That might seem like a “Doh!” question for those of us who work in the field or who come in contact with web folks in our day-to-day educational lives. But I had a friend ask me this today. “Well, if it’s just web work, why do you all need to be there at all? Can’t you just work remotely?”
So much of what we do is about relationships. A good web professional is bringing two things to the table in an institutional environment that’s invaluable — perspective and expertise. Knowing the technical aspects of their job to the depth and ability necessarily for where they are, is something of a given. (Or at least, should be.) Having someone at the table who can provide a lifeline for navigating the velocity of media is necessary.
It’s less about the technical side and more about strategy and marketing. It’s one thing to have a strong technical infrastructure and team handling things, but having people supervised by marketers and others who often have a background steeped in print and old media can leave a gap. Lots of institutions have become proactive about filling it, but the more technology grows in our lives, the more places we have a need for it. So where before it was only about having a web site, now it’s about a social media presence.
So I told my friend, that it’s less about the backend of things. It’s important to have someone on a team who’s experienced with these matters, to be sure. Yet, a decade into this “new world” of web and marketing and we’re still explaining these roles in very old school ways. It hasn’t caught on to a wider audience yet, because the need for marketing and strategy outside of the business world doesn’t seem as necessary a component. But it ignores the communications piece of the puzzle. When we peel it all back, that’s all we’re doing anyway. I’m fond of telling people that so much of what we do online is the same sorts of conversations we’ve always had, we’re just using different tools to carry them out and now we have a wider pool of folks from which we’re conversing.
We’re conductors for an orchestra of different voices. I’m doubting that ‘web conductor’ will be a new job title anytime soon, though.