Conversations between digital strategists

Last week, I discovered this podcast:

Largely based on an interview between


Lindsay Munro: Manager of Conversation at FITC (@lindsaymunro)

Justin Kozuch: Lead Researcher and Technology Critic at Pixel to Product (@jkozuch)



Emma Brooks, Digital Strategist at Publicis Modem

Scott Suthren, Director of Digital Strategy at Publicis Modem

Listened to it, liked it, tweeted it. Job done.

Except that it wasn’t because I was then asked by Scott to identify what I particularly liked.

So I listened again to the hour long episode and transcribed what I could. 

If I was to take the advice of Scott and Emma, I should really distill exactly what I found useful and then give you my transcription notes. Here are my three highlights:

1) I like hearing other digital strategists talk. I like to know how they think, I like to know if it’s similar to the way I think. In an agency it could sometimes be a lonely role (you spend as much time with data as you do with humans) and as a freelancer – it’s even more challenging. With a little tongue in cheek I likened it to being a mutant (bit of an X-Men fan) – what superpowers do other strategists have and how do they make their way in the world?

2) Specific to their dialogue, I really apreciated:

  • The challenge on the effectiveness of social media monitoring tools… that activity does not equal influence. There’s so much noise about how wonderful social media tracking tools are that it’s refreshing to hear a little blunt chat that they ain’t all that. 
  • Emma’s enthusiasm around tracking a user  (email address) across databases, I guess when you get to play with and even hack existing tracking tools to mine additional information & investigate patterns. It’s the creative part of analytics.
  • Build to simplicity. In an appraisal I had a couple of years ago as a digital planner – I was told I overdelivered. Someone would give me a question and I’d come back with 20 different options of where the solution might lie. I’d overwhelm them. “Build to simplicity” is about the importance of overdelivering (building), but only if you can then identify/overlay the most important insights for a client (to simplicity)

3) Scott made a comment about the fact that most people/consumers follow a brand for a gift, discount or promotion – essentially any kind of exclusive offer/extrinsic value. I’ve been reading Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” where she talks about the increasingly demands of brands in terms of event sponsorship. The very way she described the ambitious nature of brands to manipulate community events is actually now pretty close to the way certain individuals behave online (aka “influencers”) to get the attention of brands. It just made me think that the level of manipulation had come full circle….???

Below is a very rough transcription of the podcast… Sometimes I tried to capture specific quotes and sometimes I just paraphrased as quickly as possible. In any case, you’ll get the gist!

10:23 What defines a digital strategist?

Take a look at the digital landscape.

Good grasp of technology

Trends in the space

Understand client’s problem

Enjoy hearing other dig strats, since rarely meet them. Provides benchmark, like X-Men when mutants discover they’re not alone

11:34 Responsible for touch-points, community, business case, business models

12:06 Bucket term

12:22 Difficult to quantify value as a Digital Strategist

13:20 Shift in job titles because nobody understands the digital space

13:44 Understand consumer, problem and work towards a common goal

13:55 Emma  – does Social and Dig Strat, Community Manager

14:17 “Community Management gives you a really beautiful insight into your customer.”

Helps you understand you client’s business, in terms of customer insights and process

15:17 Pushing out message & do something immediately. Mass advertising one way – but no expectation for consumer to do anything back.

How do you motivate someone enough to do something back?

16:16 Setting goals & defining RoI

There’s so much pressure to measure everything – it puts a lot of pressure on the platform.”Hey we could measure EVERYTHING and it’s going to be AWESOME.”

18:28 “A lot of Social is upper funnel – they’re already customers.”

Clients always asking to evaluate value of Social from a Media perspective and it’s really difficult to do that.

18:55 “It’s really difficult to put a value on a relationship, because how do you know that investment in a particular relationship is going to result in a sale. How do you know if that person is going to be an influencer and is going to go out there and speak to 7 or 10 people. How do you know that they’re going to be a loyal client? You can’t validate that process.”

19:45 Klout & gauging influence

“The tools are still pretty new. We look at social listening tools and they are pulling in results which aren’t even relevant. The tools have still yet to deliver the efficiency we need them to.”

“Clients really have to be comfortable for what defines success in that space.”

Metrics in one industry can’t be exported to another.

Example – what works for Kleenex, will be different to Red Bull – completely different spaces.

22:00 How would you define a successful campaign

Focus metrics around the particular problem you’re trying to solve and measure yourself against that.

Analytics is a personal opportunity to learn. What worked, what didn’t, what should I do differently?

Referencing specific campaign, where client asked for few key metrics every day – fans, opt-ins, high-value tasks completed. We had targets set on in-category competitors. We did modelling…. Had targets set on outside-the-category

24:54 Is there one key metric that clients keep asking for again and again

“Yes, sales.”

30:10 Exciting work in cross-referencing databases we own – emails from FB used against other databases in terms of email and loyalty – to identify behaviours that help us learn more about the audience, compared to someone who’s involved with only one of three channels – opportunity to map the ecosystem.

What other measurement tools do you use?

Omniture, Google Analytics, social-listening tools (sentiment), back-end Facebook tools

“To me influencers are a bit of a myth.”

How many times does someone mention a brand in a quarter? Are they talking about the brand in a positive way?

“I’m still skeptical about the whole influencer/outreach vein.” Difficult to find people talking about a brand on a regular basis – AUTHENTICALLY.

There’s a myth that influencers are the Holy Grail for your brand, but when you dig a little deeper into the analytics, you discover that these people have been smart to figure out where the noise is happening and they get in front of the parade. The what’s-in-it-for-me mentality. When you look at the top motivations for consumers following brands on Facebook – it’s because they want a gift, they want something in return.

True influencers tend not to be visible because they don’t have the frequency of tweets and depth of followers. It all depends on how you define those influencers. If you really want to find those influencers, you’re not going to find them through any kind of automated tool.

36:26 They still haven’t developed a very good algorithm that produces a relevant judgement – identifies real meaning. We all the inaccuracy of sentiment analysis.

The number of neutral comments we see in sentiment analysis is insane.

Because these systems are bad at gauging relevancy – I question their judgement to determine an influencer.

Activity does not = influence

41:55 Credibility is not something that can be measured by a system. They talk about someone’s reach like a media metric and the reach may be extensive, but it tells us nothing about the content in there.

44:10 what’s the basic skillset for someone who wants to become a digital strategist?

“Curiosity – you have to want to learn”

“you have to be a generalist, if you’re a specialist – it’s very difficult for you to be adaptable – finding information in disparate domains. 

You might have to look at information across lots of different topics and find a way of digesting it all and bringing it together. This why strategists come from all different types of backgrounds.


“You have to have that ability to synthesise”

“To be that generalist who can get just deep enough into something to get what you need to synthesise topics”

“The ability to distil down….. and then believing in it”

“Being able to get rid of the garbage and not worry about putting all of this different stuff in front of a client.”

“Nuance, clarity, find clear signal in the noise”

“Humility -be humble, aim for that clarity of message.”

Throw research in an appendix.

“People forget that simplicity and clarity are really hard to do in this complex world”

Problem is constantly changing, solution is constantly changing – dynamics are changing.

You build to simplicity.

Sometimes the best strategists are the ones that have a life outside of it.

Recommended reading:

“The Creative Priority”

“Predictably Irrational.”