Nick Chowdrey on getting people up to speed on digital

Nick Chowdrey on getting people up to speed on digital
Nick Chowdrey, digital engagement manager at WaterAid, joins us to chat about his journey from early IT explorations to communications.

Why did you choose to pursue a role in digital? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?

Although I have degrees in law and journalism, I think it was always inevitable that I would end up in digital. I was giving IT advice to my teacher in primary school, made my first website aged 13 and was admin on a forum by 15. Basically I’ve always been a massive nerd.

I got my first real job out of uni working for as a technical writer. But Jon, my boss, had a cutting-edge digital content strategy in place, so I soon branched out to learning about SEO, social media marketing and digital PR. This helped me get a job at Jellyfish as a content marketer and from then the rest is history.

What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the digital sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

This is hard to answer as digital is increasingly encompassing all aspects of comms. Digital roles can be as varied as back-end development, which requires high data processing and analytical skills, to social media content production, which requires a huge amount of creativity and design skills.

What has helped me personally in digital is the desire and ability to learn new things. The field is constantly evolving and it’s crucial that digital professionals stay completely up to date with the latest trends and methods.

What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?

The biggest challenge I face is the lack of digital knowledge in the wider organisation. This seems to be particularly a problem in the third sector, where there isn’t the same profit-driven motivation to adapt. The result is that digital teams are often understaffed and under used, because the digital strategy knowledge isn’t there in the wider org, meaning opportunities are limited to what the digital team can create on very busy schedules, with very little headspace.

A lot of time is wasted either explaining why something won’t work, or convincing people why something will. This would be improved if organisations did more to encourage digital skills development.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

If the comms department was truly digital first.

How is the role of digital perceived in your organisation?

I think it’s perceived as mysterious but powerful tool. Everyone knows how important digital is, but it’s not widely understood enough.

What do you think the secret of success is when working in digital?

As above, I think it’s the desire and ability to learn new things. The sooner you can innovate, the sooner you can take advantage of new ways to reach people online.

At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

I work a lot with social media and I think it’s really important to go beyond the vanity metrics of likes, comments and follows. You should have a clear place and role for social media in your marketing funnel, and ways to measure the impact it makes. For example, you may not see many people donating/purchasing straight away from clicking a link on a social post, but are they coming back through another channel and converting later down the line? If you can prove that they are, you reveal the true power of social media.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in digital?

Blockchain is an unstoppable force in the digital space and will begin to permeate into many everyday aspects of the internet. Fake news may start to be combatted by cryptographically verifying social media posts. Brands and influencers will start using NFTs not just as a get rich quick scheme, but to genuinely give their fans a way to own a slice of their online brand, with associated benefits such as discounts, early access to products etc. Finally, microtransactions and donations using crypto will become a normal way to pay content creators for their work, enabling more and more people to earn a decent living independently from publishers.