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How do you become a Digital Strategist?

Grant Flannery, is the Associate Strategy Director The White Agency and founder of Digital AdCulture. He often gets asked how he landed his gig as a strategist and shares his thoughts here. 

“I often get asked ‘how did you get into Strategy?’

I moved from client side strategic marketing to being a suit agency side and then into strategy. Once I start explaining what we do in strategy, suddenly everybody wants to be a strategist, or as I often hear them say, ‘could be a strategist’. That’s what my colleagues say, usually after I have spent days or weeks working on a keynote or brief that I feel will change the world, but in reality probably just sits in someone’s inbox once they’ve read the summary slides or first three lines of the brief.

So it begs the question, ‘what makes everybody want to be a strategist or think they could be a strategist’? Is it because they see ‘strategists’ staring out a window to see if the perfect customer value proposition will pop into our head? Or is it because they think all we do is surf the Internet at the pub, look at cool stuff and come up with amazing ideas that the client will buy on the spot.

Perhaps it’s because a Strategist’s output can often look so simplistic when laid out in a perfectly designed presentation. But what most colleagues (and clients) don’t know is to come to our recommendations we have:

  • Researched 12 different target markets
  • Understood consumer behavior and brand perception
  • Gone through rigorous user testing with the UX department
  • Trawled through pages of media consumption documents to demonstrate we consume media in different ways
  • Compared the best brands in the world just to work out that Nike kick ass at everything
  • Looked at data and realised we didn’t have enough or the right type
  • Spent countless hours working on how we could bring a campaign to life and convince the client to sign off the brief
  • Get the creative started
  • Then at the very end of all of our (as a friend would put it “strategisation”), showed our designers the Keynote we prepared and they nearly threw up in their mouth!

It is true that most people probably could be a strategist or think very strategically but it’s also true that it’s easy to look at the final product and think “Is that all? It’s pretty simple, I could’ve done that.”

As a very wise person once said “It’s not what is said in the meeting, it’s about what isn’t said in the meeting”. The hard part is making it all seem so simple. The next time you see a presentation a strategist has put together, think about the words and pages that are not in the presentation – and not only about the ones that are.

I want to encourage everybody that has an inkling that they could be a strategist in digital or traditional to really give it a shot. The life of a strategist is both fun and painful, both understood and misunderstood (that’s just they way we talk), but overall it really is a great area to be in.”

This post originally appeared on The White Agency’s blog. Connect with Grant on Twitter.

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