This past week I had the opportunity to be part of something new in my organization. During and after content planning workshops, web editor and author orientations, and a planning session for how to strategically recognize award recipients, I heard enthusiasm and excitement about doing things differently, doing things better. None of these things would have happened if I hadn’t invited myself to the table.
Over and over again, digital professionals hear that we have to have a seat at the table to affect business decisions. But too many of us wait to be invited to that table. We have to accept that the invitation probably is not coming. Each of us needs to invite ourselves to the table.
I was once one of the those people. When I was younger, I sat off to the side, listening to others discuss fascinating things. I didn’t dare ask questions or offer ideas. Who was I to suggest something? But back then I was not a digital worker – very few were. I was trying to break into a field that was as old as nations, even if the world was in a state of upheaval at the end of the Cold War. It was harder to get a seat at the table without a lot of experience.
I won’t bore you with the rest of my story, so let’s fast forward 15 years. I am a digital professional now. The web is ubiquitous and websites have gotten out of control. While everyone agrees that the web is important and no organization can exist without a website, very few organizations realize how much that ecosystem of digital communications can help or hurt their bottom line. It’s not the fault of the CEOs or other top leaders in the companies. It’s our fault. Too many of us sit back and complain about how nobody listens, nobody gets it. We go about our jobs doing what we can. Sometimes we sneak strategy in or use guerrilla tactics to do something a little better. I have even advised this.
A change in tactics
It is time to stop quietly doing our things and not being noticed. We have to be more visible, more vocal, more insistent that digital come first, not last. We must insist that digital professionals be part of the strategic considerations of all organizations. Paul Boag lays out the case for doing this in his book Digital Adaptation. My advice now is to be a vocal agent for change. We need to use strategic nagging* to get our seat at the table. We have to show our business value, as Andrea Goulet Ford implores us in Here’s Why You Can’t Sell Your Ideas: content strategists need “to stop explaining their process and start communicating our value.”
Take the risk
It will be difficult at first. It’s scary to say, “I want to be at the meeting to discuss the membership campaign.” But you have to do it. Maybe the first meeting you’ll just sit back and listen sheepishly. But it won’t be long before you realize you know more than many of others, recognize your value, and start speaking up. Guess what? People will listen. You’ll start doing things better. People will come to you at the – gasp – beginning of a project!
One word of caution: Be careful what you wish for! Once people recognize your value, you’ll get invited to so many meetings your head will spin! You’ll be the popular kid you always (or never) wanted to be. But such is the price of success.