Digital Is Not A Monster In Your Closet

It's been one of those months I dig. Every day brings new mini-gatherings of media and publishing people and a constant mix of contexts. Across this array of company, I have again been struck by the perpetuity of the discussion on digital adoption-- and the pressures that surround it.


At one of my most recent confabs, the pressure revealed itself so clearly, it got me thinking about how to make it all less angst-ridden for those still trying to chart the course. Specifically, I had the opportunity to visit with a friend of mine who is the publisher of a well-known news title, in print and online. She and her staff embraced digital some time ago, and their business is going gangbusters.

My friend hosts a group of her advertisers every so often for dinner. The agenda is to talk about challenges and opportunities in this increasingly cross-channel world. I was asked to come and stir up the conversation on integrating digital. Major global brands and traditional corporations across many industries, several corporate communications and PR executives, chief marketing officers -- all were there to casually dish on digital over steak and a nice Chianti. The colorful conversation quickly highlighted the need for resolution on a slew of shared issues:



-       Entrenched throwback staffs who don't understand the new methodologies available to them -- especially within the ranks of PR.

-       Quandary over whether to hire youngsters who get digital -- or get the enterprise to acknowledge that the organizational development requirements are far more serious than that.

-       Legacy agency relationships with agencies that don't seem to have a command of  where the train is going.

-       Generalized fear of social media and its potential for brand damage.

-       Outdated understanding of display media, custom publishing opportunities, targeted network approaches.

-       Trepidation about how to get from here to there on rich media -- and how the relationship between media & creative in digital marketing really works.

It was such a fun, compassionate conversation, anecdote by anecdote. And, there was not necessarily a zealous commitment to integrating ASAP. But, there was a desire across the board to map a smart path and do the right thing with staff and education, over time, to get to where everyone needed to go.

When I think about this conversation and the calmness these executives demonstrated even as they expressed the pressures they face, I just keep thinking: OK, we agree there is no need to make this into a monster. In my mind, there are some straightforward revelations on what we're really talking about here:

-       If your staff needs to be strengthened, there are creative ways to undertake training that don't require daunting overhauls or bringing risky hiring practices into your corporate environment.

-       Today's PR team now has an expanded platform and arsenal. Crisis management, reputation management can and should be supported by press release optimization, leveraging the search marketplace. Learn how to do this, or hire someone who knows.

-       The most strategic search marketing programs both leverage consumer demand and address brand and direct response initiatives. They can do both.  Again, learn how to do this, or hire someone who knows.

-       Social media cannot be relegated to the youngsters. It's not a toy. Your consumers, connectors, and influencers are using it to convey, support, align, and propagate their own personal brands -- and yours. It will take on a life of its own. So, figure out how to relate to, get into, and learn from the conversation.

-       Get current on what is possible with display. We are not just talking about flash banners and homepage takeovers. Look at custom publishing, smart content adjacency, targeted network buys -- exploring the interplay of media, creative and content. All positive.

So, while we all take our media and marketing evolution very seriously -- in some circles or frames of reference more than others -- sometimes our inner drama mama needs to take a break. Among smart and directed people, it's often just a matter of pointing out a few clearings on the horizon to each other and walking there one good stride at a time, comparing notes along the way.

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