CMOs: There is Hope!

CMOs: There is Hope!

Posted on December 11, 2014 0 Comments

shutterstock_157029527In my last post, I mentioned the growing trend of marketing integration, and what it means for both agencies and marketers. This trend is not only reinforcing the value of traditional (product-driven) marketing, but also that of marketing (and corporate) communications. It’s one of the reasons that CMO tenures hit a four-year high in 2012, and are continuing to rise.

Integrated marketing isn’t just about having the advertising and PR folks talking more. It’s really about giving marketing and corporate communications a voice in the management of the company. Without this voice, companies are not just putting the effectiveness of their sales and marketing efforts at risk – they may be putting their organization’s reputation at risk. I’ll give you two examples – both from the non-profit world, but with implications for any organization.

Several years ago, I sat on a committee whose job was to go through the top category winners of a popular regional public relations award to pick one “best of the best” winner. Two campaigns stood out. One campaign had absolutely stellar metrics – it was able to tie huge visibility and engagement spikes, as well as a growth in product sales, directly to the campaign in question. The other entry was a crisis campaign that couldn’t show big numbers, but which essentially saved an organization from going down the tubes.

Being of an analytical mindset, my gut was to go with the big metrics. There was one dissenting voice on the committee, who reminded us of the real impact of the crisis campaign: they succeeded in getting a seat at the management table for the PR and communications team, and because of that, they managed to survive a horrible scandal and emerge as a much stronger organization. He convinced the rest of the committee that this should be the goal of every PR program.

Another, oft-cited example: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which suffered a huge reputation hit after it made a business decision without evaluating the potential impact that decision would have on its publics. That decision was to end its longstanding relationship with Planned Parenthood because of concerns that investigations into Planned Parenthood would reflect negatively on Komen. The decision ultimately resulted in a huge loss of revenue from both sides of the debate around Planned Parenthood. If Komen had run that decision by the communications team before the change took effect, the scandal would likely have been avoided. Communications needed a seat at the table where that decision was made.

Let’s take a look at integrated marketing from the perspective of social media for a second. The classic question that has floated around large organizations for years has been “who owns social media?” The answer changes depending on who you ask, but if you ask me, the answer is simple: the CEO. That’s right, not the CMO, but the CEO. Why? Because social media impacts more than just marketing and communications. There isn’t a single department inside any organization that can’t benefit from social media.

Furthermore, if social media is relegated to just the communications team, your organization is at risk of suffering from what I call talking head syndrome – your marketing presence could end up being disconnected from the rest of the organization.

Smart marketers are working their way into the CMO role, and ensuring that that person has a voice in the overall management of the company. Smart CMOs are doing everything they can to have the CEO’s ear to ensure that the organization is not operating in a vacuum, but with input from all its publics. To do that, marketers have to know how to speak “CEO.” It will go a long way to extending their tenure even further.


Todd Van Hoosear

Todd Van Hoosear is vice president of public relations for Eric Mower + Associates' Boston office, where he helps clients in the engineering, mobile, cloud, networking, consumer technology and consulting spaces bring new ideas – and new takes on old ideas – to the market. He also teaches new media and public relations at Boston University, and serves as a Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Find him on Twitter at @vanhoosear. 


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