An Argument Against Labeling Strategists

Leo Burnett Change's " Second Chance " video combines human insight and technology usage behavior for a home run web video.

Leo Burnett Change's "Second Chance" video combines human insight and technology usage behavior for a home run web video.

A long time ago, a friend of mine said she believed the idea of a "Digital _______" — whether that blank be filled with "agency," "art director," or "strategist" — would become obsolete. That the lines would continue to blur, and these qualifiers would become pointless. The unfortunate thing, however, is that we're still tremendously struggling to move away from a world of specialists. "Gurus," "Ninjas," and "Czars" — if not in title, then in spirit — still exist within agencies. Even I, to my loathing, have been referred to as a "Social Media Guru" at work.

I don't want to be a guru of anything, and I believe any strategist looking for that reverence is cutting their legs out from under themselves. I know it's easier said than done, but all strategists should strive to shed qualifiers and instead embrace an integrated outlook that the industry as a whole is trying to move toward.

An integrated perspective calls on a strategist to think in human truths and insights rather than channel optimization. This may come across as simply being traditional brand planning, but I believe it requires an understanding that goes a level deeper. You should have more than just a peripheral knowledge of old and new technologies. You should at least have a working knowledge of their ins and outs, and more important, how human behavior interplays with them. Applied strategic thinking, for lack of a better way to phrase it; but on a broad scale, rather than a specialized, channel-specific focus.

Leo Burnett Change's "Second Chance" video did an excellent job of connecting the dots between insight, technology, and emotion. They went deeper than just creating an emotional web video. They combined human insights behind the struggles of ex-offenders looking for work, with the insights of YouTube user behavior, to create an emotionally moving piece that makes you think (and look) twice.

The biggest challenge for strategists in adopting this mindset probably isn't a lack of willingness. It's the fact that most agencies still seem unable to think beyond channels and platforms. There are roles to be a brand strategist; a digital strategist; a social strategist; a content strategist. The list goes on. As if adding prefixes to a title showcases an enthusiasm for progress and forward-thinking, when in actuality, they act as handcuffs.

A good strategy shouldn't be bound by a platform, and neither should the strategist.

It takes a lot of resolve to avoid being typecast. You have to be deliberate about the work you take on, and the job offers you accept. Every step matters, and for every one you take down a path, it'll take twice as much effort to get out. You have to be your own compass. So, make sure you're headed in the right direction.