As we move forward in the digital age new questions arise for us to solve. For starters how do we create and manage a digital workforce? This is the focus of a talk I’ll be giving today at The Conference Board’s Digital Transformation and Communication in the Changing Workplace seminar.

While the question of how to create and manage a digital workforce is vast and complex, some initial groundwork can help companies move forward in the digital age. From the outset it is important to understand new expectations that accompany the new digital reality. The omnipresent digital workforce has made your job, and the job of your colleagues, much harder. External stakeholders now expect great amounts of speed and touch from brands. On the flip side, internal stakeholders bank on complete accuracy and safe speech from brands. This dichotomy creates a tension in the workforce which begs the question, how do we manage it? Despite vast resources composed of communication teams, senior management and employees at our disposal, communications in the digital world remains difficult. This is due to communications that originate out-of-house, making authenticity, accuracy and responsibility hard to manage.

The best way to combat these issues is to build a strong internal digital communications team through four components:

  1. Identify the skills that drive digital strategy. Communications will always trump technology. That means you do not want to search for people who lead with experience in technology. It also means you should avoid the common pitfall of assuming that younger employees and candidates are pre-qualified to drive your digital strategy and execution based on the notion of tech-savvy youth. Focus your search toward those who understand stakeholder nuances and invest in people who can tell stories in creative formats, whether that be design and/or video. A great tech guru may be able to play a story, but he probably can't write it.

    A strong leader who exudes trust is then needed, one who will be able gain the confidence of management. They must also be able to be able to integrate digital strategy to the overall stakeholder communications strategy, be a peer of senior management, a great internal communicator and be able to measure the effectiveness of digital communications output. Once you have your team in place, the hardest task will be trusting them with your brand; they need authority in decision making about brand voice.

  2. Build a newsroom in your organization. Newsrooms match the tempo of messaging, which is needed to drive brand reputation in a digital world. The conversation speed of the web is fast. In a few minutes the news cycle can, and most likely will, turn. You need vast amounts of content to keep up with the conversation speed. Don’t start your knowledge from scratch — digitize your institutional knowledge instead. You then need to integrate pivotal employees as centers of thought leadership and digital spokespeople.

  3. Use digital analytics to shape communications strategy. Digital analytics can help you keep track of where conversations regarding your business are headed. Analytics are a form of business intelligence; senior business managers will be brought into the fold when you understand how business intersects with communications. You can precisely pinpoint your audience strategy more effectively if you understand the audiences who are currently engaging.

    In order to successfully use analytics, you need the right analyst. That person should be a storyteller, someone who can use data to craft content and produce reports for internal and external clients. Don’t rely on an analyst wedded to their tools rather than the data.

  4. Build better relationships with stakeholders active in social. In order to find active digital stakeholders, analysts should monitor influencers related to core business and aligning issues, while also monitoring how competitors are engaging with them. You want to identify centers of excellence such as conferences and industry events. Recognize your role as the convener; bringing influencers together for a cause, an issue or an industry event is paramount. Whenever possible, align yourself with influencers at major industry events. Influencers want access to your decision makers.

These four key strategies are critical to keep up with the pace and cadence of communications in the digital age. Specific skill sets should be identified and sought after when building digital communications teams. These teams should function like a newsroom and analytics should connect to all parts.

For more information and insights on the digital workplace the following articles by my colleagues at APCO may be helpful:

Managing Talent in the Digital Age: Balancing the Complexities of today’s workforce

Three Ideas Creating Transformational Learning Experiences in the Digital Workplace

The Benefits of Internal Social Media? Engaged Employees

Here are the slides I'll be presenting today:

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Marc Johnson

Marc Johnson, senior director, is APCO Worldwide's global Digital practice lead based in New York. Read More