The digital skills you need. Now.

The merest hint of an economic upturn and industry pundits are guaranteed to talk about talent shortages across the marketing and communications mix. Then follow up with dire warnings about the need to hire people with the right skill sets, or add new competencies and practices, or update existing ones. Well, we’re now well into the UK recovery, and this time is no different. Just look at these recent headlines from the IDM members’ newsfeed: "Digital skills shortages are restricting companies", "Digital skills are key to future employment"; and "UK marketing industry lacking necessary data skills". Alarm bells seem to be ringing.

For the worlds of advertising, media and marketing, this debate predates the last recession. Even when dotcoms were booming, the dearth of digital understanding and talent was a common cry. But looking for digital experts in 2000 was very different from looking for them in 2014. The range of skills and disciplines is now wider and more complex. Search, analytics and social-media skills are sought-after, but from mobile marketing to app development, the demands of digital are deeper than ever.

It’s not just that marketers have to be more skilled in more, and more-diverse, disciplines. They have to be knowledgeable and have the agility to shift from one specialism to another, as well as integrate the planning and execution phases in a multichannel world. And after that, they have to prove their activities’ ROI by ensuring the measurability has been properly built-in up front.

When you add the need to work with an increasing number of stakeholders, it becomes a daunting task, so it’s no surprise if some marketers lose confidence, or don’t know which skills to prioritise, or how to quickly improve their know-how and performance.

There’s a growing demand for specialists in digital marketing disciplines.

If we understand how digital skills have grown and evolved, what else in the overall landscape has? What else does the industry need to allow a range of professionalised marketing competences to continue to boost the economy? There’s a growing demand for specialists in digital marketing disciplines – perhaps magnified by the fact that many companies are now looking to engage with customers on a much deeper level.

Essential skills? Yes, to search marketing for paid and organic. Data scientists need a range of pure maths, analytical, behavioural and psychology backgrounds. Every organisation needs to know where, and how, to get marketing and business intelligence from its data sets, how to analyse it and what to do with it. Email, social-media and content marketing – what, where, how, plus evaluation and proof of their effectiveness.

Nonetheless, it can’t be overstressed that having the right skills is not just about being up to date with digital tools or techniques. However complex it might be, the fundamentals have not changed – it’s still about understanding what actually works for your brand.

That’s where knowing the core principles of marketing comes in. So by all means get skilled in as many of the digital specialisms as you need, and encourage and help your teams to do so; but the marketers who will be most in demand are those who properly understand their brand and audiences, practise across a broad channel mix and can translate their insight and skills into measurable and provable results.


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