Interview with an agency pro




Digital Strategist


Americanos and homemade trail mix with Reeses Pieces

Nicola Brown, a recent grad and freelance communications specialist sat down with Colin Caroll to see what life is like as a Digital Strategist.


What is your job all about, in a nutshell?<br>

I help clients understand the intersection of behaviour and technology so that they can engage people with their brands in the most effective way possible.<br>

What elements of your work do you get most excited about?<br>

I love being inspired by the people around me. My passion is fuelling creative briefs with digital insights and I feel proud when a great idea is born out of them. What?s really interesting about digital strategy is that we?re really tapping into unique behaviour that we see online, and leveraging that existing behaviour in support of brands. For example, we just did a campaign centred around Instagramming your Thanksgiving meal plate. It?s not about getting people to do something they wouldn?t normally do, it?s about understanding why it is that people do the things they do online, and letting that guide our strategy. There?s a lot of human psychology behind it, and I find that fascinating.<br>

Describe some of the biggest challenges you have faced and do face in your position. How have you overcome them?<br>

One of the biggest challenges is integrating digital ideas into campaigns to make it feel like one experience. We?re in the middle of changing processes so digital thinking isn?t just an afterthought but an integral piece of the overall brand strategy. The consumer doesn?t think in silos and we can?t either. Helping our clients see the full consumer journey and where particular channels are most important is essential in bringing integrated thinking to life.<n>

Another challenge is proving how important it is to be responding to people on social platforms who are already talking about your brand. Lack of desire, money, or resources can prohibit brands from being active on social platforms. Our team has addressed this by showing that there is what we call a ?cost of ignoring? when you?re not responding to brand advocates. If people are talking about you every single day and you?re not even there to respond or acknowledge, you?re missing out on a big opportunity, and in contrast with many other advertising channels, a more engaging one.<n>

Digital is different from other channels in that it?s more reactive; it?s about creating a dialogue and maintaining some level of flexibility. And let?s face it, we?re not always in control of these conversations. That scares some people, which is fair. You may not be able to control the conversations but you can help steer them. And when you tap into a way to generate earned media through advocacy, it can often feel much more genuine to consumers, which can translate into big success.<n>

Finally, because clients are always looking for guarantees, one of the things I struggle with is being able to lay out what success is going to look like. You don?t want to oversell it, but if you can make some calculations based on relevant variables to come up with a scientific formula that can estimate the outcome, clients can better understand why it would be worth the investment.<br>

Given the uncertainty with guaranteeing success, have you ever run a digital campaign you thought would be a hit that turned out to be a complete flop?<br>

So we created these ? what I thought were ? really funny videos for a client. We were hoping people would enjoy them and share them and talk about them, but they didn?t. The problem was how it got distributed: when a brand gives you something funny it?s not as funny as when a real person gives you something funny. People feel that it?s too contrived. So the learning that we took from this was, yes, content is important, but it?s equally important to make sure it gets distributed in the right way. You can?t just make videos and hope people are going to watch them!<br>

What surprised you the most about your current job when you first started?<br>

One of the first things that struck me was how agencies today do so much more than ?advertise.? Our job has always been to communicate and tell stories, but now there are just so many more ways to do that. From building websites to managing social communities to planning events, agencies are seen as thought-leaders and need to form points of view across a broad spectrum of channels.<br>

Describe your career path so far. How did you get to where you are today and what have you learned?<br>