To code or not to code

To code or not to code

There has been a lot of talk about the future direction of the communications professional (including marketing) and our inaugural debate earlier this year focused on this topic, specifically whether the future comms pro needs to be a generalist or a specialist.

Candidates frequently ask us “how important are digital skills for comms people”? Is digital experience going to be at the core of the future comms person – more important than writing skills for example?

When agencies start taking the word ‘digital’ out of their job titles, because they believe it is absolutely intrinsic to everything their consultants do, it’s a sure sign that digital skills are an essential part of the day job. Articles such as the recent LinkedIn / Forbes article Management Consultants are eating ad agencies’ three-martini lunch, where the author Avi Dan states “the changing business landscape means marketers are demanding scale and business partners that can provide IT skills across everything, from data, to analytics, to customer service” reinforce that thinking.

But what do we mean by digital in the comms world? Do we mean use of code in SEO, for web and social? Or is it more strategic? Do comms people need to understand the whole digital landscape as Avi Dan suggests, and know how to drive interest in products, services or issues via effective use of a whole raft of digital channels, manipulating conversations to their own ends and constantly measuring engagement?  In a world where advertising has to become increasingly more transparent, does this become harder? Is that why IT skills become so vital?

What happens to everything else a comms person used to do? Is that going to just stop? Clearly not – even the press release, albeit in a different format, still has a place in the future, along with those key stakeholder relationships skills. Avi Dan states that “by 2017, Gartner, the technology research company, estimates that the largest portion of a company’s IT spend will be controlled by the CMO instead of the CIO”. I can’t help thinking that we don’t yet fully appreciate just how vital digital is going to be to the comms (marketing) professional. Afterall, every comms / brand / marketing job we are briefed on has at least a partial focus on digital.

This all points towards a feeling that digital sits above all those more traditional comms skills, as a new overarching discipline that everything else feeds into. It feels that without that strategic digital knowledge and tactical digital implementation, everything else a comms or marketing person has created is pointless… as it’s impossible to reach an audience without the digital bit on top.

What is also (sadly) obvious, is just how many comms people lack digital savvy. Increasingly we hear that management teams are now seeing comms as being more vital and giving their most senior comms person a seat at the top table. The opportunity to take that seat is here, as long as the comms profession really does upskill its digital know how now!

Written by Andrew Holland

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