While assessing my own job description recently, I did a search on LinkedIN for other ‘Digital Strategists’ in Canada. 7,491 results were returned. I guess, my future isn’t as competitive as it once was… ‘Social Media Strategist’ returned 10,181 results. Getting back on track, I wanted to see what qualifications these other digital strategists shared with me and each other. Here are some of the things I found:
- Build strategies for online awareness and social media outreach
- Establish online presence through branding, social media, and online marketing
- SEO, social media, SEM/PPC, email marketing, and affiliate marketing
- Planning online marketing campaigns
My concern and curiosity quickly vested itself into wonder. I wonder why all of these marketing functions have become strategy functions. Don’t get me wrong, there are strategic implications to each of these — but for the most part, they’re just tactics that feed into something bigger.
Strategy is such a broad term, after all, but has it at its core, lost its meaning? If we bring strategy at its initial definition (back in the militia days) to light, it would look like this:
“The art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle”
VS. today’s definition:
“A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”
The output is the same, essentially — a plan. But the how is different, the second implies no vision. At first it was an art, and the job of the strategist to create and direct. Now, it’s just a plan as a means to an end. The job of the strategist is to essentially come up with a to-do list.
My all-time favourite definition of strategy was defined by Henry Mintzberg from McGill University:
“A pattern in a stream of decisions.”
In my work, I see three different divides:
1. Strategy creation
2. Strategic planning
Now, not every project I work on includes all three of those elements, but everything I do falls into at least one of them.
I like to think of my work as a military, and I as its fearless leader. I must first decide what my aim is, then come up with a vision (or, a strategy) for how I will become the victor — a vision or pattern for my men to follow, should they ever have to make a decision without me. And then I plan out all the specifics (each of which can sometimes have their own strategies). The last part, I put on my helmet and fight with my men to become victorious (implementing).
All this to say, this is not what I’m seeing in role descriptions. This isn’t a “best practice” for strategists anymore. It’s all about the planning, and not about creating that bigger vision.
I get that this is a new space, but I like to think of a strategy as something pure, something that can have many moving parts, but displays itself as a whole. Marketing is marketing… but even that needs to be a gear in the watch, a small moving piece that helps (with other small moving pieces) to convey something as simple as time.