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Max Dennis is the director of audience development for Victoria-based Assembly.

Amee Nijjar Photography/Handout

Job: Director of audience development

The role: The role of a director of audience development is to use all the content channels and data tools at their disposal to engage with a brand’s existing customers while helping to acquire new ones.

“Whether it’s through social media presence or developing newsletters or chat-bots, the main goal is to develop the audience so you don’t just get them for one session; they keep coming back to you for information,” said Max Dennis, a director of audience development for Victoria-based Assembly.

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Mr. Dennis explains that the role has much in common with other digital marketing practices, and is as much an art as it is a science. Directors of audience development spend much of their time analyzing data and metrics, using that information to develop marketing strategies alongside content co-ordinators and other internal stakeholders. Ultimately they strive to attract new audiences while increasing engagement among existing audience members.

“We’ll come up with a hypothesis – like we think maybe page seven we show this type of message – and then using data we make sure we’re not negatively impacting users or advertisers, and that we’re engaging people without harming the user experience,” Mr. Dennis said.

Digital content publishers remain the primary employers of directors of audience development, though the role has begun to spread to other institutions and businesses that rely on engaging audiences as well.

Salary: As a role with measurable results, directors of audience development often earn performance-based bonuses on top of salary.

“My best guess would be entry level [employees earn] $50,000 to $60,000 [annually], mid-level would be $70,000 to $80,000, and if you’re going into a more experienced role, probably $120,000 and up,” Mr. Dennis said. “A lot of the time there’s performance incentives, it’s often commission based, so that would be in addition to salary, depending on the company.”

Education: As a relatively new role there are few educational standards or requirements for directors of audience development at this point in time. Mr. Dennis adds that while a university degree can be an asset for entry-level employees, it isn’t necessarily a requirement. The industry more often relies on measurable results to determine an employee’s value, regardless of their education.

“Marketing experience, writing experience, any kind of sales experience would definitely help,” Mr. Dennis said. “It’s more about quantifying and delivering results. You’re able to show, with hard numbers, what you’re doing and how much value you bring to the company.”

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Job prospects: As a relatively new role, many Canadian organizations that could benefit from a director of audience development are still unaware of its existence. As a result, prospects remain relatively limited at the moment, but Mr. Dennis says that could quickly change.

“A lot of companies could use this, but they may not know that they should have a dedicated team for audience development,” he said. “As people start to understand the value of it, and see that it can immediately deliver results, [job opportunities will follow].”

Challenges: Directors of audience development need to work with a range of internal stakeholders in order to implement any of their recommendations, which can sometimes be a source of frustration.

“It depends on how the company is set up, but usually to implement something you need to deal with the technical aspects, you need to deal with the ad operations side and you need to get everyone on board with what you’re doing, which can be a challenge,” Mr. Dennis said.

Why they do it: While there are many jobs that offer opportunities for creativity, few are able to measure the success of those efforts and fine-tune them accordingly to the extent that directors of audience development can. “You’re coming up with new ideas, and the nature of the job is measuring the results, so it can be very satisfying when you come up with an idea and see it succeed,” Mr. Dennis said. “That feels good.”

Misconceptions: As a role that has roots in social media audience management, many assume it is primarily focused on that single channel, when it in fact also encompasses newsletters, websites, applications, push notifications and more.

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“People think that it’s just a glorified social media manager position,” Mr. Dennis said. "There’s definitely more to it than social media.”

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