Skip to content

DIT_logocol2013_webThis week I had the pleasure to be an external examiner on  DIT's (the Dublin Institute of Technology) Postgrad Dip in Advertising & Digital Communications. A strong digitally focused part-time course now in its 5th year,  its USP is the close relationship it has with industry - the course was developed by DIT and IAPI (the Industry of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland), and 75% of its lecturers are currently working in advertising in one form or another.

Needless to say this is right up my street - after all, our own MSc Digital Marketing was similarly developed with industry to teach the digital marketing skills employers need, and we too have strong links with practitioners (including guest lecturers, a mentorship programme with DigitasLBi, live client projects, and more).

DIT invited me to be an external examiner late last year, after finding me using Google then checking me out on LinkedIn - Personal Branding (and on-page SEO) FTW!

How to teach digital courses - DIT and RGU

My conviction (and I'm quite obsessed with this) is that you can't teach digital courses from books. I do not use any books in my teaching and instead constantly research and read reputable industry blogs from which I upgrade and refresh my knowledge in real-time, directly putting it into professional practice (both in my teaching as well as when doing digital marketing for this site or side projects / clients).

CC image courtesy of ChowKaiDeng on Flickr

Professional practice is also central to DIT's course (most of the lecturers are practitioners). I was very impressed by their pioneering approach, and it's clearly been a success both for them and industry (employers recruit directly from the course).  And DIT have been doing it for 5 years! Wow!

I observed a fulsome and well-rounded, practice-focused teaching and learning experience when examining the course outputs.

The student course work and types of assessments were wide-ranging - from beautiful creative playbooks to media diaries where students note down all advertising they saw in a week, analysing its perceived effectiveness.

In another assignment (a group work), students worked as an 'agency' creating a real live advertising campaign proposal and pitch focusing on current (and highly relevant) communications issues (NSA / online surveillance and privacy; childhood obesity; PMMA (a highly toxic MDMA-like drug)).

How different is the DIT course from RGU's MSc Digital Marketing?

It's rare that I would recommend a postgraduate digital marketing or communications course other than ours - however the DIT's course is probably one of the best - if not THE best, for anyone looking for professional development in digital advertising on a part-time basis (it is taught evenings with the very occasional weekend).

digital advertising
CC image courtesy of Will Lion on Flickr

The course is also distinct and different enough from RGU's MSc Digital Marketing - we're not really going after the same target audience. The DIT course largely focuses on Advertising, and is aimed at professionals wishing to upskill in this area in a digital context. There is a creative and an executive stream - the exec stream deals with client liaison, media planning / buying and so on, and generally the course content covers the knowledge and skills you need to work agency-side.

In contrast, we only look at advertising (paid media) in a few sessions - our approach is all-encompassing and we teach strategy, organic digital marketing, digital content creation, measurement and evaluation, digital PR / content marketing, etc.  And our aim isn't specifically to produce graduates to work agency-side or indeed in Advertising (though this is an option for them - we do have a lot of 'soft skill' training and they work on live client projects and have agency guest speakers and workshops).

Finally, unlike DIT's course, our MSc Digital Marketing so far has largely attracted business / social science / creative graduates who want to know (and learn!) how to get into digital marketing. Our students are at the start of their careers and we haven't really had any  professionals wishing to transition into digital yet  (though we do offer a part-time study option).

Final words

In conclusion, then, my visit this week has only served to confirm that what we at RGU are doing is absolutely the right approach to teaching digital courses at University.

digital transformation
CC image courtesy of Bryan Mathers on Flickr

Industry engagement and a focus on practice are extremely important to ensure our graduates are equipped  to work in the real world when they leave.

However the academic environment is crucial - our role is to provide quality control, and to teach strong strategic and critical thinking (alongside the more practical 'tools of the trade' and real-life scenarios). After all, data analysis, measurement and evaluation are academia's bread and butter!

An approach to teaching digital that combines strategic critical thinking with the 'tools of the trade' and stuff that matters in the real world (client liaison! soft skills! self-education! How To Google It! GTD!) will ensure that University courses in digital marketing, advertising and communications remain highly relevant to the needs of employers and the marketplace.

DigitasLBi-LogoThis week, our MSc Digital Marketing students were treated to a glimpse into the Future of Marketing at DigitasLBi's Edinburgh office.

DigitasLBi, one of the key partners in the first year of our Masters, have been supportive right from the start. The agency is actively engaged in enhancing and promoting the role of digital in Scotland (I attended their excellent hosted BIMA Edinburgh Breakfast Briefing back in September), and shares our commitment to the digital skills agenda. We want to create a talent pool of digital marketing experts with the right practical and soft skills to hit the ground running!

Our collaboration on the MSc Digital Marketing involves a Mentorship programme, which pairs up students with mentors working at DigitasLBi Edinburgh. Mentors have been providing support and guidance to the students via remote sessions using Skype for the last 3 months -  and this week they finally got to meet them for real!

When we arrived, we were welcomed by a coffee and a quick 'mingle with the mentors', following by a tour of DigitasLBi's cool Edinburgh offices. We then sat down and listened to their Media Innovations Director, Andrew Girdwood's guest lecture on The Future of Marketing.

Andrew's opener challenged the concept of 'The Future'. In marketing,  he argues, 'The future is next week'. So, when we think the future of marketing we need to think very soon - next week, or even tomorrow. 'Agile' is the key term here, and agile thinking needs to be part of our DNA.

Three points in his subsequent talk stood out for me, and resonated with the audience.

1. Owned paid earned media

Andrew made us question the distinction of owned vs. earned vs. paid media. He argued that brands didn't actually own their Facebook pages - their customers did, and Facebook own the customers (their data). In fact, brands may not even own themselves any more.
Who owns your brandIn the age of the customer, you are who your customers say your are (not who you say you are).

Andrew also took the mantra 'Brands are Publishers' to its logical conclusion - 'Customers are Publishers' (ever tweeted? You're a publisher!).  I agree there is a significant merging of all functions and roles (random fact: I researched the 'prosumer' - the digital consumer who is also a producer - for my PhD thesis 7 years ago - the term 'social media' didn't exist back then).

Nowadays, consumers are publishers are advertisers are producers...  for example, some Instagram users are consumer-publishers, getting paid a dollar each like, YouTube stars sell 'native' advertising without disclosing it, and the average Joe or Jane can no longer tell the difference between organic media / news and its paid equivalent (i.e. advertising masking as fact).

I think it's still important to keep owned, paid and earned media as separate concepts, if only for practical reasons such as allocating marketing budgets. In addition, what hasn't changed is that fundamentally modern marketing is about attracting customers to your website or store, and buy from you (or whatever 'buy' means for your business). Repeatedly.

2. Privacy

We had a lively discussion with some questions around privacy. Everyone agreed that privacy would be an important issue for digital marketing in 2015, and when Andrew asked who of us had concerns about their online privacy, probably two thirds raised their hands.

I also shared my story of zooming out of Streetview recently and discovering that Germany is one of the last beacons of non-surveillance in Europe.

Google streetview germany


What I'm not so sure about is how important privacy issues are for 'digital natives' (born 2000 onwards). The generation arguably never had any privacy to begin with, so this may not be something they value or care about.

I'll ask my future students of the MSc Digital Marketing (2020 applicants and beyond) i.e. the digital natives, themselves. I'll report my findings then..

3. Retargeting ads destroy Christmas

christmas cat meme Andrew related a funny observation that stuck with me - this Christmas, many kids will already know their presents because they are being retargeted by display ads for products that their parents have already purchased for them 😀  - retargeting setup #FAIL (But are kids smart enough to understand this? I bet they are).

My guess is that this isn't just the case for parents and kids though - I'd be interested in finding out how many  Christmas present surprises retargeting is ruining this year - and it's the same for search too 😛 .

Top tip: Don't share a browser with your loved one in the run up to Christmas (or at any time, really!) as otherwise you'll probably know half of the presents you're getting each other.

Final Words

All in all, The Future of Marketing @DigitasLBi was a great success. Andrew's guest lecture taught each of us something new, and the subsequent dinner with the mentors rounded off a productive and valuable day out for everyone involved.

And here are some student comments:

DigitasLBi session tweets

Importantly, the agency visit has also deepened the desire of some of the students to work agency-side when they graduate next year (yay!).

Rather quietly, it seems, scot domain registration opened up to the general public almost 2 months ago (23rd September).

.scot domain from Easyspace
.scot domain from Easyspace

I had been aware that it was coming, but it was more a fuzzy background awareness. I had no need to buy any domains (quite happy with  😉 ) and generally find gTLDs (such as *.biz, *.info and what not) neither attractive nor all that trustworthy.

Then something happened. A strategy and plan of action that I'd been working on for a good few months unexpectedly hit a dead end, through external circumstances over which I had no control. The sort of stuff that happens all the time!

Anyway. I LOVE difficulties, obstacles and failure, as it gives me something to conquer, and it keeps the old brain agile. The solution to the above problem was to find a new digital space that I could fully control. And out of nowhere, I remembered about the new scot domain registration process.

What is a scot domain?

.scot, also called dot scot, is a new TLD (top level domain) that was agreed in January this year and officially launched on 15 July 2014. When it opened for public registration on 23 September, over 4,000 businesses registered a domain within an hour!

How to register .scot

Check for a list of approved registrars. The site has more info on the evolution of .scot.

 Why register a scot domain?

Mainly, because you can still get the name that you want! It's first come, first serve, and therefore plenty of opportunity to secure that exact match domain (EMD) that you've always wanted but had no chance of ever getting, because someone registered your ideal business name 10 years ago. It's cheap too (I paid around £60 for mine, I think).

Google logo
CC image courtesy of keso s on Flickr

Secondly, the Scottish Government fully support .scot - for example, they're just now developing a central digital place for public services, at (currently in alpha).

Thirdly, for SEO reasons. I might be wrong here, but my hunch is that Google will probably rank a regional TLD (such as .scot) over other generic TLDs (e.g. .biz, .info) for the same exact match domain (EMD). And yes, I am aware of the discussion around whether or not EMD is still a good SEO tactic.

I for one am happy to take a punt. Who knows, in future versions of its never-disclosed algorithm, Google may well decide to rank .scot higher in Scotland over e.g. or .com.

After all, Google's mission is to

organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Hence, if the site content on the .scot domain is not just high quality but also geographically more relevant and therefore more useful to the searcher, it would make perfect sense for the algorithm to reward it with a high(er) rank.

Should I buy a .scot domain?

While some of the above is speculative - there may not be any SEO benefit, and scot domains may never find widespread adoption - there could nevertheless be an advantage for early adopters.

Domain names
CC image courtesy of Widjaya Ivan on Flickr

The risk is small (the domains are cheap!), and the benefit, especially for businesses with a physical location or service specific to Scotland, could be considerable.

My recommendation is this: Don't rush and get a .scot domain if you've got a site that is well established and has good search engine visibility. And definitely don't do it if your customers are global and you want to be found globally.

However, if you're just starting out, don't have a website yet, AND your business is mainly regional to Scotland - i.e. your customers largely live in Scotland - then absolutely do think about registering a scot domain.

And that's because could give your business a greater chance at getting found online (due to the SEO value of EMDs combined with the regional extension). Moreover, you'd be able to get the name in the URL that you've always wanted -  and a brandable domain name, in my opinion, is surely worth investing in.

Getting a dot scot might just be the smartest thing you could do!



When working with agency partners as part of our MSc Digital Marketing, the subject of soft skills comes up quite frequently. But what are they, and why are they so important to employers?

Soft skills - definition

A quick google search brings up the following definition of soft skills:

Soft skills definition

I would say that's quite a broad and general definition and actually sounds near impossible, seeing that it appears to imply that you have to interact harmoniously with anyone and everyone. What if the person is just really unpleasant, mean, or nasty? Can you be 'harmonious' then?

Actually, I think we need to be more specific, and look at it from an employer's angle.

Soft skills in the workplace

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) talks about five core skills that are key to working in today's world.

social skills - feedback
CC image courtesy of Tanja Föhr on Flickr

The website states that

Employers have identified these skills as those that are most likely to be needed in any work environment.

The five Core Skills are: Communication, Numeracy, Information and Communication Technology, Problem Solving and Working with Others.

Out of those 5, Communication (written and oral) and Working with Others are social and therefore soft skills. Let's look at some examples to understand why they are relevant in a professional environment.

Soft skills examples

Examples of soft skills in the workplace could be:

  • giving effective presentations (public speaking, oral communication, confidence, etc.)
  • writing clear emails (succinct, persuasive)
  • cooperating with others (putting aside differences in the interest of a common, greater goal)
  • adapting oral / written communications to needs of others / audience (e.g. more formal / less formal)
  • listening to others' viewpoints and being respectful even in disagreement (it's ok to disagree)
  • anything else focused on relationship building with others - the emotional side (Wikipedia associates soft skills with EQ - Emotional Intelligence)
innovators need empathy
CC image courtesy of Tanja Föhr on Flickr

This list is by no means complete - what all examples share is that these skills can be learned, and improved upon. Since they are social, you must learn them not through theory but through practice  - when interacting and communicating with other people in a professional environment.

It's hard (impossible ?) to teach this stuff from a book, but you can create an environment that allows social skills to develop (e.g. supportive, encouraging autonomy and 'self-management').

But this blog post started with a question: Why are soft skills important in the digital marketing industry?

We already know that digital marketers need broad and vertical skills - what Rand Fishkin of Moz calls T-shaped, that is, having broad knowledge across many disciplines, with 1-2 areas of deep knowledge (e.g. search and social). But soft skills, as it transpires, are equally as important.


Modern Marketers and soft skills

Our agency partners aren't the only ones emphasising soft skills as a key requirement for digital marketers. Earlier in the year, econsultancy published a list of 15 essential skills for modern marketers. The data is based on a survey of senior level marketers, and an unexpected outcome was the emphasis respondents placed on 5 soft skills:

essential skills for marketers


It appears that you can't just have an idea, you also need to be able to sell your idea:

So in addition to the usual broad knowledge areas and vertical skills areas, marketers need the right soft skills to be able to work across the organisation. The best ideas will founder without buy-in across the organisation and support from multiple teams.

It's all about persuasive communication, and being able to relate to people - to ensure you get heard.

Another observation from the report was an emphasis on self-motivated learning. That's not surprising, given the incredible pace of change in digital.

CC image courtesy of Anthony Easton on Flickr

But is there really a soft skills revolution? I think it's about a balanced approach- you can't just have soft skills without subject knowledge; equally, hard skills without soft skills will only get you so far.

As for digital marketing education, we can teach broad and vertical skills. And soft skills need to be embedded in the learning environment (see my post on teaching digital marketing for further exploration of the topic).

Finally, I think that soft skills can improve through passion. If you have passion, or love for a subject, then you're more likely to want to connect with people who too are passionate, which makes communication and relating to people much easier, and more effective.





Rarely do I see a client-side Social Media Manager job advertised in Edinburgh so it was with delight and surprise that I found a current job opening at the Scottish Government earlier this week (search their vacancies here).

A bit of background: I used to work as a Social Media Manager for VisitScotland, the national tourism organisation based in Edinburgh. It's a very exciting career but by no means a walk in the park. What you see on the surface (i.e. Facebook pages, other social channels - the 'glamorous' stuff) is just the tip of the iceberg. Below is a graphic that illustrates some of the components of a Social Media Manager job (in small organisations, one person will often be expected to do all it).


Social Media Job requirements
CC image courtesy of Mark Smiciklas on Flickr


Despite no longer working client or agency side, I keep an eye on jobs in social media and related digital disciplines, especially in Scotland. I collect things like job descriptions in digital, all as part of the ongoing research to ensure our MSc in Digital Marketing remains current and to be able to advise our students on the jobs market. Not that I need to worry about our graduates finding jobs - only this week I was approached (again) by someone seeking digital talent (in a few months' time, there'll be a bunch of very talented new Digital Marketers hopefully!).

But back to the point - there's a great job out just now, and the deadline is 6th October, so you better hurry! Details below.

Social Media Manager Job in Edinburgh (Scottish Government)

NB / Caveat: I don't think this is in any way related to the YES / Scottish Independence campaign. In fact this looks like a newly created role - the job description states its purpose as follows:

As Social Media Manager, to establish yourself within the Scottish Government as a recognised authority on social media methodology, usage, innovation, and emerging trends with a knowledge base relevant to all areas of SG and to translate that knowledge into practical advice and actions.

And what type of person are they looking for?

As a minimum, you need to have a degree or postgraduate degree in a 'relevant' discipline (Media Studies? Marketing?), as well as:

  • Proven experience in initiating, managing and evaluating social media campaigns
  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of the social media landscape
  • Experience of writing for digital channels
  • Knowledge of the policy priorities of the Scottish Government and its Ministers

The salary is reasonable - starting from £32,572 (up to £41,184 at the top end of the scale). All in all it looks like a great opportunity - though as with all civil service jobs, you'll need to be accepting of restrictions on "expressing views on matters of political controversy in public speeches or publications" (this quote is from their Person Spec / Further info PDF).

Might be an idea to delete all those controversial Tweets before you apply 🙂

I wasn't sure whether to call this post teaching Generation Y - these buzzwords aren't always useful, and I consider all students nowadays pretty much digital natives.

This blog post is an attempt to provide a quick overview followed by 5 tips on how to teach students who are digitally native (in this case, in a Higher Education environment). Since the term Gen Y is not just used by the media but also by social scientists, I'll adopt it in this post. Let's start by looking at a common definition of Generation Y.

What is Generation Y?

Econsultancy, in a recent blog post on web design for different generations, split different (digital) audiences into the following categories:

  • The Silent Generation (born in 1929-1945) lived just after World War II
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) during the economic recovery
  • The sceptical Generation X (1965-1979)
  • The more technologically savvy Generation Y (1980-1999)
  • Finally, the immersed Digital Natives (from 2000)

Here is some more information on Gen X vs. Gen Y - the most relevant segments for my argument - I'm assuming that many, if not most teachers and lecturers will be Gen X.

Generation X (1965-1979)

Generation X, which I'm part of, largely enjoyed a childhood without modern digital technology (internet, smartphones) and grew up with far less media consumption overall. Digital came gradually but steadily, but wasn't yet all-pervasive (I've previously written about some 90s technologies that I used back in the days).

Generation Y (1980-1999)

teaching generation y
CC image courtesy of Erik Tjallinks on Flickr

Generation Y had more technology and earlier on - for instance, this generation has the first children with mobile phones, and they likely encountered the internet or rather, the WWW - in their teens.

The World Wide Web was invented in 1994, and Gen Y grew into adults with social media growing around them (e.g. MySpace 2003, YouTube 2006).

As for their relationship with technology, Generation Y are  more technologically savvy, and more impatient. They have a more proactive approach and, according to econsultancy, focus on

...what they can do with technology, instead of what it does for them. As serial multi-taskers, they expect the technological environment to be interactive, quick, and accessible across devices.

Sounds familiar?

I'm technically a Gen X, but find I have much in common with Generation Y. I'm certainly a serial multi-tasker, and need my information quick and easy to understand. In digital across devices, I expect stuff to work, and efficiently so, in as short a user journey as possible. For instance, I'll leave a website where I can't find what I'm looking for within a few seconds or where I have an overall poor user experience (clutter, navigation, etc.). Apps that are clunky get uninstalled straight away. And don't get me started on text walls!

Teaching Generation Y - 5 Tips

University education traditionally relies heavily on lengthy written texts. The format frequently consists of lectures that broadcast knowledge to students, and tutorials where this knowledge is embedded through exercises and case studies. Students typically have to write a few lengthy pieces of texts (e.g. reports, essays, dissertations). Knowledge exists primarily 'out there' in books - and students are expected to acquire it through reading.

This approach may have worked in the past (it did for me), but what about in 2014? Is this method really appropriate to teaching Generation Y? Are there more effective ways of generating knowledge in digital natives, and engaging modern students?

To answer these questions, I've experimented with various approaches over the last year. I've been at the receiving end of heavy text-based, 80-slides PowerPoints both at Uni and throughout my career (think  endless, pointless meetings). These things simply don't engage and no one takes in any information. There's a reason why T&Cs are text walls - so that you don't read them.

Here are my top tips then on how to teach Gen Y -  a mix based on insight, others' research, and my own experience (of what works).

1. Content should be useful, or entertaining

This is probably THE most important point, and will be familiar to anyone working in social media / content marketing.  Content (in this case, teaching material) has to be either useful or entertaining, otherwise it won't get attention. No walls of text please - TL; DR. Instead, add images and multimedia. 80-slides lectures are out.

Why? Generation Y are much more likely to respond to well-structured, easy-to-scan content.  Break it down into smaller pieces.

2. Microlearning

Use microlearning instead of a few lengthy assignments and tasks.

Why? A quick, impatient Gen Y mind responds much better to many small tasks rather than a few big ones. Big ones can look insurmountable and don't naturally sit with an impatient, multi-tasking digital native mind. Some students don't tackle large assignments until it's too late and then panick. With many small ones, you are more likely to keep them on their toes and engaged throughout.

3. Active learning

This is related to point 2. above. The goal is self-direction, or a self-service approach to learning - one that is proactive and agile. You want them to become pretty autonomous early on and take responsibility for their own knowledge and skills development.

Why? Generation Y are more proactive and have higher expectations - use that to your advantage. These guys are already good at developing new digital and media skills. They know how to multi-task, and are likely very familiar with trouble-shooting (in a digital / tech context). Tap into that mindset and attitude: Give Gen Y problems that they need to solve, and tools to solve them with. Then let them figure it out - don't give them all the answers. Don't give them a fish - teach them how to fish (so they can do their own fishing, when they leave).

4. Use digital tools and devices

This one doesn't need much explanation. I've previously written about digital tools for education and won't replicate the content here. Use the medium most native to them.

Why? Digital is Generation Y's most natural, most comfortable environment. It's where they thrive, and where they are happiest to engage.

 5. Be a coach - don't 'lecture'

The paradigm shift from knowledge as pre-existing (20th century) to knowledge-as-action (21st century) means that teaching Generation Y can't be done from some high pedestal or ivory tower. Yes, you must be a credible subject expert and have knowledge - if you're research-focused, you'll have huge amounts of conceptual knowledge, and as a practitioner you'll be well-versed in the latest industry trends and techniques. But don't just recite that knowledge - or you'll be just giving them fish (see point 3.).  Instead, encourage them to question everything (including yourself) and reward self-management.

Why? Gen Y live and breathe two-way conversations. They are less trusting of authority and used to being spoken with (engaged), rather than being spoken to / at.


The digital age has upgraded teaching and learning and made it more exciting (albeit more challenging), and it has also changed student expectations. I hope that this guide and my 5 tips for teaching Generation Y contain useful advice to adopt for your own teaching practice.

As for me, I'll keep testing and refining my approach, and  I'm looking forward to implementing some of the above tactics in a few weeks' time for our new MSc Digital Marketing.









Digital Marketing Advice - DX logoAre you a small or medium-sized business looking for free digital marketing advice or consultancy? Read on!

As part of Robert Gordon University’s MSc in Digital Marketing launching in September 2014, we are looking for businesses and organisations wishing to participate in project-based student assessments.

You’ll receive free digital marketing advice, delivered by our students under guidance from industry experts.

The course is part of DX at Robert Gordon University, a new project focused on developing digital expertise.

DX is dedicated to helping businesses, organisations and individuals maximise the potential of digital, providing the skills and knowledge to excel in today’s digital age.

Register you interest

PrintDo you feel your business would benefit from free digital marketing advice, consultancy, and / or content?

Register your interest here: Free Digital Marketing Advice Sign up

We will be contacting interested businesses in due course with a follow-up survey to determine suitability and to allow us to match businesses with the right students.*

Want to find out about DX at RGU?

Visit the the DX microsite for staff profiles, FAQ, and more.

It's an open secret that I'm passionate about digital marketing education (it's one of the reasons I moved from industry to becoming a lecturer) and there is much work still to do. The digital skills and talent gap - we talk about it in more detail in this Drum post - impedes the growth of the digital economy in a number of ways:

Digital Marketing Education
CC image courtesy of Scott McLeod on Flickr

(1)  It leaves many SMEs /third sector and other organisations vulnerable to spending money unnecessarily, and sees them invest time and resource in the wrong digital channels, following advice from gurus that hinders rather than helps their business.

Real example: One of my industry contacts had to scrap and restart a social / digital strategy for a client, after they had followed wrong advice from a 'consultant' who led them down the wrong (ineffective, not aligned with business objectives, overall wasteful and pointless) path.

(2) The other side of the coin is that recruiters really struggle to find digital talent:  where can they find graduates with a practice-based digital marketing education - e.g. a degree that incorporates digital skills training alongside conceptual theories of Marketing? Nowhere.

Real example: Only this week I was asked if I knew a graduate for a digital marketing executive role. Generally, the challenge of recruitment comes up often when talking with industry contacts.

What's wrong with Digital Marketing Education?

The main issue as I see it is that Universities overall are fairly ill-equipped to provide a modern digital marketing education. Partly, it's the nature of the beast: The industry changes so fast so that Unis would always be playing catch-up.

Example: I spend at least a day per week just keeping up-to-date with what's happening, and run my own site as well as do some work for others to keep my skill set fresh. Much of that I do in my own time / weekends and I take it very seriously indeed.

Digital Education
CC image courtesy of Scott McLeod on Flickr

Regular Marketing lecturers don't do that - they are rarely involved in actual marketing practice, let alone digital marketing. The existing marketing curriculum is largely theoretical and conceptual, and frankly isn't of much use in the real world of digital marketing.

This does pose some interesting questions regarding how to teach Marketing in Higher Education. Questions surrounding academia's relevance to the real world aren't being asked about this subject alone - there were rumbles last year about whether current teaching of Economics is fit for purpose.

In terms of  Marketing, in the US and Canada at least, academics have discussed the need for reforming the curriculum in the light of the digital economy and changing practice:

The rapidly emerging digital economy is challenging the relevance of existing marketing practices, and a radical redesign of the marketing curriculum consistent with the emerging student and business needs of the 21st century is required. To remain relevant to our students and to the ultimate consumers of our output, businesses, the marketing curriculum must evolve with both the changing technological environment and the way marketing is perceived by its own academic architects.

Digital Marketing: The Time for a New “Academic Major” Has Arrived (2011)

RGU_logoI haven't seen much of this happening in the UK yet, unfortunately. In Scotland, for example, only my University (RGU Aberdeen) currently offer a skills-based Masters in Digital Marketing that was devised in close consultation with industry. No other University is currently doing this in Scotland - where there is a digital element, it's actually a bolt on of a few (largely conceptual / theoretical) modules to a traditional MSc Marketing, and I really don't believe that's the right approach. Digital Marketing education isn't about reading books!

And the feedback and data (both qualitative and quantitative) we have so far for our own practice-based MSc Digital Marketing proves we're on the right track. Not only have we received significant interest in our course from students and plenty of applications. Almost equally as important, we have consistently received positive feedback, enthusiasm and nothing but strong support and engagement from the digital industry across Scotland.

Further reading

If you're an academic interested in the discussion surrounding the Marketing curriculum, the two links below are a good starting point:

The Future of Marketing Education: A Practitioner's Perspective (2012)

Innovating the Marketing Curriculum: Establishing an Academic Major in Internet Marketing (2014)



Inspired by the recent YouTube hit Teens react to 90s Internet, I've come up with my own list of 90s technologies and gadgets that I used back in the days. Older readers may recognise some of these 90s tech dinosaurs...

(1) USRobotics 56k modem (1997)

US Robotics 56k modemIf you wanted to 'get on the Internet' for much of the 90s, you had to dial in via your phone line (using a dial-up modem). Since the modem plugged into your phone line, your telephone landline was engaged whenever you were on the WWW (yes, that's the WWW, not the Internet, though the latter term has become synonymous with the former). It also meant that typically, you would connect only for a specific reason - e.g. to download your email (using Netscape Messenger, part of Netscape Navigator). You'd then read and reply to emails offline and briefly re-connect to send them, before disconnecting again. I eventually upgraded to ISDN (with Deutsche Telekom) which meant that you could both be online and still receive phone calls.

(2) Windows 3.1x (1992-94)

windows31My first computer, a second hand Intel 486, originally ran Windows 3.1. (I didn't get my hands on the revolutionary Windows 95 until a bit later. It was all very, very expensive in those days, and I was a poor student). 3.1 had a graphical user interface, rather than being text-based and is generally considered one of the first operating systems for multimedia PCs* (i.e. away from text only to also support video playback and sound). Windows 3.1 even allowed you to drag and drop icons, which hadn't previously been possible! It's hard to imagine what it was like - but if you consider that the OS only took up 10-15MB on your hard drive (compared to Windows 7, which takes up 16-20GB - an increase of over 136,000%), you'll get an idea of how basic and slow it all was. Really basic, and really slow.

*yes, I used Macs at Uni in the 90s, but PCs were cheaper so I settled on them.

(3) Pine Email client (1996-99)

Pine EmailPine was a text-based email client originally developed for UNIX in 1989, by the University of Washington. If you were at University in the 90s and geeky enough to be interested in the newfangled technology of the Internet, chances are you'll have encountered old-skool UNIX terminals running Pine. I used it as a student both at Cologne Uni and Uni of North London (now London Met). They even kept the UNIX terminals for a good few years after introducing Windows PCs. There was an IT lab with shiny new PCs in the front room, and in the back room a few rows of UNIX terminals mainly for the purpose of sending emails via Pine. I can't for the life of me imagine what exactly I would have emailed about - few people I knew actually had an email address. It was more like sending letters, only in electronic form. Nothing like email today. Regardless, I used it all the time (for philosophical, lengthy 'electronic letters' to my friends, and for communicating with some boys I fancied), and it got me hooked on digital communications and technology in general. I knew then that this was going to be my destiny (and got a cyborg tattoo around this time, as I truly felt machinic).

(4) Siemens S2 Mobile (1997)

Siemens-s6eMy first mobile, or 'Handy', as they are called in Germany, was a Siemens S6.  I still lived in Germany in 1997 and this was the mobile I bought. It had a really, really shrill ringtone, and the battery lasted about 5 seconds. Mobile phones weren't as ubiquitous as they are today and you wouldn't really see many people with one. Having a mobile was more of a status symbol than anything else - you didn't use your mobile anywhere as much as you do nowadays. For me, it was more like an 'emergency phone' you had with you just in case, though I'm sure professionals did use their mobiles more frequently for work and such (I was still a student so had not much reason to call anyone while out and about. I had the landline to talk with friends etc.- actually making a call on your mobile was prohibitively expensive).

(5) Psion 5 (1997)

90s technologies - Psion 5I got this PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) in 1997 or 98, off ebay. It's an ancient forerunner of the modern smartphone - it had apps for word processing, spreadsheets, contacts, calendar, etc., but that was pretty much it. It wasn't actually internet-enabled (this was in the dark ages, no DSL etc.) but it had an infrared port so you could connect to a friend's Psion and swap / transfer files. The Psion 5 was of very little practical use to me - in reality, you couldn't do proper work on it (despite the keyboard) and I think I eventually sold it. Come to think of it, I don't really know why I bought it in the first place - I think I liked its look and I just had a passion for digital technology and gadgets and I suppose was what you could call an 'early adopter'.


Conclusion: Five 90s Technologies Revisited

The common thread running through most of my 90s geekery is that much of the technology was pretty much new and pioneering. These things had never existed before and it was truly a whole new world, and that had a profound effect on me.

It reminds me of the only other similarly large-scale technology shift prior to the Internet - the arrival of moving image, starting with early cinema in the late 19th century. In 1895, when watching a 50 seconds film of a train arriving at a station for the first time, audiences were scared and shocked upon seeing the train 'racing towards them'. People didn't understand that this train was on a screen, and simply a moving image - it just didn't compute, because a moving image of the world had never been seen before. Consequently people felt physically involved, reacting physically and emotionally.

In a similar vein, to this day, I remember how touched I was the first time someone paid me a compliment in IRC chat approx. 1996. It felt very bizarre to feel emotionally connected to someone through plain text, via a machine. I knew then that this stuff and the Internet was going to be HUGE, and I wanted to be part of it - and have been ever since!

Bonus: The Lumière Brothers, Arrival of the Train (1895)



What's the average Digital Marketing salary in 2014?  Thanks to Propel London, a digital recruitment agency, we have the answer. Based on data of over 4,500 individual records (both from an online survey and their own internal i.e. job spec data), Propel's research shows that an entry level type job in digital can attract just under £25k overall, though if you're client-side, you can earn over £26k even while a junior!

To quote from the report:

The UK national average wage is estimated at around £26,500, meaning that juniors working in digital can command near the average wage, let alone aim well beyond it.

Digital Marketing Salary UK
All screenshots from: Propel (2014) ‘ Digital Salary & Industry Insights, 5th Edition’ [Report].
A small caveat to these figures is that 61% of the respondents are from Central and Greater London, which will skew the data and probably inflate it somewhat.

Propel's report, called Digital Salary & Industry Insights, has many interesting nuggets on attitudes towards job satisfaction and so on. The really useful bit is that it contains actual salary figures - how much you can expect to earn in a career in Digital Marketing. That's important for us because our MSc in Digital Marketing prepares graduates exactly for the types of jobs described in the report!

I love it that it breaks down digital marketing salary by discipline - i.e. search, social, and so on. It also corresponds to the way we're teaching the course (lots of practice, skills-based teaching in exactly these areas).

Here, then, the breakdowns of Propel's report that relate directly to the types of jobs that graduates of our MSc in Digital Marketing will be able to command. I've left out related areas such as ecommerce and digital project management salaries - these terms are less discipline specific and not as relevant. I would however encourage you to check out the full report (PDF) to get the complete picture.


Digital Marketing Salary (broad skill set)

Key insights:

  • Marketers with mixed skills across the disciplines earn more than those with specialist skills
  • At senior level, client-side roles pay on average 8.25% more than agency roles

Digital Marketing Salary


Analytics Salary

Key insight:

  • Senior Analytics specialists are in demand across the board
  • At junior / mid-levels, client-side roles pay more

Analytics Salary

Social Media Salary

Key insight:

  • Salaries for social media professionals have consistently increased
  • At senior / C-level, pay is below the norm, compared to the other disciplines

Social Media Salary

Search Salary

Key insight:

  • High, wide-ranging salaries at top levels with good opportunity for progression
  • Highest band of salary going up to £200k

SEO Salary

Key takeaways

While it's hard to generalise and give a recommendation of what areas and digital marketing disciplines you should specialise in for the best career, two findings emerge:

  • Develop a broad skill set across Digital Marketing - this will help you early on and ease progression
  • Acquire deep knowledge of the more technical skills (Search, Analytics) - this will give you the cutting edge at more senior / C-suite levels (there aren't that many high-paid jobs in social and content, for example)

Also, while working in a good agency is more likely to expose you to cutting edge digital practice, and you'll be able to work on many clients thus quickly developing expertise, it pays more on average to work client-side.

My final and most important piece of advice is to do what you enjoy the most. Develop and specialise in the disciplines that you love - be it social, search, or any other area of digital marketing.

That's because you'll be the best at any job if you LOVE what you're doing. And if you're the best, your career will take care of itself!