Skip to content

Beginner Read

Introduction to Digital Strategy

Producing a digital strategy for your organisation may feel challenging. Where to start, what to focus on, and then how to end up with any kind of practical action plan can seem like difficult steps to take, but the important thing to realise is that there isn’t one ‘right’ way to create a strategy. Depending on your organisation, your context, your resources and your goals, what you produce will likely be different to anything your peers or colleagues might come up with.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

What is a strategy?

“The term ‘strategy’ should mean a cohesive response to an important challenge.” Richard Rumelt – Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, The Difference and Why it Matters

This definition is a useful starting point for any strategic project. A strategy of any kind is essentially a best guess at how you will attempt to solve a problem, with additional information as to specific actions, required resources and methods for evaluation. Understanding your organisation’s approach to digital tools and technologies and then defining the particular challenge that needs to be addressed is the best way to create a solid action plan.

The way you go about defining this challenge and pulling together a cohesive response will likely include the following steps:

Research and insights gathering

You need to understand where you are in order to define what the problem might be and to know where you can go next. Using a structured template for mapping out what you currently do is a good way to bring lots of information together in a coherent way. It is likely that you’ll want to consider your overarching aspects first:

Goals and objectives

What is it that you want to achieve? How does it link with your wider organisational strategy and business planning? Audit what digital activity you are currently undertaking, which platforms and tools you are using and consider how well the activity delivers against the above.

Then move onto practical detail:

Personas and target audience

Who do you need to reach? What are your customer/audience segments?

Products

What do you offer as a cultural organisation?

Promotions, properties, purposes

How do you communicate these products to your potential audiences, which properties do you use to engage your audiences (i.e. your website, social media, apps) and for what purpose do you bring them there (i.e. for sales conversion, to attract mailing list sign-ups)?

Performance

How can you measure success digitally? Which specific metrics will you need to consider, and are the right systems in place to allow you to do this?

Processes and platforms

In order to do the above, which processes are necessary (i.e. ticketing, CRM, email, internal project management) and which platforms will you need (i.e. Spektrix, Mailchimp, Trello)?

People

Who in your team does this digital work and who is ultimately responsible for the planning and delivery (i.e. a specific directorate)? Is there external support (e.g. a web developer or an agency) for certain aspects of your digital activity? Is there a need for skills development to support those already in post? Is there a signoff process?

Digital Culture Compass

Digital Culture Compass has been created specifically for Arts and Cultural organisations. It helps you understand your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to using digital technology.

You can assess your work by answering several questions about your organisation. Once you know your current status, you can use the Tracker to identify where you’d like to improve and how you can make things better.

There’s a step-by-step guide on the different ways you can do this – depending on how in-depth you’d like to go.

Although the tool covers every aspect of an organisation, we’d probably recommend focussing on a couple of key areas where you’d like to improve

Diagnosis and proposal for change

Once you have performed necessary audits of your digital channels and platforms and looked at the metrics which make sense to you as an organisation, you should be in a better place to define an ‘important challenge’. You’ll also be able to make an informed plan for how you might solve that challenge. For example: let’s say your organisation is a theatre and, having gathered insights as to how you operate digitally, you’ve concluded that your digital activity is not focussed enough on new audiences and that this could pose a threat to future sustainability. Your email lists aren’t growing, and ticket buyers tend to come through already ‘engaged’ channels like email or via ‘branded’ search terms specific to your theatre. Your new plan is to use current and new digital channels more effectively to specifically reach new audiences, in order to sell more tickets online, grow existing mailing lists and increase members.

Four people gathered around touchscreen table.

Action Plan

This is where you get down to the nitty gritty of how you plan to achieve this change. What will it take? Who will be responsible? What kind of timeframe are you looking at? What resources (e.g. personnel and cash) will be necessary and which systems will you need to use or master? To carry this out, will you or your staff need additional training or support? Are there important risks to consider that need to be factored into your plan?

Defining metrics for evaluation

Ultimately, how will you know that it’s working? Which metrics will be necessary to view, understand and report on, and are your systems adequately set up to give you and your team the right information? It’s important to decide how you’re going to measure success.

Reviewing

The digital landscape changes quickly, and whatever you decide on now needs to be reviewed periodically to make sure it’s still fit for purpose. The best strategies and action plans will regularly be adjusted as and when you test something or learn something new. Crucially, whatever the form of your strategy and plan, it needs to be championed by senior leadership from research and conception through to delivery and evaluation. Without this support, anything you create could struggle to get buy-in across your organisation.

What next?

This article has set out some of the key processes behind creating your digital strategy, and the challenges and decisions you may face on the way. To learn more, you can read one of the articles linked below.

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

Related articles

Group of people working on website template

Beginner Read Digital Strategy   

External Link

Digital Culture Compass

This self-assessment tool provides a practical framework for improving your organisation’s digital strategy, planning and activities.

4 months ago

More by the author

The latest from us straight to your inbox