My mom hurt my feelings the other day.

I was telling her how excited I was to work on a few projects I’m leading and she said ‘Deanna, what exactly do you do? When you worked at newspapers, I saw your articles every day so I knew what you were doing. Now, I really don’t have any idea.’

As if that wasn’t bad enough, once I gave her my short definition, she said ‘Oh, you put those annoying ads on websites. ‘ …. That was a shot straight to the heart … and I, indeed was to blame (get the Bon Jovi reference? … I apologize.)

So as I outlined ‘digital strategy’ to my mother, who lives in North Western New Mexico, it occurred to me most people don’t understand either. They think it’s one of these fluffy jobs where people talk about doing things all the time and never really accomplish anything.

They have no idea how a good DS can put the groundwork in place to mold and shape a business for success.

Before we get into the guts, take a second and say out loud what you think a Digital Strategist is.

Now read my definition and see how far apart we are:

“A digital strategist is a creative, innovative thinker who understands the trends and user behaviors of a web audience and can put that knowledge to good use to develop, engineer and execute strategic plans to boost a business, product or service. A digital strategist does not just focus on banner ads — but focuses on social media, grassroots efforts, email, new media and other forms of nontraditional editorial and advertising to build a cohesive, strategic plan for measured results.”

In short, a digital strategist is a project manager, user behavior specialist, a social media guru, a numbers nerd, an online trend setter, a web geek, a user interface expert, an excellent writer and a highly strategic thinker. Not to mention creative and highly addicted to Diet Coke ….

Digital Strategy is not just one of these jobs developed in this day and age to give lazy people a job. If that’s how you feel about it, you obviously don’t have a good one on your team. In fact, I’d go as far to say digital strategy is not a job anyone can do if they haven’t worked and studied online behavior for at least 5 years. It’s not an out-of-college occupation. It is not an ‘oh-I-can-do-that’ job and it most certainly is not an entry level position.

I’ve had people tell me that they don’t need a digital strategist because they already have a website. Honestly, this type of comment makes me roar. It is a short-sided response to a very long-term process. While your website plays a role in digital strategy, it is not the end all. It’s simply one an important cog in a very huge wheel to your online success.

I’ve written before how the word strategy has been genericized into almost becoming a fancy word for ‘let’s just talk and talk and never execute.’ It’s become a word stepping solely in the world of the intangible.


But ask any political strategist or image strategist how they view their jobs and they’ll tell you they are in lock-step with their people. They are their ‘handlers’ if you will, and carefully evaluate every single appearance, move, clothing choice and word written to make sure it aligns with goals set before the campaign or person represented.

A digital strategist is no different. Put a goal in front of us, and we will take your goal and look at this goal from all angles within the digital realm and strategically build a plan on how to achieve it. We won’t simply tell you to buy 5 million impressions on advertising.com. We will figure out how to optimally saturate your ideal marketplace with what you have to offer.

Furthermore, the strategist also monitors each area of promotion as they are implemented; adjusts these areas as needed and even pulls promotion if it is not performing as expected. This is done through constant monitoring of metrics and user behavior as well as changing wording or imagery in the marketplace. Digital strategy is a real-time field and once the plan is in play, it’s time to manipulate it to get the results needed.

I’m not saying every single thing on a Digital Strategist’s plan is going to work, but a good one is not afraid to pull funding or energies from one area that is not working and reallocate it to another that is. She will also evaluate why an area didn’t work and either try another angle or abandon it completely.

Just like the stock market, some gambles win big and others don’t; but the difference comes into play with the diligent study of results even down to an hourly basis.

The role of a digital strategist is an investment and when you’re trying to fill this role, don’t short-change your organization by not getting someone with the right experience. If you do, you’ll end up with marginal results and a lack of faith in a role you should be 100 percent confident in its importance.

A good strategist is a doer. And if I might be so bold to say, is the key to growing success in your business’s future.


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