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Redefining yourself: always in beta

Posted on Saturday, 8th June, 2013

A few years ago I wrote about how the role of ad agencies have changed and how my experience led me to be a more strategic marketer.

I also waxed poetic on what it is that a digital strategist does because no one could articulate it.

Fast forward 2 years this all continues to morph b/c the marketing industry remains in a perpetual state of beta —as do those whom work in the field.

We Will ALWAYS Be In A Perpetual State of Beta

What the hell does that mean?

The entire industry continues to recalibrate their mindset so product marketing and advertising co-exist with environmental shifts as they arise, whether they be cultural or technological; we need to make sure we build, learn, iterate. Lather rinse repeat.

Times have changed as to how we approach building strategies and how we go about executing against them….which also applies to the roles we play in doing so.

 

What’s in a title? Are they meaningless? Do we need them?

Take my title: SVP Digital Strategy & Planning. One could assume that I spend hours reading through customer, brand and category insights and overlay them with cultural and technological trends to inform a strategic approach that activates the customer (read: get them to do what you want them to) through 1 of 100 digital channels. Yes I do that. I will likely deliver a playbook to show how, what and where to activate/execute off the insights.

BUT, if you asked me what I did for a living in 5 minutes I would say

  • Research
  • Audit
  • Think
  • Define
  • Create
  • Grow
  • Measure
  • Refine

That goes just as much for client-based work as it does for identifying and scaling new internal agency capabilities as well as external partnerships.

I’m starting to believe that titles are not indicative to “a day in the life of.”

These days we see sooooo many new titles:

  • Creative technologist
  • Experience planner
  • Chief Innovation Officer
  • Chief Experience Officer
  • Channel planner
  • Communications planner
  • Digital strategist
  • Strategist
  • Planner

(Happy to say I have not seen the re-emergence of the word ninja, thank god…and well, sometimes adding more chief’s to the tribe contributes to smoldering the fire pit vs. creating a raging energy source. I have observed most organizations top out at 4: CEO, CMO/CSO and CTO)

Everyday something comes across my desk that requires me to fulfill something from one of the positions above. I never have a predictable day at work- one of the reasons I enjoy my career so much—the allure of the unknown and opportunity to do something new… Newsflash. Startups aren’t the only the organizations where people wear many hats.

In the agency world you are routinely asked to contribute in areas, accounts, pitches, ideation sessions for which you hold strengths and expertise. Digital strategy is not my only strength that’s where my skill set goes horizontal. Experience doesn’t go away when you change titles. The only thing that changes….is the title.

Which brings me to my next point, which I’ve been struggling with for a few months now. How to redefine myself for what’s next.

While my title has “digital strategy” in it—digital certainly isn’t the sole way to reach/measure activate a customer—and it’s certainly not the only channel I think about—its just the biggest, most fragmented and what required the most focus and attention in a needs-based industry for the last few years.

My title has “digital” in it because 5 years ago no one knew how to harness it all. Traditional companies that have been in existence forever needed people like us to help them make sense of emerging opportunities and migrate beyond broadcast and mass reach…. to create a vision, pave a road for them to scale their strategic approach, executional capabilities, to build new departments and hire the right people.

The day we all just all go back to being marketers in coming very soon. The word digital will disappear from titles. Silo’d matrixes and marketers will not exist

 

The Big Cs

Companies hired CDOs to establish and harness new opportunities, create digital capabilities and centralize efforts. It was all so new. We are still figuring it all out—paving the road as we pilot emerging platforms and new technologies Every. Damn. Day. And that will never stop. BUT “digital marketing”  is not new anymore….it’s here to stay and it just keeps evolving. We are living in a digital world. We are creating marketing for a digital world.

Marissa Mayer is the best example of a horizontal CEO that exists today. Her background is in engineering and she’s parlayed that into growing offerings and knowing where to harness talent to establish differentiating products and services. Tactile learning, experience and applicability. Thinking AND doing. That is the skill set needed in today’s new CMO/CEOs.

 

Finding a balance of dreaming and doing

Fast Company recently collaborated with Inc. in their Inspiration & Impact Series about the combination of “dreamers and doers.” People with horizontal skills.

“At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” This popular quote from Lawrence Bossidy, a former executive with General Electric, is good advice today for any manager. A clear strategic plan will keep your company on track, but it’s the people you hire and the team you build that will propel your company forward. Moreover, today’s digital economy makes it easier than ever to discover new talent, particularly if you’re searching for what every company needs–a healthy balance of dreamers and doers. After all, while it’s beneficial to have people on your team who think big, you also need those individuals who can execute. Few people can do both, and even fewer can do both well—but they do exist.”

Regardless of the industry/vertical you work in, what makes a well-rounded person is their skill set. It’s my POV, it shows how I approach talent acquisition and succession planning- I always have. In the marketing industry, you HAVE to power your organization with T-shaped individuals that can think, do and work better at the intersection of insights, creativity, media & tech or you will fail. Experience with technology is trumping the traditional academic MBA. If you throw a collection of Harvard MBAs in a room you’ll likely get a spreadsheet and a strategic canvas at best—ask them how to activate/execute/measure something …..crickets. Last I checked Code Academy & General Assembly were not part of their curriculum.

The new crop of CSO/CMOs will be motivating mentors, strategic leaders and experienced executors who understand marketing in a digital world. CTOs will be creative technologists that overlap with the CSO/CMO helping to recalibrate capabilities, budgets and resources.

What’s next?

My skills are very horizontal and I like them that way. I will always be a curious & strategic (thinker) and experimental (doer). And most importantly I will always remain a relationship builder. That is who I am. Those are my strengths.

Soul searching. Redefining and shifting perceptions by focusing on my true passions and strengths. Thanks to my CSO for the nudge & book, Strengths Finder 2.0.

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