Be that Catalyst for Change

This is What I Do VideoBe that Catalyst for Change
By Ed Roberts

In a recent post, I wrote about the importance of building rich, collaborative relationships within your local advertising and design community. This is more than a personal development goal but one of several core values set for my entire in-house team. In fact, just before writing this post, my team and I met with the principals and designers of an outside graphic design and marketing communications firm at Big Boss Brewing Company. It was great sitting in the taproom “kickin it” with the person I’ve only shared emails with, swapping professional and mostly personal stories, and in the end, making real connections as opposed to virtual ones. Our email exchanges will never be the same. Our future business interactions will most definitely be richer.


Building rich, collaborative relationships externally is key to the developmental growth and success of your in-house team. It helps build the awareness of and mutual respect for each individual contributor, broadening your entire team’s circle of influence. How? Well, for example my team has a lunch date set with members of another outside marketing communications firm who’s equally excited to meet and have us review samples of their most recent work. They reached out to us because they have been impressed with the quality of work we’re producing in-house. They expressed interest in partnering with us by taking on our overflow work. Our overflow work, folks! That’s a real game changer in the external perception of our in-house team. I, as an in-house manager, welcome that change as a morale booster for my team.


Building rich, collaborative relationships can also be much more than meeting other teams for lunch or drinks after work. Stepping outside your comfort zone in-house and committing to collaborate with peers externally on a worthy cause builds character and a reputation of leadership for both you and your team.


Authentically caring about a problem and trying to improve your community or industry by partnering with your external peers to solve that problem will transform you into a catalyst for change.


I’ve been a member of the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation for several years. Last summer I accepted an invitation to participate on our local chapter’s board as the diversity committee chair. I was tasked with engaging and educating high school students from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds about the advertising industry through a mentoring program. Basically, my job was to set up a weeklong summer internship where high school students would job shadow professionals working in local advertising agencies, in-house studios, video production companies, marketing communication and PR firms.


The catch: no prior committee had ever been able to successfully launch this program even though the goal was to place only one high school student at an agency. Looking back I remember thinking that I may have stepped just a little too far outside my comfort zone. So much so, that I thought I might ruin the reputation of my in-house team by failing disastrously as the committee chair. I had nightmares that I’d go into the local gas station and see my face, only my face, on the cover of The Slammer with the following headline: Ed Roberts, Failure, MISERABLE FAILURE! At the time, I was a committee of one and scared completely to death of failure.


One morning I was sitting in a creative meeting with my team of in-house superheroes and I thought about all those rich, collaborative external relationships we built over the last four years. Long story short, my team agreed to join the committee along with many of the folks with whom we built relationships. Together we developed a marketing campaign to promote the summer internship that included a recruitment video, posters, direct mail pieces and t-shirts. We met with local advertising industry leaders as well as over 700 high school students to discuss the importance of diversifying the advertising industry and educating students from rural areas about the various career opportunities that are available in the field.

AAF-RDU Summer Internship Recruitment Posters

As of today we have selected 13 students to participate in our first summer internship. The act of simply stepping outside my comfort zone has been incredibly rewarding. The students, my in-house team and all the folks we’ve built genuine relationships with over the years are extremely excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish together. The moral of this post is: Building rich, collaborative relationships can lead you to becoming a catalyst for change. To quote the indomitable Martha Stewart, “That’s a good thing.”


The opening image is a behind the scenes photograph taken of the committee on a Wednesday at 11 p.m. while wrapping up the filming of our recruitment video titled “This is What I Do.”


160x160_SuperTLike what you read here? Join us at the InHOWse Managers Conference June 22-­24 in San Francisco for more great information from our in-house experts and your peers! Plus, I’ll be giving a live, webinar presentation on how to supercharge your in-house team on July 24 – sign up today!


Ed Roberts is a Creative Director who has assembled a brilliant in-house team of strategic, creative superheroes. Together they recently won 16 ADDY’s and three Telly awards for print, Web and broadcast work developed for ElectriCities of NC, an organization that manages billions of dollars in electric generation assets and serves over 500,000 consumers. Follow Ed (@InHouseObs) on Twitter for more inspiration and insight.