Yes, You Should Put Things To Paper

There is one thing in digital I will advocate for until the end of time: Putting your strategy and approach to paper. Yes, I know that this industry is fickle. Yes, I understand that platforms change. Yes, I know that teams have to be nimble. But no, that does not take away from the need to put your strategy and vision to paper.

Too often digital is the wild, wild west. The voice, tone and messaging feels aimless and disconnected from the brand’s DNA. There’s pressure to resort to gimmicks for vanity metrics. Teams do a lot of “stuff” without understanding the why or the ROI. In the end, digital without purpose will never get its due.

If you work in digital, the best thing you can do is take the time to define what you do and why. Pull yourself away from the tactics. See the big picture. Play the long game. Define how digital impacts what matters to the organization. Put the vision to paper. And, focus your energy there.

It can be hard to pause, stop and think in an industry that is constantly moving and changing. But that’s an excuse to play the short and easy game, not the long game. If teams don’t stop to reflect and define, they will be in a constant churn of testing and trying without truly understanding the why. This fly-by-approach can amount to small wins but not much else.

Tactics and strong execution matter a lot, but only if they ladder back to something bigger. So yes, here’s why you should put your strategy and approach to paper even in a nimble and constantly changing industry:

Gives Work Purpose & Focus

First, putting your strategy to paper gives the work purpose. It starts with an understanding of your organizational goals and cascades off of that. Social is meant to be fun, yes, but more than that we’re in the business of driving results (whatever that is for the org). The priority should be on the business first.

If your team does not have a clear understanding of what matters to the organizational, then they’ll be aimlessly clicking, posting, tweeting, and facebooking on the internet all day. They’ll end up bogged down in a bunch of tactics that don’t truly impact the business.

Putting a strategy to paper gives teams a guide and North Star. It allows them to prioritize their energy on what matters and avoid the endless traps and distractions that come with working “on the internet”. When teams have purpose, they feel empowered and values. Make the work matter.

Gets Buy-In

Second, it helps to get buy-in across the board. When you work as a team to put things to paper, people understand the vision and rally around it. If executing the vision requires cross-functional support (which most likely it does) it does not leave any type of guessing game. It makes sure everyone from leadership to the team executing are aligned

Additionally, if you put your strategy to paper and get buy-in from the top, it helps you push back when things don’t make sense. It lessens fire drills. Helps drive projects forward. And, allows you to say no where needed (but not just for the sake of it) because you have a reason for being.

Helps You Advocate For The Work

Finally, putting a strategy to paper helps you champion for the work of the team. If the plan cascades off of organizational goals and you’ve gotten buy-in from leadership, then the work has a reason for being. Knowing your why is a powerful tool for giving digital its due. When you can say the plan impacted x, y and z you’ll be more likely to get more resources and have team members rewarded and recognized.

If you want digital to get its due within an organization, put things to paper. This doesn’t mean everything is written down. It’s about the vision, the objectives, the high level plan and mapping back to org goals. It’s about the long-term play and not what will change in the day-to-day.

Once your team has a strategy and vision down, put together a one-pager and pass it around (like this very rough example below). Evangelize the work and vision. Make sure people understand how digital is impacting the business. Our jobs are a lot more than likes and retweets. Prove it.

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