences.
  3. Collaboration: Collaboration becomes even more essential when in-house teams turn to external partners to help with projects that require a heavy lift. It’s always been the case that the best results are achieved when internal staff and members of the external team view each other as partners, not as a client and vendor. That’s even more so today, when creative strategy may be led by an on-campus team member who doesn’t have expertise in user experience or content strategy for the web. For a successful web redesign, it’s crucial that the team member work well with an external team, welcoming the special expertise they bring to the project. At the same time, that team must respect the knowledge that the internal staff has of their institution and its brand.
  4. Trusted relationships: The new model for higher ed marketing teams may look something like the “inexternal agency” described in a recent Marketing Insider blog post. The writer notes that the inexternal agency becomes a “seamless extension of their clients’ growing internal teams.” The best way for outside partners to add greater value to the work of an in-house team is to be engaged in a long-term relationship in which both organizations can trust each other. Then they can set goals and work together to meet them.

Skill Up Your Higher Ed Marketing and Communications Team

It doesn’t take long to realize that while there are plenty of challenges in the ever-changing media landscape, there are also many ways in which institutions can extend their capabilities, both internally and externally. At mStoner, we’ve developed three in-depth on demand courses to help higher ed marketing teams skill up.

Advanced Marketing for Higher Education Websites

Are you seeing signs that your website needs some TLC? Whether you’re planning for a content refresh, getting buy-in for a full-scale redesign, or executing other high-impact web projects, this course on advanced website marketing will help you level up for the task.

Get ready to transform the way your institution approaches the web.

Digital Marketing for Higher Education

Digital marketing encompasses everything about your institution’s online presence and is essential to your college or university’s marketing and communications strategy. It can help you build brand awareness, promote academic programs, reach prospective students, and tell your institution’s unique story.

Educate your entire team in the latest digital marketing strategies and trends.

Digital Storytelling for Higher Education 

Storytelling plays a significant role in helping colleges and universities reveal and build their brand. This course is designed to help your marketers, writers, and content strategists expand their storytelling skills. Upon completion, you’ll have concrete tools and tactics for producing, deploying, measuring, and optimizing story content.

Learn the essential elements of on-brand digital storytelling to engage your most important audiences.

  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?