What to do when your boss doesn’t get digital

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One of the big problems with digital marketing as a discipline is its relative newness.

It’s been around a few years, but nowhere near as long as communications, fundraising or finance. Disciplines like those have been around long enough that many senior leaders in charities cut their teeth on them.

Not so with digital. That’s often new to the top brass.

That often leads to heads of digital being managed by people without a background in digital marketing themselves.

The boss can provide personal and managerial support of course. But where can digital folk turn to for discipline-specific support and inspiration?


Join some communities

Inspiration and new ideas for your work don’t always come from above – they come at you from the side too.

Get some peer support. Your opposite numbers at other charities will give you inspiration on campaigns, platforms and ways of working.

NFP Tweetup and Digital Charities are two examples of groups that I personally have learned a huge amount from (and here are four others).

These are all excellent for the variety of stuff you can learn from them, and the range of people you can meet from all sorts of different levels at different charities.

The downside (and arguably the advantage) is the lack of structure to this form of learning. You might hear about loads of cool things, but sometimes cool, irrelevant things. Or cool, unworkable in your charity things.


Direct your own learning

When your boss lacks a strong digital background, he or she may not know what direction your learning should go. So it might be up to you to decide on the areas you think are important and go teach yourself them.

Start by completing the Econsultancy digital skills index. This will identify your strongest and weakest areas of digital knowledge.

Compare the results to the requirements of your job. Find training courses that fill the gaps, and ask your boss if you can go on them.

As well as training, there are tonnes of excellent blogs to learn from, like Econsultancy and Smart Insights.


Go on a General Assembly course

Digital marketing training gurus General Assembly have an excellent part-time digital marketing course.

The course can be done at evenings or weekends over the course of a few months. It delves into a wide variety of digital disciplines like UX, data and analytics, and search marketing.

I did this course once. I met people from tonnes of different industries, and gained a new framework and perspective on digital marketing that has guided my work ever since.


Educate your boss

You can help yourself by helping your boss. Give them a quick grounding in all areas of digital marketing.

Tell them the essential areas they need to know about to have useful conversations with you. Give them examples of great practice from other organisations in email marketing, social media or any other area you’re responsible for.

We also run briefings for senior staff on the essential elements of digital marketing, so get them to email us to find out about the next one.


Focus on the cultural change

If you’re looking to get digital taken more seriously at your organisation but lack the knowledge and support from senior team, focus on bringing about a culture of change.

This might seem irrelevant. But if your employers aren’t used to trying new things, introducing something like Slack has failed before it’s begun.

Pick something the organisation needs, try a small scale experiment to progress it, measure the results and share with the team. Start small, make it new and get people excited about it.


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