Creative Circle’s expanding “Creative outsourcing” service is helping the Inland Press Association improve everything it produces. Inland outsourced its design, marketing and production duties to Creative Circle in 2015. Creative Circle’s team now produces all of Inland’s brochures, e-blasts, signage and marketing materials. The Creative Circle team manages the Inland web site and produces the association’s monthly publication, The Inlander, out of its office in East Providence, R.I.
“Our goal is to touch everything Inland produces and upgrade it every time we touch it,” says Bill Ostendorf, president and founder of Creative Circle Media Solutions. “We’re talking about hundreds of documents, forms, brochures and a web site, weekly e-blasts and the monthly Inlander. Our goal with all our outsourcing clients is to steadily raise the quality and effectiveness of everything we touch.”
Upgrading the The Inlander, the Inland Press Association’s publication for its 1,100 members, involved a gradual tweaking of the design, installing more up-to-date typography and more intelligently packaged content along with a production plan that will keep it that way.
“With The Inlander, it was really more of a shift in philosophy. The look of it was not a dramatic change,” said Ostendorf, “but we’re really are trying to improve how stories are illustrated, headlined and packaged.”
“We needed a fresher approach,” said Inlander editor Mark Fitzgerald, and it has paid off. “All our social media is up. We have moved from success to success in our Linkedin group.”
The redesign of the Inlander updated the logo and made the visuals more prominent, said Creative Circle’s lead designer, Lynn Rognsvoog, who oversees Creative Circle’s outsourcing work.
The big benefits were:
> Packaging. The redesign offers more complex and thorough packages for readers.
> Multiple entry points. By breaking up the text with subheadings, bullet points and breakout boxes, more careful packaging allows readers to enter the text in multiple ways, which capitalizes on the modern reading patterns.
> Relevant photography. We’re relying less on clip art, snapshots and handouts and trying harder to make sure we have photos that are photojournalistically driven.
“All of it brings more value to Inland’s members as they read the Inlander,” said Rognsvoog.
“Ironically, we redesigned The Inlander ten years ago and now we’re redesigning that redesign,” said Ostendorf. It not only needed an update, he said, but the content, mission and strategy had changed somewhat. “We actually do this quite a bit because conditions are changing. We’ve redesigned some of our newspaper clients three or four times.”
From Inland’s perspective, outsourcing the production work to Creative Circle only made sense, said Patty Slusher, director of membership and programming. “We were so inconsistent.”
Consistency is exactly what Creative Circle does, Slusher noted. Without staff training and oversight, many designs start to decline into disorder after a certain point, almost from the day they launch. The look of Inland’s house ads, brochures and marketing material had become a disarray of colors, logos, fonts and approaches. With Creative Circle, it’s always appealing and consistent, she said.
Making a plan for production for all Inland’s material turned out to be a small step that solved a big problem, Slusher said. Now, she knows she can rely on strong design that also always conveys Inland’s brand and she can concentrate on developing the messages. “It’s almost a relief,” she said.
For clients, the benefit of outsourcing the design goes way beyond convenience and consistency, Rognsvoog pointed out. Clients gain from the breadth and depth of experience that Creative Circle brings to the decision-making, planning and execution because Creative Circle designers gain a diverse range of perspectives from working with many different organizational cultures. That allows the Creative Circle team to bring more solutions to the table, she said.
Slusher said participation in Inland’s webinars and other programs are up significantly since Creative Circle took over the e-blasts that promote them. Those e-blasts were completely redesigned and are now more targeted, which Slusher said appears to have led to the increase in registrations.
For the most part, organizations like Inland are not in the business of publishing a newspaper for their members. At Creative Circle, Rognsvoog said, “that’s part of our DNA. We know how to publish a newspaper on time and in an attractive manner.”
“Our ‘creative outsourcing’ process is an opportunity for any publication, association or company to upgrade all their communications – or just key elements or special projects – by drawing on the extensive experience of designers and editors who have worked on every conceivable kind of communication or project,” said Rognsvoog.
Creative Circle doesn’t do the kind of outsourcing that is now common among newspapers where you ship pages or ads to some centralized hub that can mass produce things and squeeze down the price. “That has some value and we have created centralized production hubs for many of our clients,” said Ostendorf. “But this is different. We saw a need to take some products to a higher level, something that is difficult for many of our clients who have laid off their photo editors, designers and graphic designers.”
Ostendorf said the team has produced books, marketing materials, high-end ad campaigns, house ads, special sections and targeted publications for its clients so far. “I think we provide something no one else can offer and it has become one of the fastest growing areas of our business,” said Ostendorf. “If they want something done really well, at a higher level than they can do themselves, our clients can turn to us and get reliable, impactful results.”
Increasingly, he expects Creative Circle’s outsourcing will expand beyond newspapers to more associations, universities and businesses who can benefit from the kind of content-oriented, user-friendly and professional kind of editing, design and production a team of experienced newspaper editors can provide.