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I have been thinking about the role of the digital strategist recently, how will it be affected by the ‘lumpy’ nature of innovation and mainstream adoption. When I started in PR many things that were now mainstream were cutting edge: online press rooms, online journalism, sending pitches through by email.
As the fax machine finally got binned after we forgot how to programme in 100 number to do a fax blast and the press kits folders that used to be stuffed into envelopes became grey with dust in the stationery cupboard, technology started to evolve again.
The role of a digital strategist is cyclical, but is it economically sustainable as a specialist career?
With this in mind, I threw it up as a question on twitter as I was putting up a status post, below is the conversation with Stephen Waddington, Chris Reed and James Warren that came out of it.
r c: Busy on a workback schedule. When do you think the role of a digital strategist will be dead? My money is on soon.
James Warren: @r_c why soon?
r c: @jamesdotwarren because if ppl dont understand how to think about it soon they’re roadkill, so less specialist strategic thinking required
Stephen Waddington: @r_c everyone in PR in comms needs to be a digital strategist. agencies should be reskilling all staff if they haven’t already
r c: @wadds so the role of the specialist in the area should disappear as it becomes a hygiene factor
James Warren: @r_c agree, if time froze now. but there’ll always be new ‘digitals’ (technologies, techniques, outlets, opportunities, skills) to master
r c: @jamesdotwarren these things come in waves, we are near the end of the current one &also much of it is about a state of mind as bits n bytes
James Warren: @r_c agree it’s about state of mind. but digital won’t stop evolving, not sure we’re at the end of a wave. yet.
r c: @jamesdotwarren but does it require digitial strategists as a specialism or will it be a hygiene factor 4 all marketers and PRs & planners?
James Warren: @r_c bit of both. digital fluency is requirement for all, but I still see a role for digital specialists in creating/playing with new stuff
Chris Reed: @r_c Ah – the generalist specialist debate. Everyone will need digital skills. But some people will always be cutting edge. Same as all PR?
r c: @Chris_Reed I was thinking about the digital lifecycle: 1997 – press rooms are the new new thing, email woah! 2008 similar parallels
Chris Reed: @r_c i’m with you now.1997 – Rapid rebuttal unit – now mainstream. Online reputation management soon to be mainstream… So yes, I agree.
James Warren: @r_c which was my (kind of) point – there’ll always be something else round the corner we’ll need to keep abreast of
140 characters doesn’t allow you to have a full-on debate but it also focuses the communicator on their core message or soundbite. As for the question, I think that there’s more life in the idea of a digital strategist yet. I am less sure that the continuation of a digital strategist as a discipline is necessarily a good thing. I think that the digital strategist is bad for brands. They focus on the platform over the job to be done. They focus on sales and don’t understand the whole picture of brand marketing.
Performance marketing favoured by digital strategist types are really sales teams. Just in the same way that businesses moved in the 20th century from being sales culture businesses to marketing led businesses.
Of course, feel free to add your own comment or twitter @r_c with your viewpoint and I’ll update them here. More related content here.