The case for going outside the company to develop messaging strategy and execute communication tactics.
Should you hire or outsource? It’s an important decision you’ve likely faced.
Hiring can be time-consuming and expensive. Or it can bring dynamic talent into your organization. However, outsourcing may provide only a temporary fix. Then again, it might add much-needed expertise and fresh eyes at a lower cost.
But does it work for a role as important as Communication Director or Marketing Manager?
Absolutely, says the International Association of Business Communicators. “The breadth and complexity of communication technology and the widely varied skills needed to communicate effectively to all audiences make it nearly impossible for a corporate communication department to do it all,” writes Kathy Collura.
Whether it’s avoiding expense or looking for outside-the-box thinking, companies across health care, technology, transportation, logistics and other industries are finding communication partners from the outside.
Is it right for you? Consider these advantages:
- Outside help can function independently, work within your team, or even lead it. Think of it as added flexibility. On-site or off-site, an outsourced manager can assist in a support role as an extra set of hands or take charge of a project that needs leadership. The longer he or she is on the team, processes become more seamless. They participate in planning discussions and then immediately get to work as soon as it’s green-lighted. No wasted time finding the right talent.<.li>
- Outsourced personnel will likely be removed from office politics and focus on the work. They bring maximum efficiency by attending essential meetings and skipping the rest. They’ll put their head down and work with a purpose. Only pay for the time you need them.
- An outsourced employee from a communication agency brings other resources. While these consultants are skilled in writing, editing and strategic planning, they also have a network of design, video, programming and fulfillment talent at their fingertips.
- Using a consultant avoids costs associated with an FTE (full-time employee). The average salary for a communication director is almost $138,000. What’s not included in that sum is benefits and payroll taxes. At 20 percent, that means an additional $27,600 for a total of nearly $166,000.
- Using a consultant means the relationship is more easily adjusted or severed. Not all arrangements work. If your outsourced hire is a flop, end it and move on. No additional money needs to be spent on severance.
- Outsourced communication directors can bring a fresh perspective and be a sounding board. Your ad-hoc help can serve as an objective third party to broaden your company’s thinking or weigh in on disputes. Some will have worked with other leading brands and may be able to share best practices in other industries. Outside help can offer subject matter expertise too. Benefits, compensation and risk management are non-core work areas that it pays to bring in a knowledgeable consultant.
Outside consultants are not a one-size-fits-all solution. For which projects are you hiring help? How much time is required? Can they work on-site? How will they work with their agency for support? Consider the answers to these questions before deciding.
Some other considerations:
- Some work requires consultants to work with vendors that are competitors. That can create awkward situations for your company and the consultant. Do all parties understand one another’s roles? Can they work together?
- Is the consultant a good fit culturally? If not, the arrangement can feel like the consultant is an outsider or hired gun.
- Is there a steep learning curve? If the project has a hard and fast deadline, you may need to require specific training from outside help.
- Depending on terms of arrangement, the consultant may have other work. You may not be the only client your on-site outsourced help has, especially if he or she is only working a set number of hours each week. Most arrangements are based on as-needed basis — sometimes 50 hours a week, sometimes 5. Set expectations in advance.
Outside specialists can help organizations work more efficiently, especially in the context of a trusted partnership. They can become an extension of your staff. You might even provide office space or give them access to the company intranet. But hiring from the outside adds complexity and requires intentional communication.
These suggestions can help guide you to a strong relationship:
- Treat your outside help as partners rather than another vendor. Make sure they are people with whom you enjoy working.
- If you use a project management system, insist that the partner does too.
- Define the work clearly in advance, including the budget, deadlines, delivery schedules, planning meeting times and expected outcomes. Defining responsibilities in writing helps avoid confusion and delays.
- Provide background information when necessary to speed up the work process.