A few weeks ago, Jinal Shah wrote an emotionally charged post defending the role of digital strategist from the ranks of condescending, self-important account planners … who as we all know are legion.
I didn't respond right away because it struck a chord with me and sometimes my brain likes to push buttons when maybe it should keep it's big brain-mouth shut. But I've thought a lot about the role of digital strategy over the past couple of years, and after having worked with a few of them, here's where I've landed:
Growing up in smaller, scrappy agencies, I've spent a lot of my career being responsible for delivering brand strategy as well as helping to bring ideas to life in the digital space. So the idea that there would be a role specializing in the digital bits seemed strange and threatening. That's the stuff that I really like doing, and I personally believe the future for planning and strategy involves getting your hands dirty. It's not enough to be a pure brand planner anymore.
I've since worked with all kinds of different digital strategists. Some have had the digital strategist title, but others have been tucked away in the account or production departments. Lately, some have started popping up in the creative group. I've watched some of them succeed at gaining respect and I've seen others brushed aside. I think in a lot of cases, those who failed did so because they were caught up in being digital strategists. Those who have succeeded did so because they were interested in bringing awesome and effective ideas to the world. And who doesn't want to work with someone who wants to do that?
It's no different than any other kind of agency person. In fact, I think that digital strategists are running into the same barrier of acceptance that account planners have been running into for years (and are more than happy to pass onto someone else). Strategy work is largely an amorphous thing. Respect can't be legislated through process, assignment or title. It is earned by providing value. Your work can be your biggest advocate.
And if all else fails, hash it out over some beers.