Demystifying Digital Marketing – In Conversation with RR Donnelley

On 22nd January I was in conversation with Dave Furney, Managing Director of RR Donnelley in Ireland. We were joined by some of the country’s top CEO’s, CIO’s and CMO’s for this new year breakfast event in the luxurious surrounds of Eden Bar & Grill.

RRD Donnelley are strategic design and communication specialists with bags of creative passion and a commitment to achieving exceptional results. They comprise a team of 200 talented and imaginative designers, copywriters, developers and strategists who are always looking for new ways to add value to their client’s business.


Greater percentages of marketing budgets are now being invested in digital marketing. But what of this whole new world where every inch of online real estate can be measured and direct connections with our customers at multiple touch-points made? How do you crack the code of digital marketing at a time when the skills available in Ireland are worryingly low? My one-to-one interview aimed to demystify digital marketing and show managers and leaders how they can, and should, be leading from the front in terms of their online marketing activities.

The Interview Topic

Demystifying Digital Marketing Digital Training Institute

The Interview

JSB in conversation with Dave Furney, MD of RR Donnelley in Ireland

JSB in conversation with Dave Furney, MD of RR Donnelley in Ireland

Q1:  Joanne, many thanks for joining us, we are in very good company this morning. Firstly, let me ask you – how did you ‘get into’ Digital Marketing? It seems to have taken over the world of PR and traditional marketing like a tsunami lifting many of us off our feet, so much so we are still in a daze trying to demystify it. For example, there are jobs in Digital Marketing now that didn’t exist five years ago. And five years ago we are all reeling from the economic tsunami.

JSB: I’m a trained journalist and my first job was in Highland Radio in Co. Donegal where I worked for three years. I was chief Court and Tribunal Reporter and loved the challenge of storytelling in real-time, live on radio. I moved out of journalism but my communication skills proved invaluable in my roles as CEO of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce and then as Regional Development Executive of Chambers Ireland. I set up my own PR agency called Media Box in 2008 and during the years of the recession I up-skilled and studied for three years in Digital Marketing while working at the coalface of PR & Marketing which was changing dramatically. Recognising the shift I set up Digital Training Institute in 2013 which is now my primary business. We are a digital marketing agency with a dedicated training hub. I’m able to use my Masters in Digital Marketing coupled with 14 years of working in all areas of media (old and new) to write and deliver bespoke training courses as well as develop and implement digital marketing and multi-media strategies. And 14 years on from Highland Radio I’m still telling stories – but online! I’m hooked, I love the fast pace, the ability to reach your audience directly and the fact that we live in an online global village which has removed geographic boundaries. I’ve also carved out some niches for myself – in social media and law enforcement (see and social media and online reputation (see

Q2: What’s the starting point of any Digital Marketing Strategy  – is it website design, SEO, social media, blogging, Online PR, content marketing, PPC, search marketing?  It’s a maze comprising multiple elements but what’s most important?

JSB: OK, so you’re probably doing most of it, but either don’t realise it, or don’t have it structured.

The starting point is your infrastructure. Very often when I’m brought into companies there are gaps in their digital infrastructure so we would first do an audit and look at their:

–      website, social networking sites, prospects database, content (visuals, video, stories, case studies, portfolio), email marketing or CRM software, offline marketing activities (as this still has a part to play).

I advise companies to take a step back, take time out and review those critical digital structures and ask yourself, will these actually deliver digital results. Most companies, and it’s easy to see why, jump in head first and demand that they are on Facebook and ask daily – how many new Likes do we have?

Once the infrastructural review is done – it’s time to strategise. Probably my favourite bit! And the digital strategy must align with the corporate goals. I’ve been writing corporate communications strategies for 10 years so writing a digital marketing strategy is not a whole lot different – the infrastructure is just different.

Then we get creative with content and design.

Oh and did I mention skills and the team that will drive it?

If you want one bit of advice – you must have your own website. You’d be surprise how many companies don’t.

Q3: We’ve all heard the joke – if it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen! Seriously, do we have to give in to the constant noise that is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat – platforms that are potentially wasting our vital working time?  Managers are nervous about staff’s ‘commitment’ to social media, and after all where’s the return on investment?


JSB: Did you know that your staff are spending almost 1 hour a day of your time on social networking sites? Yip! So get social media policies into your HR documents. About one in four bosses in Ireland have disciplined an employee for being out of line using social media in the workplace in a report by HRM Recruit.

Firstly, I’d say, choose the sites that are right for your business depending on what customer segment you are targeting. For example, I get a lot of traction from Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook for Business not so much, but I use my personal profile in a quasi-professional capacity. I’d argue I get 30% of my business from my social media marketing.

Anyway, staff tasked with managing social media for your company should do it using a three-pronged approach:

1.     Scheduling – save time and schedule your social media posts using software such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck or Post Scheduler in Facebook.

2.     Real-time Marketing – this will free up time for your next step which is real-time marketing. It’s not enough to push out content on social media, you must engage in real time with your online community so that your conversations are timely and relevant.

3.     News-jacking – this is when you jump on the band-wagon of trending news, views or topics but they must be relevant to your brand and be careful not to engage in controversial political or similar types of discussions.


Q4: The social web is a fundamental part of our day. Consumer behavior has changed dramatically with the arrival of Web 2.0. You can now have two-way interaction with your customers online, across multiple platforms. It’s never been easier to connect with our customers, so why does it feel so damn difficult?!

JSB: Exactly. Therefore you must take advantage of the host of free digital tools to cut out of the middle-man and get straight to your customer. It feels difficult because you are probably drowning amidst the depths of digital waves sweeping over your head, you can’t breathe cause you’ve you’ve no digital life vest and you are lost at sea without your strategy. We are in a room of business people who strategise, plan and action action action. Just transfer that mindset to your digital marketing.

Action these tips now!

1. Audit of your digital infrastructure – website design and content, social media platforms, email marketing (database & software), CRM, landing pages

2. Benchmark your current position  – current Google ranking on SERP’s (search engine results pages) for a variety of relevant search keywords and phrases; monthly unique visitors to your website, bounce rate, time on site and most visited pages;  social media following (across all platforms); level of engagement and influence, for example, measure your PASSION score from SocialMention – Passion is a measure of the likelihood that individuals talking about your brand will do so repeatedly; permission-based data to hand (email, mobile and by sector/target demographic); and online PR mentions (if any).

3.  Skills – assess the available skills in-house to drive your digital marketing strategy while also identifying what you may need to out-source of hire for.

4. Budget – how much do you have to spend a) to bring your digital up to scratch b) monthly to drive it forward?

So what are you waiting for? Off you go!

Q5: Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the nemesis of some brand managers – any tips to overcome the stress of winning Google’s top spots?

JSB: If you want to rank fast, you may be tempted to break Google’s rules and employ black hat or grey hat strategies – such as link farming, gateway pages or keyword stuffing, but if you want to go far stick to Google’s rules!

Focus on:

  • Quality content, relevant to your customer base – content will optimise your website for search
  • Make proper use of headings in the design of your landing pages  -it’s called Semantic Search  – follows the good rules of wirting a press release – headings, sub-headings,
  • Use appropriate titles and meta data to explain what’s on the page
  • Keyword research and effective keyword use e.g. long tail keyword
  • Quality in-bound links – online media, lifestyle and industry sites

Earn your space on Google – writer for the reader, for the visitor to your site and check your website’s technical specification for best practice in terms of search engine optimisation. Have a look at Search Engine Land’s infographic below – I love it!



Q6: It’s all about video, so we are told. Are we now expected to recruit TV producers, high-end videography suites and directors?  How creative and multi-talented does your digital marketing team need to be? How important is video?

JSB: No. Make your own videos. I often shoot short videos on the go using my smartphone. I’m piloting such short videos on Facebook now as they try to get into the video market. I’m getting about 2,000-3,000 views –although you’ve got to consider auto-play – whereby videos play automatically when we are scrolling down our newsfeed.

Look at Crystal Swing’s story. They didn’t hire a professional outfit to make their videos. It was low cost and had a tackiness that was just endearing. And then they end up on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and are around the country gigging five years later.

So just get comfortable with video – it helps to personalise a company. Remember – people buy people!

Use your smartphone. I bought a Sony Zoom HD4 and external mic for €400 – for interviews with clients, guest bloggers and while I’m out at events etc.

For more professional events I have a list of suppliers who will wrap me a short news type package (about 3 minutes) for about €500 plus VAT.


Q7: What’s the make up of a digital marketing department – what skills should your digital marketing team possess, how many do you need in your team?

JSB: In my new book I’ve actually developed a model for Police forces called Law Enforcement Social Media Newsroom© and it outlines the skills of a full suite digital marketing department. For general industry here are the people and skills you need. Remember one person cannot do it all, even if they tell you they can!

  • Digital Marketing Executive – responsible for digital strategy development and implementation.
  • Community Manager – harnessing the power of your social media and website following and engaging with them on a daily basis.
  • SEO Specialist – responsible for onsite SEO, link-building, data analytics, PPC campaigns, content marketing research.
  • Digital Designer – ensuring your brand shines online!
  • Web Developer – overseeing the technical elements of your website.


Q8: Content marketing is another buzzword often associated with good SEO results. Can you explain this a bit further?

JSB: It’s also known as #educationmarketing

Basically you are adding value to your offering by giving away free, expert, current data on your sector.

You provide it in multiple formats for online consumption – video, infographics, ebooks, blog posts, link bait articles, social media posts, visuals, photos, interview, guides, downloadable reports etc. All this content is indexed in search engines and remains there forever and as you build your library of published content, you are building your library of online real estate collateral. We develop content based on keyword research – so what are our customers searching on Google, what do you they want to know, how can we help! This also sets you apart from the competition as a thought-leader, trailblazer or trend-setter!

Q9: We’re told that digital marketing metrics give us deep insights into customer traffic, engagement, conversion – what metrics should we be measuring in our digital marketing campaigns?

JSB: Google Analytics – always!

Social Media Analytics – Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, SocialBaker provides cross platform analytics, Tweetreach (see screenshot below) to measure the reach of your hashtag.


Screenshot 2014-05-15 18.14.31


Q10: Have you any particular case studies you can share with us that perhaps give us an idea of how digital marketing success is shaped and implemented?

JSB: Here are some case studies.

  • Border Lives  – Online PR & Engagement Success – 4 month social media campaign which generated the results below.


Border Lives Social Media

Digital Training Institute’s results of our social media campaign for Border Lives


  • Digital Training Institute has a Bounce Rate 0.4% because our visitors get what they expect – content on digital marketing and all things social!




  • European Sports Tourism Summit – I managed their Twitter account for the day of their national conference and it reached over 1 million people during the 7-hour event, they gained over a 100 new followers and the hashtag #ESTS2014 trended in Ireland.


Screenshot 2014-05-15 10.31.07


Thanks to RR Donnelley for inviting me along to their event and to everyone who came along, asked questions and who tweeted me afterwards! Lovely to meet you all.



Would you like me to guest speak at your corporate or client event? Just drop me an email to [email protected] for a chat.

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