Over the past several years, large corporations have come to realize the importance of a dedicated Internet strategy on both the marketing and technical sides. As such, a new breed of Internet professionals has emerged. Roles are being defined and these new specialists are becoming essential to every corporation's online success.
To dig a little deeper, Website Magazine's Mike Phillips spoke with Steve Gehlen, Founder and Executive Director of the Internet Strategy Forum. Gehlen and the ISF are leading a charge to better serve companies and individuals worldwide by organizing and promoting a new breed of Internet Strategists. Call them the new face of the Internet for corporate worldjust don't call them "Webmasters.
When did you start Internet Strategy Forum (ISF) and what was your motivation?
SG: March 2004 was the formative meeting, and we had our first topic-based meeting in May of that year. Our first annual Summit conference was in July, 2004.
I wanted to network with my peers. When I started the ISF there wasn't an existing organization. I knew people that did the same things I did, but they never showed up at professional networking meetings. So I developed a set of objectives for a new professional networking association.
Also, when the dot-com bubble burst, a lot of the press was about startups. But it impacted the corporate role of the Internet as well. Job salaries and roles were depressed. I saw that as a time to raise visibility to the industry of important Internet-related corporate roles - to be a champion for that.
What's the overall mission for ISF?
SG: We want to provide professional development and new opportunities for corporate Internet Strategists. We do that through a variety of programs, primarily monthly chapter-based meetings. The meetings are available in person or via the Web. So, any member can participate in any of the monthly meetings no matter where the location. We also have an annual Summit conference, one of the programs fulfilling that mission as well.
What is the current and future role of corporate Internet Strategist?
SG: Primarily they are driving their company's Internet presence - anything that rides over the IP protocol is now considered Internet strategy. However, the job titles, roles and departments within corporations vary. Our members consist mainly of marketing professionals and IT but also include some online products groups and ecommerce groups, to name a few. And even though those are diverse roles, there's a lot of commonality in issues we face. For instance, how to pitch senior management for more money? There are also challenges within the corporate structure - often between IT and Marketing. Who's in charge? How does Marketing get the attention of IT for their objectives?
There are many opportunities to network online today. What do you think sets the ISF apart from the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn? Do you view those networks as competition and why do you think the ISF will succeed?
SG: It's not competition. The ISF is not a social network, it's a professional network. As such, there are combinations of ways to interact with each other. If anything, we see the acceleration of interest in joining organizations like ours through the social networks... something like ISF adds value to networking. We have a LinkedIn Group, for example. But someone needs to foster those groups for the connections to really pay off. And that's where a professional network steps in.
I call it Association 2.0. One of the goals I set for myself was to remake the association meeting, to lower the barrier and combine the virtual and the physical. It facilitates dialogue and interaction.
ISF's next summit conference will take place July 17 in Portland Oregon. The scheduled keynote speaker is co-founder and CEO of eMarketer, Jeffrey Ramsey. The ISF also returns their highest-rated speaker, Mike Moran, member and author of the highly-successful book Search Engine Marketing, Inc. and a new book titled Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules. Currently ISF has several active area chapters, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington DC, with more in development. For more information, visit www.internetstrategyforum.org.
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