So you’re building an internal unit concerned with understanding the way the internet is affecting your business. You want to take the reins and navigate your digital future. Good job you, large corporation! Knowing you need someone to internally spearhead digital is half the battle. Now what?
The following is a handy dandy outline for thinking through some of the top-line questions that inevitably follow the decision to create a senior-level position for digital management. We affectionately refer to this person as a Digital Director, but the title of the role should resonate with your existing titling structure (be it VP, Digital or CDO, etc).
What does a Digital Director do?
A Digital Director is a senior member of the corporate team responsible for your company’s use of, health on, and point of view about, the internet. Pro tip: this does not mean a person who simply manages your social presence (though someone at your company should do that as well).
The potential list of responsibilities for a Digital Director is staggering. They run the gamut from increasing digital earned media, allocating interactive paid media, and overseeing existing owned media in web channels, to internal (re)training, turning existing staff into brand advocates, and addressing market changes inspired by the internet’s effect on distribution or access to resource or pricing. Similarly, your Digital Director might also find themselves responsible for understanding how your supply chain should evolve, spearheading skunkworks R&D projects and pushing forward internal innovations. They’re likely to spend time creating best-in-class practices and policies for digital software usage (project management, email, time-tracking, email management, smart calendars, accounting, recruiting software), helping PR navigate internet-born disasters, and marrying deep industry knowledge with emergent cultural trends. And this is far from an exhaustive list.
Regardless of the business you are in, someone should be accountable for every one of these responsibilities. If you haven’t designated someone smart to think about (and be accountable for) these pieces of your business you will lose to someone who has.
To whom does this person report?
Digital Directors have traditionally been responsible for heading up “marketing on the internet,” making the CMO the natural person for them to report to. A good Digital Director, installed in a meaningful role, however, will have responsibilities that live across a range of departments– CRM traditionally lives in the IT department, media spending the marketing department, and management/organization consulting within the CEO’s group. A Digital Director will need to touch all three to be the asset you need them to be. They need to be able to jump between all of the business lines because we will soon see serious changes in how (and where) organizations spend in digital technology. Understanding how a Digital Director will fit into your senior management team structure is almost as important as hiring the right person. If you’re looking for some pointers on how to structure a digital team, check out the audit Matt Daniels recently completed of how some of our clients approach the problem.
Where (and how) do you find this person?
Embrace those from non-traditional backgrounds. Given the diversity of responsibilities required of their role, there is no one specific candidate pool to tap. Consider candidates with experience running digital marketing in large multidimensional organizations, look at tech founders, look at CTOs, look outside of your normal recruiting pool. Most of all, do not just look at what people have done, but look for people who are hungry for what they have yet to do. The parameters of the role are not set in stone so be open about that and look for a partner who can be trusted to define those limits as they emerge.
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It has never been easier to get a sense of candidates before meeting them. Audit your candidates’ digital footprints. Curious how a candidate thinks? Read her thinking (look for her blog, her Twitter, her Tumblr). What does she choose to write about? How is the quality and depth of her writing and thinking? Where, what, and how a candidate chooses to share is often a wonderful way of getting to know your strongest potential hires.
Do not just reconsider where you look for candidates, reconsider how you screen them. Your interview ought to be more of a conversation than an interrogation. The interview process is designed to screen for people who are good at interviewing. While most interviews reveal potentially indicative or useful personality qualities (malleability, charisma, response under pressure, etc) they rarely uncover much more. A good conversation will vet all of those qualities while demonstrating how a candidate thinks, what inspires her, and ideally, what it would be like to work alongside them. A resume is a guide of where someone has been, it was never meant to be a syllabus for an interview.
Finding the right person to steer your digital future means not only planning to compete, but staffing to thrive in an environment increasingly defined by evolving cultural practices, changing behaviors, and new expectations. While a senior digital hire requires rethinking several of your legacy hiring processes, there are certain things that a digital economy hasn’t changed. Senior leadership is still defined by good management (which you will know if you have ever read anything from HBR), that culture is still paramount to fostering employee satisfaction and dedication. The information revolution has not challenged either of these precepts– indeed, if anything, it demands a reinvestment in both. Keep this in mind when you’re on the lookout and you’re already heading in the right direction. And if you need some help, don’t be afraid to call on your friends.