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James Prebble is Digital Strategy Director at Pancentric Digital, a digital agency based in London. Here he walks us through a typical working day.
If you like the sound of what James does for a living then do check out the range of digital strategy and planning jobs listed on our jobs board.
Please describe your job! What does a Digital Strategy Director actually do?
What do I do? Well no day is the same, that’s for sure. Essentially I work with our clients, helping to create their digital strategies through a combination of planning and strategy techniques, as well as business, market and consumer insight.
Myself and the strategy team are an ideas hub within the agency, and our aim is to provide our clients with innovative digital approaches and solutions for their websites and digital campaigns. This can cover anything from email marketing, website/microsite execution, social media, search, video or user experience.
Generally I’ll help develop a blended digital strategy that works towards delivering against a set of predefined objectives.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Within the organisation I look after the performance marketing function. This includes planners, search, social and email strategists. I report directly to the board.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Definitely imagination and an appreciation for all digital channels and how they can work together. If you can be channel agnostic in your approach it really helps.
Listening to the input of others within the team and their various disciplines is key, but ensuring that this comes back into a plan that will work for the client is the most important part.
But most of all you need to be able to quickly develop a good understanding of your client's business, the challenges they face in their market, their ambitions for development through online channels and then be able to blend this into an integrated digital approach that delivers against this.
Oh, and it helps to be reasonably good with numbers, there can be a lot of data to wade through!
Tell us about a typical working day…
A typical working day is usually spent with clients. There's a lots of meetings and most days it will be with two or three different brands. For example, in one day I can go from a conversation about improving the online conversion rates for Direct Line’s Business Insurance, to the digital launch of a new hair care range for L’Oreal. Generally these meetings will involve the support of one of our planning team, or one of our discipline strategists (search, email, social, UX).
Other days will be spent going through client briefs, working with planning teams to uncover insight and using this to develop digital campaign ideas for our clients. I’ll then work with our creative and user experience teams to concept assets to support these plans, which I’ll develop into a series of recommendations to present back to clients.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Client goals are typically improved brand awareness, spikes in sales, improvements in reputation, online visibility, community development or a combination of the goals listed. Every client has slightly different requirements, based on the position of their brand in the market.
My goal is to ensure that the strategy developed and executed for our clients is reflective of their objectives and setup to deliver against this. The most innovative campaigns on the web are nothing if they don’t deliver for the client. To ensure I’m hitting these objectives measurement is crucial.
With metrics it’s important to understand the difference between core performance metrics and vanity metrics. Often fan or follower growth are held up as success metrics for campaigns, but without improvement in engagement levels or brand awareness, actions to sale or data capture these are often worthless.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the most useful metrics for all brands, typically things like last click attribution, action rates, cost per lead, sales conversion percentage, campaign reach, and then being able to break all of these down by audience and channel type, tend to be the most useful metrics for measuring campaign impact.
We tend to tie all our campaign activity into our Enabler email marketing software so that we can track client interactions from broadcast to conversion. Often we’ll also work with companies like ResponseTap to monitor spike in telephone calls, or work with coupon redemption companies like Valassis to measure the impact online activity has had in an offline environment.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
So many! But to name a few:
PR Smith’s SOSTAC Strategic Planning framework – A must for any new client we work with to help understand their business and their goals.
Google Analytics – Tells me everything I need to know about performance (well nearly).
Econsultancy reports - Perfect for stats and insight in to particular digital channels.
Sysmos Heartbeat and Map – Social media listening for research brands social media landscape, competitor analysis and customer profiling.
Evernote – Someone once told me, successful people are compulsive list makers, Evernote makes that easy!
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
What I love about my job is the variety of businesses I work with and the challenges that brings in terms of idea development and strategy formation. Being able to transfer digital strategy knowledge from brands that are poles apart to deliver results for clients can be enormously satisfying. The creativity side of the job is great too, pushing yourself to come up with different ideas every day and stay at the forefront of digital innovation.
The part that sucks is when red tape gets in the way of a great idea or campaign. There are always workarounds, but sometimes, for larger businesses, bureaucracy can dilute the original concept and what your left with is something half as good as when you started.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I kind of started by default. I worked many years ago for a very small industry body for the UK outdoor leisure industry, which needed somebody to help send emails to its membership base, and to keep their website up to date. I told them I could do it, then pretty much learned on the job.
From then I was hooked on how measurable digital marketing was, and the impact it can have on businesses. I moved from there to the Siemens lighting division, Osram, which gave me my first taste of intermediated markets and how different digital marketing was to this audience.
I then moved to a digital role with Cancer Research UK before arriving at Pancentric Digital as a planner, before assuming the Strategy Director role two years ago. From here, my goal is to keep working with the board to grow Pancentric’s status as a digital agency, and to continue to grow our diverse client base. Where I’ll eventually end up, who knows, but wherever it is it will be in digital!
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
If you get a break and have a chance to get into digital – take it. It can be very difficult to get into digital, be it agency or client side, so even if it’s not exactly what you imagined for your dream role, just getting your foot on the career ladder is a good start. If you’re passionate about digital marketing, understand the value of how measurable it can be, and are someone who’s keen to keep up with latest techniques and trends, then there’s every chance that you’ll do well.
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
I think brands like the BBC have always delivered superb digital experiences, always innovating and delivering inclusive executions, which is so key when you have as diverse and audience base as they do. Commercially, I think BT has produced some memorable digital campaigns over the last few years, especially the social media focus at the end of the advert featuring the ‘will they won’t they’ couple.
Also, Old Spice. While the videos it is producing for online are now getting a little try hard, some of the earlier things it did were fantastic – “I’m on a horse” springs to mind. Tying it all back to social media, data capture and purchase incentive really gave the campaigns a well-rounded feel.
If you would like a Day In The Life profile then by all means throw your hat into the ring by emailing us (firstname.lastname@example.org), and be sure to put your job title in the subject line. PS - I have had plenty of requests from agency folk, so I especially want to hear from brands / client-side people!