33 | Role of a Generalist with Montse Cano


In this episode we discuss the digital marketing role of a generalist and where they fit in within the team.

Montse Cano joins me and says she has been in digital marketing for a very long time, currently she is a 360 marketer but she specialised in SEO and content strategy before that.

How did you become a generalist?
It was a journey, Montse says, I didn’t start at digital marketing but mostly digital project management of which SEO and content was a big part of it. I was managing multiple channels at the same time and think that it’s quite good that I had exposure to enough channels so that I knew best how to manage them.

Montse wrote a great article on what benefits digital generalists can bring to teams. She didn’t know if it’s going to be useful in the first place but it was something she had experienced herself so wanted to ask the industry about it also.

There is a high level of specialisation in the SEO industry. She thinks it’s valuable and didn’t know if someone may know about SEO as well as social media or PPC so tweeted out to start a conversation about this. Montse herself was looking at the job market a while ago and the jobs that she came across were mostly for specialists. When she went into the roles she often noticed that something was missing, such as the business strategy and integrating the channels together.

She found that in a specialist role it  was more to do with people’s desires than strategy, which made for not effective working. A lot of people she worked for were offline. Mostly other marketers had great expertise and knowledge and she learnt a lot but there was lack of knowledge of how digital channels work together and how to best work with the specialists as well. So, strategy is key to keeping those channels together.

SEO Industry on Generalist roles
Kevin Gibbons suggests that you need a specialist in an agency because if you take agency on then looking for expertise but in-house might need more of a generalist than a specialist. I gave the example of when I was working for Tesco, staff internally moved around job roles a lot which mean that they often have knowledge of the brand than specialist expertise. This sometimes works really well in companies, especially those as big as Tesco.

Sometimes though, it’s not possible because when you’re working on a big client you need a specialist to do the role and have a point of contact. Organisation and exposure to other channels and analytics is super valuable. So, Montse agrees with Kevin’s comment, as specialists are hugely needed but depends on the organisation of a company.

Generalist role is varied, it could be content, technical, analytical and strategic.

Ric Rodriguez tweets that SEOs becoming more facilitators across teams. We discuss how you need someone who is able to explain the needs for SEO content for example, or other types of specialist tasks. If they’re specialised, sometimes it’s difficult to come out of that bubble and explain how that one channel may impact other channels. So a generalist role can be a mediator and offer strategic advice, help a business grow their digital maturity. Finally, a generalist needs knowledge of channel to make a good decision. They can also identify knowledge gaps and work with the strengths of every team.

It is difficult to work with someone who doesn’t know the specialisation but tells you what to do.

I personally can only remember an example that’s more of a project management role than perhaps a generalist one but when I was at Carpetright they worked across channels because they ensured that targets were completed when they were meant to and looked across all channels. The project manager, like a generalist, can oversee things and help put milestones together, something also similar to a campaign manager. It’s about providing value and being efficient.

I then wanted to play the devil’s advocate and mention a tweet by Sico de Andres; “a generalist will always need a specialist.” If they have enough knowledge they wouldn’t need a specialist, I argued, unless they have more of a project management. It’s very different roles though, the second could be someone who worked alongside specialists but doesn’t have enough experience.

Role of a Generalist Definition: “A generalist means someone who doesn’t have specialist knowledge.”

Someone who doesn’t do specialist work to be able to do more business strategy and project management. The argument there is that with more hands-on experience with digital channels they’ll be able to manage campaigns better compared to someone who hasn’t. But, it does depend on the organisation.

What’s interesting is that the higher you go up the ladder, the more likely you’re to take that generalist position anyway. If you’re head of digital marketing, then you’ll be looking at multiple digital channels at once so that they all work together to achieve that one overarching goal.

Join the conversation via Twitter: @MontseCano

Related Episodes

Digital Marketing with Daniel Rowles

Future of Search with Kevin Gibbons

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.


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