Why You Shouldn’t Hire a New Head of Digital to Lead Your Digital Transformation

Over the last five years, we’ve seen a big push for digital transformation. This is especially true as different markets race to be the most innovative, the most tech savvy, and meet users’ needs while still creating efficiencies that impact the bottom line. What started as a push led by the retail industry ––  simplifying the conversion to be as quick as possible –– we now see the financial industry and government institutions trying to keep up with the same advances on digital that exist in 2018.

Every company has its own reason for digital transformation, but in general, enterprises want to:

  • Innovate and cut through in a noisy landscape
  • Meet the ever-changing needs and demands of users
  • Stay relevant
  • Improve processes, both internal and with customers, that are labor-intensive and inefficient
  •  Maximize revenue and profit margins from increased sales and improved operational efficiencies

What’s wrong with having a Head of Digital in your team structure?

With this challenge comes a slew of new fancy job titles and departments that should make any marketer question how it impacts his or her own role: Head of Digital, Director of Digital Marketing, Director of Digital Engagement, Digital Director, Marketing & Comms Director for Digital Identity.

In my experience, a digital transformation rollout typically goes something like this:

  1. Senior leadership recognizes they are desperate to appeal to a younger demographic if they want to stay in business, because in 10+ years “these kids will grow up to be our future customers.”
  2. Teams scramble to validate the senior leadership’s claim, putting together a business case for why they should invest in digital.
  3. A new business plan is approved by senior leadership and everyone is excited about hiring a new Director of Digital Engagement who will transform the entire company, increase revenue by 500% and save lives.

This is more common than you think. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, when this new digital person is brought on to change the company in such a dramatic way, they are usually worn out, exhausted and feel like giving up only a few months into the job. Why?

Because when companies embark on the digital transformation journey, they do so with the wrong attitude: an ‘us vs. them’ approach. They create a culture in which one person or small department is solely responsible for embracing digital, which essentially sets them up to fail.

I have worked with a countless number of clients over the years who say, “THAT team does the digital stuff, it’s just not for me.” It turns the entire digital transformation project into a one-department crusade for change, and people naturally do not like change.

What I find to be most disturbing is when these digital roles are created in tandem with the traditional roles. For example, most senior digital clients I work with have colleagues at the same level with the title “Head of Marketing.” Shouldn’t all marketing in 2018 have a core focus on digital, thereby making it an essential part of their job description? This segregation undermines the professional experience of the marketing lead and gives a false impression that the digital lead can just “put what the marketing team is doing online.”

How to advance your digital strategy

The good news is that there are companies out there who are embracing their digital transformation at the core of their business, not just as a desperate race to make more money for their shareholders. They are committed to advancing their digital strategy. Top tips we can see from companies who are doing it the right way:

  • Involve experts. This is a massive change management undertaking and you will lose employees in the shrapnel if you try to move too fast without laying the groundwork. Bring in consultants, digital agencies, change management professionals, your phone-obsessed teenager, to help.
  • Revise all job specs in the company to be more holistic. Don’t allow people to “opt out” of digital. You got them to start using email 20 years ago, right?
  • Don’t be age-ist to yourself or others. You are never too old to embrace digital unless you want to keep blaming the millennials. There are so many free resources online, and we all learn best by doing. Roll up your sleeves, ask the right questions and Google what you don’t know.
  • Get excited about your digital transformation. You’re going to improve processes that give your team headaches and reach your customers more easily. And everyone is on the journey together, so have some fun while learning something new.
  • You are more digitally savvy than you know. You’re reading this on a desktop or mobile phone right now, which means you consume content in the same way most people do – through a device. Notice how you interact with digital throughout the day and how your observations could apply to the work you do.

How we’re embracing our digital transformation at Proof Strategies

You may have noticed the irony of the argument for not having a specific digital role coming from the new VP of Digital Strategy here at Proof Strategies – it’s not lost on me.

As part of our recent rebrand to Proof Strategies and our growth plans for the year ahead, we recognized that sometimes it’s essential to have someone with dedicated experience in digital who can bring cohesion across the teams, not just be a lone champion for change.

With over a decade of experience in marketing that happens to be on digital platforms, I’m here to train our D.C. team and ignite the fire within them to opt-in to digital. And let me tell you – not only is this a talented bunch of writers and PR professionals, every single person on this team is eager to learn and wants nothing more than to help their clients succeed.

I’m here to ask the right questions and make sure our clients are making the most out of their marketing and communications efforts.  Why are we creating content for a brand’s blog and not as a landing page or as sponsored content? Where are our client’s customers online – what are they doing and how do they consume content? What are we trying to achieve in terms of ROI? Because “brand awareness” and “engagement” as a business objective won’t cut it unless you can show me an accurate and concise way in which you can measure it.

Let’s start being honest with ourselves about how the landscape is changing for all marketers. Let’s agree to no longer categorize ourselves as traditional or digital marketers but work together, teach one another and make these digital transformations a success.


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