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Digital Strategy 101

Elisabeth Bradley

Vice President, Strategy, Forum One

Strategy is a word that gets thrown around so much it’s almost lost its meaning. But here at Forum One, we know that having a good digital strategy is the key to any modern organization’s success.

You may worry that stopping to develop a strategy will slow down your organization or use up precious resources. But being strategic is always worth the time and cost. You have to know where you’re going in order to get there, and when you have limited resources, you can’t afford to waste any of them by taking the wrong direction.

Why should you develop a digital strategy?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance”? We believe that! Creating a digital strategy will yield far better results than simply chasing after the latest online trend or sticking with the status quo. 

Developing a digital strategy will:

  • Build focus on your team and get everyone on the same page
  • Ensure that you’re investing resources in the highest priority activities
  • Help you decide what to stop doing, start doing, and continue doing
  • Deliver tangible, measurable results 

When should you develop a digital strategy?

It’s always a good time to take a step back and look at the big picture, but there are a few key moments where you definitely want to prioritize digital strategy planning.

  1. Before making a big investment, such as developing an entirely new website
  2. When there’s a change in leadership and you need team alignment
  3. Anytime you’re not achieving your goals, or don’t clearly know what your goals are
  4. When resources are limited, and staffing and budgeting require you to be as strategic and focused as possible.

Who should be involved in a digital strategy?

Anyone on your staff who does marketing, communications, and tech work should be part of creating and maintaining your digital strategy. It’s also key to have leadership involved early and often. Their support, enthusiasm and buy-in is essential. 

What should be in your digital strategy?

First, know your starting point by analyzing what you’re already doing, and whether it’s successful. Here are the eight key components that all digital strategies should include:

  1. Unifying Vision: It’s important to define success from the start and make sure that all your key stakeholders are on the same page about where you are trying to go with your digital presence. 
  2. Goals & Objectives: Every digital or communications activity that you undertake should be strategically aligned with the mission and goals of your organization.
  3. Digital Product Mix: Think beyond your website and ask yourself what you need. A podcast? A private community? An e-Learning platform? Evaluate all of your digital properties and take a serious look at what to keep, what to improve, and what to add.
  4. Digital Brand Experience: Take time to really understand who you’re trying to reach and what will resonate with them, and then develop the right messages and brand story to achieve your mission. This is also a great time to evaluate your brand character, logo, and design properties. 
  5. Content Strategy:  Make sure that every piece of content you produce has a target audience, message, tone and call-to-action, and think holistically about what format your content is in, where your content lives, how it is accessed and used, and how often it should be updated. 
  6. Supporting Technology: Once you know what kind of experience you want to create for your target audiences, determine the technology that you need in place.  This may involve updating or consolidating existing platforms or investing in new services.
  7. Operations Plan: Ensure your strategy’s success by identifying an implementation team, clarifying who is responsible for each component, and creating a roll-out and training plan. 
  8. Budget and Staffing Plan: The digital strategy should address budget and staffing needs, as well as an implementation timeline. Budget can include the cost of development, licensing fees, site maintenance and support, and employee salaries. 

A digital strategy is critical to create alignment, clarify priorities, and make the most of limited resources. Taking the time to define the process will make your team and your organization more effective and efficient, and ensure that your resources are spent on activities that actually move your mission forward. 
 

Written By

Elisabeth Bradley

Vice President, Strategy, Forum One