The Head of Digital is dead! Long live the Head of……

How long can we with a straight face continue to seriously refer to those in PR agencies who are predominantly responsible for digital / social media /emerging media thinking as “Heads of Digital”?

How long has it been since I looked at a PR brief that wasn’t mainly around digital avenues anyway? A REALLY longtime, I assure you.  Most PR is “digital” PR now.  With almost all PR agencies integrating digital skills across their PR teams (helped by fresh intakes of PR Account Execs who are all digital natives), we are entering a time when all PRs are “digital” PRs.

What’s more, all “digital” PR briefs now are simply PR briefs (full stop) – not rare, unusual beasts that must be delicately handed-over to an ivory towered digital specialist or social media ‘guru’ to consider.

 If you are a Head of Digital, your selling point can no longer be that you alone “get” digital when no one else does, or that you alone can train up those around you to manage and run social media-focussed campaigns. So what should your USP within a PR agency be in the years ahead?

 My job is now less about understanding the complexities of running social media or digitally-focussed campaigns and previous experience of that, and far more about helping organisations to make digital brand interactions central to their business plans across the board; and, being able to provide advice on the very latest online innovations, the wisdom of investing in or making use of them.  To my mind, the job of the former “Head of Digital” in a PR agency context is to be lead innovator, walking encyclopedia on emerging media trends, and the strategist in the business with arguably the most diversified knowledge-base.

 Clients once most often asked me: “What can a social media campaign do for my PR deliverables over-and-above a traditional PR campaign?”.  Now they ask me how they can make social media central to the way that they engage with their customers over the next ten years.

 So what incarnation does a former “Head of Digital” take on now? Like the proverbial shark who needs to keep swimming to stay alive, they must be the hungriest person in the organisation in their desire to keep learning about latest innovations, possibilities, options and opportunities in the world of marketing.

 What might the job title be for this very hungry individual.  Maybe it should be something along the lines of the:  “Person most likely to have something valuable to say about strategy, innovation and emerging media at a moments notice”.  If you couldn’t live up to that billing you might be best just to stick to the increasingly obsolete title in the world of PR agencies of “Head of Digital”, but keep an eye on what’s coming up behind you, because someone who can live up to that less vague billing may be coming up fast.

 The Head of Digital is dead! Long live the Head of….mmmm….innovation, emerging media, strategy, new stuff, the things others haven’t got their head around yet… I’m not sure, but one thing I am sure about is hunger for new knowledge (and how to apply that eclectic knowledge to marketing) is key for the people in PR agencies formerly known as Head of Digital.


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