Blog Insights
Drive Impact with a Digital Program

Fragmented digital projects are never going to create the impact you really need.

Since 2020, nearly all organizations have been forced to expand their online presence in order to reach their core audiences. This may mean launching new member websites and program micro-sites, moving in-person events to virtual webinars, or an increased emphasis on social media and email engagement to reach people you may have interacted with very differently pre-pandemic. 

All of these rapid changes in how we communicate, and the digital products and solutions developed to reach your partners and beneficiaries, have led to what we are calling the new Digital Dilemma. A complicated, cluttered digital ecosystem suffering from a number of ailments, including: 

  • Lack of brand consistency
  • Variable quality
  • Duplication of effort
  • Misplaced effort
  • Contracts and contractors everywhere
  • Difficult to maintain 

So how do you design and execute a comprehensive digital program that addresses all of these issues, connects your digital program to organizational impact, and integrates all of your digital activities into actual mission delivery? 

The organizations we have seen navigate these unchartered waters the most successfully are the ones who first establish a digital vision and roadmap to implementation, then execute effectively across all internal workstreams, and finally who constantly learn from mistakes and evolve in real-time.

How to implement your Digital Program

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. All departments of an organization are involved in an effective digital program, and all organizations are organized and operate slightly differently. We like to think about three primary models when it comes to executing your digital program:

  1. Centralized: In a centralized model, a single team owns all aspects of digital, from building new projects to content creating and publishing across various channels. All new digital content or edits to existing content are submitted by staff to this centralized Digital Team. We generally see this done really well in corporate environments or at smaller organizations. 
  2. Distributed: In a distributed model, a central team provides leadership, spearheads major initiatives, manages budgets and goals, and reviews and approves individual team work. However, individual teams execute on projects and create digital content. 
  3. Decentralized: In a decentralized model, every department and team is solely responsible for their respective digital properties, channels and content. A central team is responsible for the core organizational website and social media channels, but not programmatic content or channels. 

We generally recommend a distributed model. When this is done right, there is a force multiplier effect and digital is embedded into all aspects of the organization in a deeper way than if it was all handled by one central department, like the Communications Team, and it leverages the organization’s subject matter experts in a more meaningful way. However, the Communications and digital experts can still ensure all efforts are in line with brand guidelines and strategic goals.

What we often see is organizations that get stuck between distributed and decentralized models. Where the Communications Team is feeling more like a shorter order cook than a master chef. This happens for a number of reasons. Maybe the organization has grown rapidly, or it has historically not invested much into digital efforts. Whatever the cause, it is challenging to move from a decentralized to distributed approach.

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