Should a brand keep content production in house, outsource or hybrid the model for optimised customer engagement? | DMA

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Should a brand keep content production in house, outsource or hybrid the model for optimised customer engagement?


The social media council has been focusing on the dynamics between brands and agencies looking at the relationship and the ownership of content distribution and customer engagement on social media platforms.

The questions of “Where do the best skills lie?” and “Who is best placed to manage this?” has been rolling across UK industry for some time now. For many of the C Suite CMO’s, Marketing Directors or Procurement Directors at brands, the badge of working with the most reputable or fashionable agencies has caused ripples with those working at lower levels who believe they can strategize, create and manage as well as any other outside agency can.

With brands now hiring better talent with broader ranges of digital skills, often competing with agencies for that talent, is it a wonder the dynamics of the age-old client/agency relationship are now being questioned and tested?

The facts are now there for all to see, a recent ISBA Report commissioned by Future Thinking learned that 39% of brands have an in-house agency, 33% have an on-site agency, 16% of brands have both. More so, the growth of the different agency, in-house or on-site partnerships across brands has changed enough that OLIVER has focused on developing on-site agencies as part of their integral growth strategy.

58% of US brands operate with in-house agencies the ANA, 2013

It leads us to the focus of this article on content production, which looks at which model suits your brand best and why, is it:

  1. The outside agency?
  2. The in-house agency?
  3. The on-site agency?
  4. The Hybrid (any combination of the above)?

Before we start looking at the actual partnership style, let’s look at the core components that are required to start, maintain and report on content. There are 4 elements:

  • Strategy
  • Engagement
  • Creative/Content
  • Reporting & Data


This is the best topic to challenge first. Many of those working at the brands will feel they are better placed to devise the content strategy as they are in the brand and understand what they are setting out to achieve. There are, however, lots of other questions that need answering in order to create the strategy. Asking yourself if you have the answers or need external help to the questions below is a good starting point on deciding who creates the strategy:

  • How will we select the channels and suitability?
  • What will be the balance of Paid/Organic?
  • What is your competition doing?
  • What is the business objective?
  • What is the budget?
  • How much, and what type of content is required?

What are the key messages?

  • Call to action
  • Why do we want to say it?

How will we align/schedule the Campaign/Messaging?

  • Are there key Dates – is it always on? Campaign vs Seasonal
  • What are the milestones for content planning?

How will we defining and reaching your audience?

  • Data (3rd party) etc. Previous experience and previous relationships
  • Who are the key audiences? (who/personas)

How will we optimise the process?

  • a/b testing, multi variation?


Brands are conscious of the “tone of voice” and customer service response times on social media. With platforms providing the tools for communities to immediately reward or punish them, this is far most the most important factor in the social media management of content.

Different types of content will require and deliver different levels of engagement.

So, who manages this and what questions should you be asking to establish whether you can manage this in-house?

  • How will you define and measure engagement?
    • What do you want the customer to do?
    • What is your attribution window for this?
  • Can you internally manage all the Languages/Religion/channels?
  • How will you deal with replies and engagement with the end user?
  • How are we going to engage with the audience?
    • Is it personal or automated?


The content you create will produce data.

When looking at data, the first thing that springs to mind is how much do you as a brand want to share data with an external agency?

If the data and the manipulation of that for reporting is managed in-house, then the brand may get an opportunity to react more quickly and assess the productivity of the agency independently? Not saying that an agency can’t also react in the same way, but could there be a desire to prove the set strategy is correct and persevere rather than change course mid campaign? Reflective assessment of a failed campaign ultimately is a failed campaign!!

Here are some of the questions brands should be asking:

  • Who is measuring the results?
    • Can you track what has worked in the past?
    • What are the KPIs and can you measure them yourself?
  • Who is responsible for Compliance?
    • What does the sign off chain look like?
    • Are there multiple Stakeholders and can they be managed by the internal team?
    • Who is ultimately responsible?
  • How will you deliver Crisis management?
    • Do you need internal and external Contacts?
  • What type of Reporting is required?
    • Frequency?
    • What feedback do you require?
  • What are levels of Data security needed?
  • Who is responsible for GDPR?


The final subject to discuss in the role of the brand and the agency in content creation is the production of the actual content. Having looked at many articles and garnered feedback from peers and clients the picture is quite blurred.

Some seem to feel that a brand should produce some, but not all of their content – and this is obvious where the skill set simply isn’t in-house.

Other brands like Unilever, Red Bull and PepsiCo have taken their creative in-house and developing in-house agencies to support this.

Questions a brand could ask are:

  • Do you have the capacity and expertise within your company?
  • Who produces them the Images, videos, etc?
  • Who sets and ensures the Branding and corporate tone of voice?
  • How will Content Amplification be managed?
  • How will Opinion be managed?
    • safe/controversial
    • Wider world within and externally – how to react (agile?)/Alerts/what are the boundaries?
    • Making sure transparency is there
  • Who will complete the Meta Data?

Ultimately times are changing and these questions will be asked over and over in the coming year by brands. Ensuring you have a great content strategy, and produce outstanding, measurable creative which engages with consumers is essential. Deciding who delivers it can only be done by asking the right questions.


  1. To insource, outsource or a bit of both?
  2. Should you manage customer service through social media in-house, externally or through a combination of both?
  3. Can an agency ever really GET my brand as well as me?
  4. Insourcing or outsourcing social media customer services: Do you have the legal expertise to keep it in-house?
  5. Should you outsource the evaluation of your paid social content?
  6. Should a brand keep content production in house, outsource or hybrid the model for optimised customer engagement?
  7. What skills are needed to create valuable content for your brand?
  8. In-house or outsource: How does a brand decide the best way to grow its community with paid media?
  9. Social Media Community Management - Outsource to Agency or keep in-house?
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