The new digital universe

There are big opportunities for comms professionals with specialist digital skills, says VMA Group's lead consultant, digital comms practice, Michelle Morgan.

The digital universe is expanding, but the era of the digital generalist is coming to an end. Where previously this discipline could be split into three core areas – channel managers, content providers and analytics experts – we’re now seeing demand for specialists within these divisions. We’re noting that social media or community managers, for example, are in high demand.

"Specialist digital skills within a comms function are no longer nice to have but fundamental to any team with an ambition to engage a modern audience," comments Tony Stewart, international internal community manager at NBCUniversal.

It is fair to say digital is now becoming a profession in itself rather than a part of the overall marketing or comms remit. An increasing number of businesses are turning to expert hiring professionals to help find out what their business needs and find niche candidates with the specialist experience they require.

At VMA Group, we’ve also noted a clear shift in the experience, seniority and salary level of those professionals in demand. Two years ago, what our clients wanted was a senior digital professional to drive comms strategies at one end of the spectrum and junior graduates to action social media objectives at the other. Now there is a real need for mid-level professionals with relevant experience to bridge the gap.

This evolving demand provides a great opportunity for candidates at all levels to really make their mark in the digital sphere, but there are a number of key considerations:

1. What is your specialism?

It is important to think about where you want your career to take you. As the sun rises on the era of the digital specialist, it is imperative that you know what you believe you can do better than anyone else. Have you successfully used social media for employee engagement? Have you implemented community
engagement strategies for external stakeholders? Can you show the difference it made to your employer and how your involvement was critical?

2. Build a personal brand

Once you’re clear where you want to be, ensure your personal brand reflects this and it is reflected in the eyes of any potential employers. Consider how you come across in your online profile – is it clear to someone who doesn’t know you where your area of expertise in digital lies? What makes you different from the next ‘community manager’ or ‘digital specialist’?

3. Show your business acumen

Candidates also need to highlight their understanding of the wider business environment. Employers are coming to recognise that online comms are ineffective unless they convey key brand messages and have an understanding of wider corporate strategies. As such, professionals with the relevant business acumen are in high demand.

Outlining exactly what the future holds for digital is a tricky task. On one hand, digital specialists need a magnifying glass – locate your niche, become an expert and build a career. On the other hand, don’t forget to look up – use your wider business skills and remember where digital sits within the wider corporate context. Lifted by an increasingly buoyant recruitment market, there are huge opportunities for the digital professional who takes the time to understand their unique skill set and the market for it.

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