the challenge of digital in flux

Recently I met a few colleagues from UNICEF offices all around the world to share experiences and build working relationships. The conversations flowed thick and fast so I’m sure I’ll be drawing on them for blog posts over the coming weeks.

One of the most fascinating things for me was how similar the challenges digital specialists are experiencing.

No matter where the person I spoke with came from, digital appeared to be in a state of flux with confused governance. Digital teams being seen as service delivery and often struggling to get a voice in strategy. And where digital channels are delivering ROI already there were more difficulties in influencing strategically unless someone on the Senior team really understood the future potential beyond the current ROI.

What intrigues me is whether this is just the pattern you see with any media change. You could probably replace the subject in most of these sentences and agree the paragraph still applies. So I’ve been trying to think back to the introduction of the printing press…

I think the key differentiator is where the change stems from. Many have already written that the centre of control is now people powered and organisation structures which are traditionally hierarchical are at odds with this.

This doesn’t explain the lack of understanding of the fact that pinning all your digital activity on an immediate ROI means you’re missing the full potential. I almost (almost almost) think the measurability of digital is its own worst enemy. Printed marketing wasn’t measurable from the start and so brands had to take a risk. With digital being more measurable from the start the line was drawn in a different place.

The pace of change in digital is also a challenge to articulating the potential – some organisations must now have around 10 years worth of web stats but they’ll illustrate the change in digital adoption more than any change in the audience relationship with the brand.

With all my pondering I’m not sure that print didn’t go through the same cycle of change. It’s just the fit with organisation structure was better so it didn’t feel so disruptive.

One final thought… Printing has an ‘end product’ but that stage is just the beginning with digital.

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