Digital Marketing Skills Gap -- Could Sky's Trust In LinkedIn Data Rescue London?

Any brand marketer or agency has probably come up against the digital marketing skills gap in London. It can make finding the right people more difficult than before and lead to wage inflation. Ironically, it's the opposite of the creative exodus that many marketing magazines have talked about this year as, they claim, young creatives cannot afford to live in London and so leave for other cities in Europe and beyond.

The latter issue is more one of gut feel, whereas the challenge of finding people with marketing and IT skills -- or at least great data-crunching skills -- is very evident across town.

So it was interesting to see what Sky had done with the building of tech hub in Leeds. I was fortunate enough to be at a presentation recently where Sky and LinkedIn explained how they worked together to find the best place to build a technology hub outside of London. It had the same issues as any other digital media company. Skills are in short supply and it pays not to be fishing in the London market alone. Hence, when it wanted to expand its headcount it knew building outside the capital was a good idea. The clever thing was how it decided where.

The presentation I saw several months ago was fascinating in how LinkedIn's data on skills in various UK cities was pooled together to build a hot spot around the Leeds and Manchester area. There were no preconceptions about towns and cities -- just hard data on profile and job searches, which suggested this was the area Sky should prioritise. Leeds was chosen, due to a spot for an office becoming open which provided good transport links with Manchester. When the project was started, the office could have been anywhere in the country, but the data suggested where it should be and the feedback from Sky was that it had managed to get the right skills that were either proving to be elusive or very expensive in London. At the same time, of course, the people who had those skills and were looking in those areas can get a job in the technology side of digital media without having to turn their life upside down and move to the capital.

So today's news that the hub is now up and running struck a chord with me. Could using pure data from a source, such as LinkedIn, offer a similar service to digital marketers and their agencies? Could it predict where people have the necessary IT and data-handling skills and allow them to build, quite literally, hubs outside of London? After all, there's no law saying the data side of the industry has to be handled and crunched in the same city as its insights are most likely going to be acted upon. London is clearly the business capital of the country but could it just be that if a brand or an agency is looking for people with specific IT skills, they could simply use data to map where they are and build a resource there?

It's certainly something the digital media industry could well do with considering. After all, if the services they sell are based on data, wouldn't it make sense to listen to the data as a guide for where expansion should take the industry?

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