Earlier this year I ventured out of the office in the drizzle, and donned my high-vis, to be given a live site tour. The Bolanachi building in Bermondsey, London is where our Housing Maintenance team are currently working hard to make it fire safe. This includes replacing the exterior cladding and meticulously checking every flat and balcony.

I'm always impressed with the enthusiasm of the teams on these projects. Especially when a well planned and methodical approach is essential. There is the ever-changing nature of a project like this where client and government brief alterations can force changes to the brief and deadlines. Liaison with residents is also very important so that there are no surprises - in this case being comfortable enough to let our teams into their homes.

One particularly striking conversation was when the project manager told us about his operations officer. He said that he was the most trustworthy and productive colleague he had ever worked with.

As usual, this visit got me thinking of lots of parallels to my own (admittedly more cushy) desk job. In particular how we're all trying to do less with more. All of the companies I see recruiting are looking for that individual who will stand out and be different from the rest. Someone like this operations officer who has the ability to cover when another person is ill, or on holiday, someone who is willing to learn if they don't know.

In a recent meeting with our marketing placement student I said that as a manager a really important skill to see in my team is to proactively find and solve problems. Even if the solution isn't perfect it's a really striking skill when most people wait to be told what to do.

We've all had an experience where we've been asked to help, perhaps an elderly relative, with a technical problem with a computer. Whilst it may not be something we've done before, or know how to do, we give it a go anyway, try some troubleshooting and eventually solve the problem. This is a lesson in why we shouldn't shy away from applying for any job which we want!

When recruiting for any role the most important thing to look for is this type of attitude. People can learn how to use software applications which they don't know how to use but it's a lot harder to change their attitude.

As well as this there are also some key skills which I feel make for the best digital marketers:

1. An understanding of the business and what makes the most money

To effectively market a business it needs to be properly understood. This helps when working out on which activities it is best to spend time. Then it's possible to actively prove worth and immediately begin to add value.

2. Not making things look complicated to make you look clever

This is particularly true in digital marketing which can traditionally be seen as an area best left to the technically minded. Taking the time to sit down with your team and show them how things work and why is really important.

3. Happy to be held accountable

Along with problem solving this is an attribute which definitely makes people stand out from the crowd. If leaders demonstrate it themselves then this is the best way to embed this into the company culture.

4. The ability to navigate a complex business

This became more evident to me when working on our website rebuild project. The ability to not get bogged down by internal structures and to simplify and be user focused is essential. There will always be conflicted demands but knowing how everything interrelates (or doesn't!) helps streamline how you work.

With an attitude that encompasses these four points it should definitely make a more effective marketer both as an employee and as someone who has a user-focused outlook.

Now that our revised social media strategy has been rolled out across the company it's time to ensure regular measurement! With planning tools in place, and clear guidance to contributors, it's essential to see if our recommended strategy works in practice.

But with digital now just another part of the marketing mix shouldn't all marketing contributors be able to do the basic of reporting on their work themselves?

Given my role as the in-house digital marketing lead I've always thought of myself as a generalist. By having an understanding of other channels it allows me to grasp a whole marketing strategy and know what we're working towards. There's no way one person could master all 50+ channels anyway! I've been responsible for telling my colleagues or manager how a piece of content written a month ago is performing. That's why in this case I have been responsible for setting clear objectives and then creating/populating a regular dashboard for the team to monitor progress.

The danger of this all sitting as my sole responsibility is it doesn't give my colleagues the power to truly demonstrate their value to the role/company. If others can't, or don't want to provide analysis on the performance on the success of their work how can they show they're contributing to the most basic of marketing and business goals?

Whether a content writer, copywriter, SEO copywriter, or a blogger if you're not reporting on the content you have created you're not fully understanding its success or impact. Therefore, you're also probably not improving and could potentially be held hostage by a single person’s (the reporter's) absence. This is a dangerous place to be in an industry that is becoming increasingly demanding.

In fact, with the majority of jobs piling on the stress most companies are now expecting more from their applicants. They want someone who has the ability to cover when another person is on holiday, or ill, someone who is willing to learn if they don't know. Everyone in this industry must be able to do at least some basic reporting, to show how their content has performed, otherwise they will never stand out from the other hundreds of applicants.

As a generalist, where I need to improve is to not only have a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, but a deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few). It is natural to crave mastery in the workplace so if I find myself constantly shifting gears between surface-level tasks in multiple practices I will never have the chance to develop the mastery of one particular area.

It might also mean I don't earn respect from experts, leading to a lack of support and push back on initiatives. The level below this being those who have a very deep understanding of one thing (i.e graphic design) and haven't built a basic competence across disciplines. These people then have a hard time building value in a team environment.

The best team members are those who can tackle diverse projects with creativity and agility while maintaining high effectiveness. Only they know enough to implement the knowledge of experts and when to bring them to the table. This is an area I particularly need to work on.

Coming off the back of two big projects (website and a social media review),  has allowed me to begin to recognise when and where deeper expertise is needed and the wherewithal to bring it to bear on my projects. All digital marketers stand on the shoulders of giants.

The web is a vast library of knowledge and tools, instantly accessible, served up by people who dive deep into topics, build solutions and share them with the world (often free of charge). Having the ability to adapt and adopt where I can't build is key. Being an in-house digital marketer without a lot of internal support, I need to focus on cultivating a network of specialists I can turn to when a project fits.
Whilst trying to revamp our social media strategy for 2019 one thing has become clear. That we needed to arrive at a focused list of actionable goals. As soon as we began the research it was obvious that this stage could snowball into a massive project in itself with no defined end or list of recommendations. So, rather than try to solve everything in one foul swoop it made sense to begin testing our main conclusions to then set us up for phase 2...

So what initial conclusions have we swiftly arrived at? During the process of looking at our own social growth last year, and comparing it to competitors, we saw that best practice existed out of sector. We also gained a clear view of which content type and time of day was working. By mapping these content types against parts of the business we immediately came to some quick conclusions:

1. Not all channels were working for us -
this is why we made the decision to retire our Facebook and Instagram accounts. As a B2B business the former was showing no ROI whatsoever in 2018. So why persist with it? With regards to Instagram, this is something we do intend to revisit soon. But, without a clear channel specific strategy it ran the risk of just regurgitating content from other channels. It's a truly visual medium where we need to cultivate a different group of followers and showcase some beautiful photos for it to succeed.

2. Channel specific strategies are essential - By concentrating on fewer channels it means we can address them properly. In some cases we were guilty of using the same content, imagery and tone of voice across all platforms. By looking out of sector I've seen some brilliant examples of how to maximise the use of Twitter in particular. In the next few weeks we'll be putting this to the test as we develop a unique and bold voice with the aim of keeping it simple. We can then quickly evaluate if what our research is showing us is correct.

3. Guidance for contributors - with an increase in employee advocacy we need to be encouraging sharing wherever possible. Sharing good news can be so much more powerful coming from an individual than a company. This is why I've been working on a series of training sessions and documents to help colleagues make the most of their LinkedIn profiles. I'm also deep into writing guidelines for direct contributors to company accounts.

4. Templates for consistency of brand - this guidance document contains lots of good and bad practice examples of tone of voice and emoji usage. I've made a point of referring to the latter as 'iconography' as this should avoid the danger of them being used in a more frivolous manner. We've also identified the top content from the last year which we can signpost with templates to make it visually appealing (e.g. blog posts, awards wins and press releases).

5. Clear objectives and ownership - I've been very careful to ensure that all activity is SMART. With regular review dates in the diary this also means we can get an idea early on if the revised strategy needs adjusting. For each of our channels we have seen the need to appoint local owners who we will support in proving that their account is worth their time and has a clear ROI.

6. Workflow and planning - As a central team we need to govern what is shared whilst still allowing the business to retain this ownership. By setting up tools which allow clear planning posting and approvals we can then oversee the content before it is posted. This helps us educate the business as we go along meaning all of our goals are met.

These are some of the tactics we'll be putting into practice in the next few weeks and we'll be evaluating them as we go. Keeping up to date is essential in any type of marketing so watch this space to see if we find this newly formulated plan has worked or is badly misjudged!
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