Should digital strategists say goodbye to their jobs?

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Okay, so maybe we’re not there yet. But what will all these “Social media”, “Digital”, “Mobile” and “Online” strategists do when online and conventional marketing truly become integrated. Can we still justify the hyper specialisation and fragmentation surrounding digital strategy? Are these titles still relevant in an integrated 360 degree advertising world?

What is digital strategy anyway? Is it a real title or just a fancy name we give ourselves to make us feel special? It feels impressive, calling yourself a digital strategist hanging around with other like-minded “strategists”. Frequently it is nothing more than back slapping with little actual action. Just because you set up a Facebook page does not make you a strategist.

Right, rant over. So, what makes you a digital strategist in the first place?

I had a look through some “Digital Strategy” job descriptions and they basically all say the same thing. The role involves defining opportunities and insights by evaluating the client objectives, customer needs, capabilities/assets, analytical data and competitive realities blah blah blah… So what is the difference between this and brand strategy? Um, an understanding of digital technologies? (Light bulb moment, right there).

Sounds great, but what happens when brand planners become more familiar with these technologies? Do we become obsolete?

At best, digital strategists become shiny new tools used to sell pitches, educate clients and talk at conferences throwing around Twitter stats. They will find themselves getting creative ideas and briefs from traditional art directors and planners to “Make the idea digital”. Such directors treat digital strategy like it’s a simple Google translator application that converts paper-based ideas to interactive ones. We become tactical which well just isn’t strategic enough.

So we change routes, and demand that digital be involved upfront from the conceptual phase. We include our traditional and digital agency in briefs upfront but at the end of the day, the client just wants one agency that can do all the planning. We don’t have radio, television and print strategist and creatives, so do we need special digital ones?

The truth is we won’t. That is, if we see digital strategy as a purely marketing function.

Marketing is evolving to include digital in traditional planning stages. Digital is becoming part of the core business model, from customer care technologies, to finding new engagement platforms that live beyond campaigns and reside at the heart of your business intelligence and efficiency.

Whatever happens, your average digital strategist won’t be cast to the streets just yet, but they will need to rise up to the ever changing challenges of the world around them update their skills and adapt. They will also have to build touch points with every area within the agency and business, and challenge new ways of thinking.

It’s time to drop the “specialist” mentality. Let’s lose the titles and focus on expanding our skills. You can evolve your “specialist skill” while still developing generalist understanding. A smart man said recently “Specialisation leads to limitation, generalists change the world”.

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  • a Strategist

    I think it is a natural progression that the traditional marketing function will eventually encapsulate digital strategy. As you have said digital strategists are people that understand the technologies behind digital. Also an understanding of the advertising model (CPC, CPM & so forth). 

    In a couple of year there will be no “digital marketing”, it will all just be marketing. 
    Strategy is strategy, as long as you understand your brand,client,company,consumer & medium. 

  • Gjd21777

    What a crap article! Jeez, I’m unsubsribing. This site gets worse & worse.

  • Ivan Ayliffe

    “They will also have to build touch points with every area within the agency and business, and challenge new ways of thinking.”
    I’m a ‘Digital Strategist’. Fancy title, I know. But I don’t understand why I should ‘build touchpoints’ or ‘challenge new thinking’. If anything, I should be challenging old thinking and breaking down yesterday’s structures that just don’t fit anymore because they can’t keep up.

    Digital was once called ‘New Media’ i.e. when it was new.

    A digital strategist is just someone who applies critical thinking and analysis, makes a plan from the insights and employs whatever medium it takes to deliver a campaign success, however it’s defined.

  • @romysalant

    @Gjd21777 thanks for the feedback ;)

    @Ivan Ayliffe For transparency sake: I am in fact a “digital strategist”, working in an ATL agency and the article was meant to open the debate. Often digital strategy is becoming the responsibility of traditional planners and I think this is where the unrest follows. “New thinking: refers to the models that show digital as part of strategy as normal rather than separate roles.
     
    At the end of the day, its how you see Digital and refining our roles as strategists to become full-service planners that can integrate on marketing campaigns but can also engage beyond marketing to digitalise the entire business from Customer Service to PR.

  • @romysalant

    @Gjd21777 thanks for the feedback ;)

    @Ivan Ayliffe For transparency sake: I am in fact a “digital strategist”, working in an ATL agency and the article was meant to open the debate. Often digital strategy is becoming the responsibility of traditional planners and I think this is where the unrest follows. “New thinking: refers to the models that show digital as part of strategy as normal rather than separate roles.
     
    At the end of the day, its how you see Digital and refining our roles as strategists to become full-service planners that can integrate on marketing campaigns but can also engage beyond marketing to digitalise the entire business from Customer Service to PR.

  • Ivan Ayliffe

    You nailed it with “refining our roles as strategists to become full-service planners”.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisLazley Chris Lazley

    great points, interesting, impeccably written.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Larissa-Fainberg/695975076 Larissa Fainberg

    Great article, Romy! I definitely agree that the only way for digital strategy to truly “survive” and be relevant is to be involved in the overal as strategy of the campaign. This is an already established practice with your conventional above-the-line media (print, radio, tv), and digital is often treated as a nice “extra”, an after- thought campaign booster on the side. But case studies a-plenty have already demons

  • http://www.facebook.com/Lil.Totty Nkuka Mulenga

    Great read. thank you :)

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