I took part in on a great session at #ukgc13 run by Julia Chandler on the future of digital comms teams. Julia has also written up some notes from her session and there is a link to her full notes there too.
This subject seems to be coming up a lot lately in conversations and others have been blogging on the subject – see Dan Slee’s excellent post on this topic.
Many people are suggesting that digital comms specialists and teams will disappear in (soonest) two years or five years or ten years.
I’ll set my stall out now. I think this is a load of crap. The same question can be asked of comms teams in general. And I don’t see those going anywhere. Ever.
There is a difference between doing digital and being digital.* Yes, everyone in every sector needs to become more digital (doing digital). Now and in the years to come. But I firmly believe there will still need to be a role for the digital specialist (being digital).
*I separate out digital comms from digital more widely in my argument.
What will their role be?
This is what I see the role for digital comms specialists:
- enabling, educating and coaching – helping others in the wider organisation understand and ‘do’ digital. Not everyone can ‘be’ digital. It’s not realistic and it takes a certain mindset and way of seeing the world. I think (and really hope) that digital specialists will move away from the hands-on, day-to-day ‘doing’ to this type of a role. It is a better use of our skills.
- Bringing the ‘comms’ to the digital. We are both comms AND digital specialists.
- future gazing – keeping an eye on the latest developments, being one step ahead of the game, predicting and setting trends. Again, not something everyone can do or would even want to do.
- Figuring out how to apply the latest channel, tool, technology, whatever it is and how it can be used to the benefit of an organisation.
- What the implications of new technology are. Just because it exists doesn’t mean it should be used. Being aware of the law and any issues. For example – privacy issues around the use of Google Glass.
- Technical website stuff – you can’t (and shouldn’t) expect every single person to understand how websites work, programming languages, what APIs are…all the stuff people say is ‘techy’. You still need people who are specialists in this. A good analogy is that everyone has a computer on their desk, but we still need IT departments to make it all work atv parts. Same with digital.Aside: This is making an assumption that websites will continue to have the same importance as we move forward into the future. I’m not entirely convinced this will be the case. But that’s a subject for a whole other debate and blog post…
- Other issues around user-focus and content creation still need the input of an expert to make sure the right product is produced in the end.
So, in conclusion, the size, shape and skills of the digital team as we know them now will no doubt change and evolve in the coming years, as the next generation moves into our positions in organisations. They will not have known a world without the internet, computers, social networks, etc, but I think there will still continue to be a strong role for the continued existence of digital comms specialists.