Digital-First is the Way

Digital was never just a professional "add-on."

Digital-first is the way.

I can see it now. It was never about what role digital should play in marketing and communications.

It was always the other way around.

I’ve worked in various disciplines of public relations. When I decided to specialise in digital strategy, most of my peers in the traditional advertising and communications industry tried to convince me that I’d better set my mind on making my transition a temporary one.

Why? Because we convinced them that traditional marketing would catch up, and when it (meaning they) did, we would consume my specific line of business (“digital marketing”).

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” they said.

The Digital Gap is Wider Than Ever

Now, depending on where you’d place the starting marker, I’d say we’re only five years into the complete professionalisation of digital marketing.

The question is if digital marketing will ever slow down for as long as anyone reading this will be around?

And traditional marketers and communicators … haven’t caught up yet. More often than not, they aren’t even close.

Instead, the digital gap is more expansive than ever.

Influencer marketing is a-changing — is your business ready for the next phase? Influencers will be taking over the algorithms.

Breaking the news: The digital transformation challenge for news organisations. Journalism will have to change drastically to survive the transition.

Now that digital has won, creative dominion will be the next frontier. We will all have to set up our game creatively to cut through the noise.

How quantum supremacy will impact the PR industry? New types of supercomputing will ensure that digital keeps evolving.

The online basecamp: Why your website is more important than ever. All brands will have to claim their own space on the web and ensure it’s not void of engagement.

The internet of brains: Would you connect your brain to the internet? We will be linking to the internet in ways that are even hard to imagine.

Conversion theory: The disproportionate influence of minorities. The power dynamic on the internet will be in a constant state of flux.

The web is not flat. We will have to adapt to a web that isn’t two-dimensional.

The inbound marketing paradigm. We won’t be able to keep chasing our audiences; we must entice them to come to us.

The human API: The cybernetic renaissance is coming. We will be connecting not only our devices but ourselves to the internet.

The hippie web is dead — enter the money web. The internet will be the world’s most significant marketplace.

Human rights, free internet access, and net neutrality. How the internet is operated will have a more significant impact on humanity than anything we’ve ever seen.

Social didn’t kill our culture. New cultures will rapidly emerge and disappear—and they will affect how we do both business and journalism.

Facebook is our Spinning Jenny. Facebook will connect us to information about ourselves (and the world) in a way comparable to the Industrial Revolution’s breakthrough.

PR must adapt or die. With all these emerging new technologies, it’s not self-evident that PR professionals will still be needed.

Media logic is dead, long live media logic. We must learn anew how the media works.

Analogue Marketing is ‘Business Unusual’

Now, I hate to say it, but traditional marketing doesn’t just “absorb” all of this during regular business hours.

This is, to paraphrase digital strategist Henriette Weber, business unusual.

Digital marketing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. As soon as you stumble upon something new, yet another endless abyss of potential knowledge and skill sets opens up under your feet.

I’ve helped several startups to recruit. And what prominent marketing- or communication competence do they want for their first hire? Digital specialists, every time.

Instead of seeing digital marketing specialists disappear, those of us who are putting digital first are constantly getting better positions within companies.

It’s a new way of thinking, but it’s not rocket science.

It’s evolution.

Because if it works digital-first, it’s easy to make it work elsewhere as well. Networked media logic best represents how communication flows through a wired society.

Digital-First is the Future of PR

All types of marketing have merit; it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve.

However, digital will be the prime mover of people’s perceptions for decades to come. It has become our number one source for information, group formation, and dialogue.

So, what does this mean?

It means that digital communication is not a fad.
It means that we must adapt—or die.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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