“We are living through the age of assistance” – CEO Q&A: Joanne Sweeney-Burke, Digital Training Institute

By Business & Finance
13 June 2018
Joanne Sweeney-Burke, Digital Training Institute, DTI, digital transformation
Joanne Sweeney-Burke, Digital Training Institute (DTI)

In our next CEO Q&A, Joanne Sweeney-Burke of the Digital Training Institute (DTI) shines a light on the importance of digital transformation and the training involved.

Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

To be at the cutting-edge of digital transformation, relating to communications specifically. I practice what I preach and I preach by constantly learning and doing.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Scalability – I got fired by Bill Cullen in 2011 from The Apprentice because I wasn’t scalable. “People buy Joanne”, but you can’t scale yourself. Wrong, Bill. Scalability is both my current challenge but biggest opportunity. Watch this space or check out

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

I am a natural enthusiast and go-getter and I surround myself with people who are the same and have an attitude of ‘every day is a school day’ so let’s learn by doing and let’s have fun along the way. I also remind them that we don’t save lives, so nothing is insurmountable.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

I think I am in a sector that has massive opportunity, but our biggest challenge is to get senior leaders to embrace digital transformation. I am on a mission to elevate the digital communications within governments and public-sector bodies – after all they hold significant power and it’s only right they communicate effectively in the digital age meeting the expectations and demands of citizens.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

We are living through the age of assistance, where the Internet is not only welcome but it anticipates our every need. We are on a digital trajectory never before witnessed with the maturation of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Voice, wearables, smart speakers and assistants are very much trends that are here and not really the future.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I want to see the public sector fully embrace digital communications and build the capacity of digital skills to a critical mass. It is the only way they will truly transform. Digital is everyone’s responsibility, not just the digital team.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

Yes, yes and yes. Social media managers with an astute understanding of the nuances of politics and public life. I am appealing to journalists to jump head first into the digital age and help elevate the tone and tempo of social conversations.

Q. How did you strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

I changed from traditional PR and marketing into working in digital communications once I felt the waves of social media lapping at my ankles.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

I don’t think Brexit will directly affect me – suffice to say Ireland will be the only native English speaking country in the EU and so I may get more work in Brussels.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success comes with a breakthrough. I define success in providing a transformative service to my clients which changes their path for the better and empowering them to do what I teach them, themselves. I have this saying that I share with my clients at our first meeting: “Success is you firing me”. It’s dangerous, I know, but I mean that they will not need me if I do my job right. However, they often come back for more project work which is also an indication of success.

Success this year will also be the scalability of JSB!

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

A former colleague in radio gave me the best advice that I hold on to every single working day! When I began working as a broadcast journalist, I used to suffer very badly from nervousness and my voice would shake on air. So as a highly-experienced journalist, I told him when my nerves would go. He said, “Joanne, the day your nerves go when that red light goes on, it’s time to hang up your boots. You’re only as good as your last broadcast.” Now I say that to myself every day – “Joanne, you are only as good as your last gig, make it your best.”

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Launching the Public Sector Digital Marketing Summit and selling out! A big risk but I was brave enough for the challenge.

Q. What’s next for your company?

I am launching a Diploma in Digital Communications for Public Sector. It’s CPD accredited and is an online programme with 12 modules and lots of practical resources to accompany it. It’s about developing the critical thinking around digital for communications and senior leaders in government and public-sector agencies.

I’m also planning to bring my summit to Brussels and London and run it again in Dublin in June 2019.

I want to create a global community of public-sector professionals who are changing the world for the better, one digital message at a time.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2018?

Further expansion of my summit and diploma in the UK and mainland Europe.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

100 graduating from my Diploma in Digital Communications with another 200 enrolled and successful summits held in Brussels, London and Dublin, attracting over 500 people. That’s achievable, right?

I have this saying that I share with my clients at our first meeting: “Success is you firing me”.

Digital Training Institute (DTI) is a full-service digital marketing agency with a dedicated training academy. It provides digital marketing and social media training in Galway and across Ireland, and internationally, both face-to-face and online.