I’ve received a lot of emails lately in the runup to my AMA Higher Ed talk in Austin this year about integrating a digital team into your existing marketing outfit.
The bottom line is: How does this work?
Without giving too much away, here are some quick tips that I’ve been relaying that are worth sharing:
1. Assess what your organization needs now & in the future.
It’s hard to make a long range plan without a captain, but you really need to assess your internal needs now. This can come from outside help, but people aren’t always going to be honest with a consultant. You need a true reflection of what ails the organization’s inability to integrate digital, if you’re going to get it right. Once you have a sense of the real blindspots, you can begin to create a role — and a structure — to aid in fixing it.
2. Hire good people.
This is a tough one. How do you know? Find experienced people who can move you forward. Be honest and up front about the barriers to success. Nothing worse than being hoodwinked about the issues or being told you’ll have reign to fix things, only to arrive in a new situation and find that the reality of that wasn’t true. Especially in higher ed, we’re notorious for noxious internal politics that we can’t communicate — because of politics — and have people parachute their way into a hostile situation that no one can prepare them for. It’s especially prevalent in the digital realm and until we solve it, digital teams will continue to struggle for integration.
3. Be clear about your expectations.
This is a tough one. When you’re faced with ambiguous situations, it’s tough to know how to measure what’s working and what’s not working. But it’s your responsibility to figure out what benchmarks will ensure the success of this role. If they change, then communicate those changes. Bringing in new people — or repurposing old ones — and not understanding what your expectations are will ruin any chance of success you’ll have going forward.
4. Allocate resources.
Everybody wants double for half price. But when it comes to digital, what you invest is often what you get in return. That means being clear that what you’re allocating in resources is used for what it’s earmarked for. Not only that, but listening to your people when they tell you what’s needed — whether it’s crowdsourced from similar institutions or through their own internal assessments — the folks with boots on the ground are most likely to tell you what you need to be successful.
5. Trust your people.
This is the biggest one. Too often, senior leaders don’t recognize what digital people are bringing to the fore because they don’t truly understand all of the interconnected parts of how the web impacts organizations. If you’re ignoring the people giving you good counsel in finance or fundraising, you could lose big. The web is no different, but for some reason, we’ve ignored the experts in lieu of people who think because they’ve used Microsoft Front Page or know how to use Facebook, that it makes them digital experts. The world is constantly changing, shifting and evolving but there are people immersed and keeping tabs on how to navigate your organization through the muck.
It just takes identifying them, giving them the support they need & trusting them to get it done right.