Joining DraftFCB

I’m excited to join a new advertising agency – DraftFCB as their Planning Director in Digital effective August 13th 2012.

Why move?

Whereas it was true that I was very much enjoying my clients and our work together at my former employer, JWT Canada – I’ve been interested in the opportunity we have in integrating digital, and in particular, social media, better with communications or innovative efforts.  Admittedly, this is difficult when media, search, PR, customer service, etc are owned by different players and served by different agencies.  I felt I was making terrific progress  – certainly, on the Mazda business, we were constantly optimizing and integrating marketing efforts on a completely new level.  Still – multiple P&Ls made efforts more complicated.

Michael Szego, VP of Integrated Planning and my new boss at DraftFCB spoke to me about the value of having the whole global agency operate under a single P&L.  This isn’t just a financial arrangement but a philosophy and operating model that supports true integration.  Perhaps it is this integration philosophy that has played out in the floorplan..  at DraftFCB’s Toronto offices – my new desk in a swank open concept office – is across from the media guy, kitty corner to a strategist and behind a creative director.  And, might I add, just down the hall from the killer in-house cafe serving really good lattes for $2.75.  Now wasn’t that just the tipping point?

I am looking forward to working with some strategy heavyweights, to some pretty ambitious agency goals and earn the honour of working with a new set of clients – who I trust and hope will be as awesome as my past clients.

digital strategy, How to, social networks

Top five skill sets of today’s digital strategists

I get a significant amount of natural search visitor traffic [a.k.a. Google] against two key phrases —  “digital strategy job description” and “resigning from IBM“.    Since I resigned from IBM six years ago, I thought I’d offer a quick update on the role a digital strategist plays in today’s advertising industry.

At first consideration, people may think that the bulk of a digital strategist’s time is spent writing digital strategies.  But alas – that is only a small part of the role today.

Being in the position to write a digital strategy assumes that you or your client clearly understands where you have been and where you want to go.  Afterall, a digital strategy & plan is just the careful articulation of how to address a gap to a future digital vision.

But indeed, with the advent of social media and with emerging technology – some organizations do not have clear picture on what the digital future should hold.   So today’s digital strategist must be able to help clients develop a future perspective.   Among future opportunities – and there will be several – a strategist needs to help the client/brand prioritize the opportunities down to a few that will make the most substantive different (based on earlier identified organizational & brand goals).  Then as social media/digital has so many owners, a digital strategist also helps with alignment within an organization. These are great consulting muscles to flex!

Given this, the top five desired skill sets for today’s digital strategist include

  • facilitation experience.  Ability to work with many cross functional groups to create alignment on objectives and plans
  • influence & negotiation.  Ability to properly articulate the benefits & risks associated with digital opportunities.
  • analytics.  Ability to conduct or source research to identify the insights that will contribute to a balanced, thoughtful review of a business.  Ability to distill intelligence from data.
  • project management.  Ability to estimate the scope of efforts required, time & materials and clearly articulate the best project approach to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • synthesis.  [a rare skill]  Ability to synthesize activity, client needs or discussions to distill to the most salient facts.
digital strategy, Facebook, fans / loyalty, influence, social networks

Project Butterfly – Palmerston Group

What does it mean to be social?

This is precisely the question that @danielberkal and Seattle’s Cole + Weber United set out to answer in 2011.
Presented at social media week [#SMWTO], this study is deeply insightful and organized in thought – so much so that I am often sharing the story of Daniel’s presentation around the office and to clients.
What does it mean to be social?  To be interesting and interested.. in an age where social media plays such importance.   In my POV, brands are reaching a coming of age – that ‘doing social media’ is passé and that being social is what’s next.  But how to do this is wonderfully explained by his study.   And it is a presentation that is thought provoking to those who understand a lot about digital as well as for this who know nothing.  It transcends quite nicely.
Conducted in five cities across the US, Daniel & co. invited ten strangers to ‘speed friend’ to understand what makes people want to friend.  Next, he studied individuals with ‘social gravity’ (some would call them social butterflies, and yet, social butterflies do not like that label).  For his team to pursue the butterfly, they asked participants to think of the one individual among their friends or colleagues that people wanted to spend the most time with.  They then only studied individuals who, through multiple, unconnected sources, had been identified more than 3 times.  He goes into great depth into the characteristics and behaviours of people with social gravity – all the while annotating the work through film.   Finally, he takes this study into the online world to compare, contrast and offer valuable lessons for brands in social media.
It is well worth extra effort to see his whole presentation.  In Toronto, he is speaking at NXNE, June 11 – 17.
digital strategy

How to be trend hunter: figuring out emerging trends

{EAV_BLOG_VER:da36d18e0d868e5f}   <– ignore.  Verifying my blog for Empire Avenue

Here is a common scenario for many.   A request to identify the top destinations, gadgets, trends, etc… of the day/week/season.   This request begs the question – how do you figure out where people go, who the influencers are, what trends are emerging.   The answer takes quite a lot of time and research.  Nothing is without significant human time investment – no one tool will pump out the answer. 

My challenge in these requests is that sometimes folks can have false expectations on how long it takes to definitively come up with some answers.  Presenting the storyline takes even longer.

In a quest like this – I always ground my work into a consumer segment, then turn to multiple sources.  I am quite grateful to be well equiped and supported by good tools in my current role. 

I’m simplifying this task a bit but some of the things I do: 

  • understand which sites yield large digital audiences for specific segments, as well as growth patterns over time.  (tool = comscore)
  • understand site cross visitation for the brand, its competitors or what lens you need (tool = comscore)
  • use social listening, like Sysomos, to identify where conversations are taking places and to a certain degree, what key conversations are emerging. 
  • drill down to sources of authority and manually search for the key conversations to gain better depth on conversations. 
  • look at how this marries up to other sources such as ones that highlight consumer behaviour trends
  • if you are lucky, compare to primary research! 
  • if you are lucky, compare to decent secondary research (google insights, pew american life, etc)

To me, it is a rather fun strategy exercise.  A bit like playing tetris really.. putting the pieces together as they fall.

digital strategy, social networks, strategy

Today’s digital strategies need to recognize that digital is a ecosystem

Great image found in Mats Hernvall's presentation

Ecosystem is word that I’ve started to use a *lot* lately to explain how paid, earned and owned medias must work together when creating digital strategies for big brands.  

The media classification – paid, owned, earned – is a well accepted marketing framework first articulated, to my knowledge, by Forrester research’s Sean Corcoran (@seancor) in his report “Defining Earned, Owned and Paid”.  This lovely classification outlines how brands may have strong control on the content and channel in owned channels, control on content but ‘renting’ in paid medias but in earned – the brand has neither control over the content nor the channel.

This distinction has been helpful for clients to understand the role of the three media and its suitability toward achieving certain marketing objectives.   Interestingly, some of the benefits have been changing namely paid media’s increased ability to affect conversion goals.

Where the “ecosystem” comes into mind – is not just understanding the overall benefits of a media but delving into what the organizational weaknesses in the various medias.  If a company has no mobile solution and turnaround is not timely, then how can owned media support this gap?   It can be damaging to the business to wait for future development of large owned media and digital strategies need to examine how the other medias will bridge the gaps.   Owned media is just the example.  Downfalls exist in all medias which can supported by the other medias.

customer experience, digital strategy, social networks

How to develop a digital strategy – a 101 lesson for non-profits

I was recently asked to present at My Charity Connects – an annual sold out conference helping non-profits understand how to use emerging technologies for social good.  I had a tough mandate – the conference organizers had pre-sold the topic “Developing a Digital Roadmap” – intended to be an advanced topic – to which 60 people signed up – all before I was asked to be a speaker.   The topic was a good one and, in my experience heavily in demand, and so I was pleased to get @canadahelps (Amy)’s call.

Truthfully, I find it tougher to speak on strategy development versus any random social media topic.  It is a topic that runs the risk of being dry, difficult to explain, hard to share frameworks, and perhaps at risk of presenting motherhood.  

Motherhood like this – what is strategy?  (then I visually depict the gap to a future goal ..e.g. revenue/profit)

Right or wrong – I always perceive non-profit audiences to be generous and forgiving and so, I boldy looked adding the frameworks that have both shaped my thinking over my career or included ones that I’m still working on.

The first is the concept of consumer expectations – that there are basic, satisfying and differentiating expectations (experiences) that a consumer has. 

Strategy on developing customer experiences

Basic expectations are experiences that must exist for consumers to do business with you.  Without them, consumers will leave your franchise.  This may include presence in social media channels, response and interaction.  Satisfying expectations make consumers happy but do not grow market share.  So businesses should not over-invest in these areas.  Finally, differentiating experiences are ones that consumers would switch brands, competitors for. 

Of course – this framework begs the question on what qualifies as a basic, satisfier & differentiator experience.  So the next chart was my “social media maturity” framework – that I’ve been futzing with for a number of months. 

I welcome your thoughts & feedback – see below for the slideshare link…

[human moment:  notice this post date of June 15 is earlier than my published date of July 21st?  I have tons of posts stilling in draft format.. dying on the vine.. so I’m going to just publish shorter thoughts as my twitter cannabalizes my blogging and my work cannabalizes my twitter.  :-0]

digital strategy, social networks

Demystifying digital strategy

Often self absorbed in my own digital strategy work – I sometimes forget far I’ve travelled and the level of transition the advertising industry is in over digital strategy. 

I’ve been doing digital strategy for years – though at IBM, we called it e-business strategy, then marketing strategy, then customer experience strategy & design and now, due to how broad digital has become, digital strategy.  (I know.. its really just strategy but to limit scope, allow for digital).

When asked what a digital strategy is – my elevator answer is that digital covers mobile, social, web, apps, etc. and strategy is the ‘how’ to achieve a gap between where a company or brand is currently and where they want to go.   Arriving at a digital strategy & plan is more complicated than I’m making it sound but essentially it is a gap analysis done right.  (not minimizing the difference between strategy and good execution).  Simpler – I say that digital strategy is identifying which of the 20 digital opportunities facing a business are the right ones for business, brand and marketing.   (long elevator ride right!)

Back in late 2009 – early 2010 – I thought myself quite progressive by labelling myself a digital strategist but the actual role, its qualifications, the job description and deliverables are much confused today.   

And this was the topic of tonight’s discussion with a meeting of the minds with Paul Crowe at Bnotions , @pcrowe – a growing dev/strategy/start up into cool mobile, game things +.  Among the audience – @Ianbarnett, @michaelnus and Rick Jacobs  – all very bright, articulate and seasoned folks.

Couple great gems coming out of our dicussion. 

1. we debated over a framework for developing a digital stategy.  It was a different lense than I’ve used but it actually worked well and I’m grateful to see a new perspective.

2.  we spoke about a digital strategist being a rather senior, long tail digital/strategy experienced individual – though not to say that there isn’t a need for junior strategists and career path for this senior role.

3. there are tiers to digital strategy – that sometimes the deliverable is large and other times quite small. (or the timeframe to complete is tight)

4. I spoke of the role of a digital review or business review plays in arriving at a digital strategy.  A digital strategy often has optimization of existing digital assets as a goal and this is only best understood by reviewing performance.

5. I also spoke of how the strategy needs to be separated from the plan – which is what my own ad agency/planning department has teased out of me – forcing a focused strategy from the planning/roadmap stage.

Anyhow – the popcorn is ready.. I welcome your thoughts on the matter.