Closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Buying fire insurance while your house is burning. Googling ‘how to move to Canada’ after your compatriots have voted poorly. After a calamity has happened is the worst time to prepare for it. So what is the best way to fireproof your digital strategy career?
Start by assuming that at some point in your career, everything will go sideways. This is not a pessimistic view, but a statement of fact. Digital strategy is complex and difficult. The first thing that can go wrong is that you inflict a wound on yourself. You get something wrong. You mis-manage expectations. You fail to deliver. You’re only human, and you will make mistakes.
Then there are the events that are beyond your control. Many people working in major organizations have been laid off when a department has been shut down, regardless of their personal performance. Media changes. Technology changes. We are constantly being disrupted. We lose clients regardless of our best efforts. On occasion, even broader crises sweep us up in their wake, wether financial, political or otherwise.
But worrying about and preparing for possible poor outcomes can mean taking your eye off your current responsibilities and hastening the thing you fear actually coming about. At the very least it could mean giving yourself an unhealthy level of anxiety.
There is a difference between worrying about something happening and preparing for it. Preparing for possible poor outcomes means focusing on the things you can control, and critically, by doing something about it you make yourself better at delivering against your current responsibilities.
The first thing you can control is who you know. Make an effort to network regularly. Meet those in your industry, on the client, agency and association sides. This is not about constantly looking for the next opportunity, but simply about meeting people. In fact, I would argue that showing an interest in peers and colleagues without asking them for anything will put you in good standing if you need them later. So network at events, attend conferences to speak with people, and join networking groups.
The second and most important thing to do is to build your online brand. Building your brand is about understanding that it is not enough to say that you are passionate about the digital space; you have to prove it. Build a twitter following. Optimize your LinkedIn profile. And most important of all, build a personal digital footprint. This can be a blog, a podcast or a YouTube channel. It need not be focused on digital marketing. Frankly, it can be about anything as long as you are passionate about it to do it well and to consistently update it. The quality of the execution of your online brand assets are critically important since this is how you prove that you understand the fundamentals of digital strategy and know how to deliver on it.
Applying these principles cannot get in the way of your existing responsibilities. But done well, they may actually help you with your current role. Networking and continuously improving your skills makes you better at your job today, and not just in some unforeseen future. Applying yourself against these disciplines sharpens your saw, gives you a broader perspective and inspires new ideas, all things that make you more valueable.
But these principles take time to do well. Networking after a calamity smells desperate and shallow. Starting to build an online brand after you have been laid off shows that it is an initiative undertaken because you have to, not because you want to. So prepare early. Execute consistently. Sharpen your saw. Preparing this way for the worst will bring out your best for your clients, your colleagues and yourself.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.