Dealing With The Digital Gap at Work
Remember 7-8 years ago when, at most, we had web and print designers? Well, now we have UI, UX, marketing designers, content and product designers and I could go on and on and on. Job titles in the digital ecosystem have ramified to such an extent, often even the people within the industry have trouble understanding what a position involves.
And it doesn’t just apply to designers, developers, digital marketers. It’s slowly becoming relevant for other positions as well. Don’t get me wrong, having such a variation in digital jobs is a wonderful sign of a thriving and competitive industry. It’s also a sign of a growing digital gap, a divide in understanding not just what we do but the impact of the things we do during our working lives and the value of the skills we bring with us.
Some of it has to do with the fact that working in this industry means running both a sprint and a marathon, with some people not wanting or being able to keep up, but some of it has a lot to do with us and the way we push either ourselves or others, rarely both, to keep up with changes. Let’s look at some of the things I think we can change to make our working lives just a little bit easier.
Mind your vocabulary
Ever described a task as “easy” or said it’s “just” an article/ post? When describing what we do, especially when we talk to people with barely tangent jobs to our own, we tend to downplay a lot of the more “simpler” tasks we perform but in trying to tell someone that we’re able to fulfill a request or have enough time to perform a task, we trivialize it.
How we describe our own jobs or the tasks we perform shapes other people’s perception of them. Having people estimate our work, especially when they’re completely clueless what it entails, is one of the most frustrating habits we’re confronted with. Now, how do you think simplifying your tasks even further might affect this tendency to estimate someone else’s job?
Do yourself and other people who perform similar tasks to yours a massive favour and just say what you mean.
Teach and preach
It’s one thing to say “We need to set up a company blog” to a room full of marketers and a whole different story when you’re saying it to folks who’ve never even read a blog post, let alone written one. Just because you understand all the implications of a task, don’t assume everyone else does.
Within such a fast-paced industry, unless you’re very hands-on with online marketing, you’re likely to only have a very blurry picture of all the strategies, changes and techniques you can use. To sell an idea or simply to make your life a wee bit easier when working with people who fill different positions, you have to get in the habit of non-condescendingly dishing out context.
Now some of us may already be doing this, however, you need to effectively calibrate providing enough context so people understand the implications without giving them details irrelevant to the point you’re trying to make. In other words, if you’re talking to an exec and trying to get them to approve the budget necessary for your company blog, tell them what resources you need, give them a high level overview of the process and the benefits your initiative will bring. Hold back on the many layers of content marketing, social media distribution tactics, editorial calendar, SEO, etc.
Just like you need to understand your audience when you distribute content in a campaign, you’ll need to understand your audience and tailor the messages about online marketing you deliver to the people you work with.
Do NOT give up or in
When you’ve explained something in 50 different ways to 50 different people and you have to rinse and repeat it, you might get a tad bit frustrated, roll your eyes and just go along with whatever overused and abused strategy someone’s come up with. This is one reason why we can’t have nice online campaigns, so please stop!
Learn to use context, professional experience and your actual job to advocate for improvements, innovation and just a better way of doing things all around. Remember, people can’t think outside the box if they can’t see the box. You’ve got to draw it for them. And yes, it does get frustrating, but I don’t think caving in and going with bad options makes things any easier.
Sharing is caring
The easiest way to try and keep people in the digital loop is by sharing updates with them and the most effective way to get them on board with best practices is by making sure the sources of said recommendations are thought-leaders they recognise and respect.
Repackaging content into easy to follow, very visual digests that link to the source material but also include a brief overview, author profiles and one key insight is, although neither quick nor an easy, but effective way of maximising the likelihood that they will, at least in part, register the information you’re distributing and, most importantly, by the time you try to pitch an idea, your audience will already have some of the context required for buy-in.
The Bottom Line
When you’ve got a million things to do and on top of that have to explain the ins and outs of a complex online campaign to someone still struggling with the basics of hashtags, you can easily get frustrated and give into crappy ideas or quickly get up the I-know-better high horse.
The trick is accepting that the people around you might not have the same level of understanding you do and, through a combination of putting your foot down and preaching best practices, prioritise the success of your campaign/ initiative over ego-cuddling.