MARKET FOCUS: CMO strategies

Five marketing officers prove there is no perfect team.

Five marketing officers prove there is no perfect team.

Pitney Bowes Arun Sinha, VP and CMO When Arun Sinha arrived at Pitney Bowes two years ago, he took on the curious, unofficial title of "intangible asset custodian." Using a consumer marketing background honed at places like Philip Morris and Ford, the CMO (his official title) set out to punch up the postal meter maker's brand by calling attention to its technology and innovation. This entailed a reorganization of the marketing and communications approach for the Fortune 200 firm, including bringing the communications department- which at the time reported to the CEO - under his auspices. The move was designed to help unify messaging, but it also served to give PR a louder external voice. "For the longest time, the PR group was charged to do something very different than what they're charged with today - to keep the company out of any media or news," he says. Not long after the reorganization, the firm mounted an integrated campaign to raise awareness from which the marketing group was able to effect a 130% change in perception among C-level executives. The communications portion alone increased coverage by 30% (exceeding the goal of 20%), largely with in-depth feature stories rather than mere press mentions. Despite the organizational change, Sinha made sure that the communications department maintained a semblance of its direct relationship with CEO Michael Critelli. He assigned one person from the communications team to work regularly with Critelli, who, as head of the National Urban League and an important postal industry figure, wields influence well beyond the firm's confines with frequent speeches and public appearances. "[Critelli's] outside approach was initially a challenge," Sinha says. "We figured out that if I can assign someone to work with him who is based in our group, then we can coordinate the messages, so it'll be one company message going out." This all feeds into Sinha's 360-degree marketing philosophy: "If you're taking an integrated approach, if your mandate is to change the perception of the company and what it stands for, then we cannot have too many different approaches or ways of doing things." Siemens USA Jack Bergen, SVP, corporate affairs and marketing Like Sinha, Jack Bergen's tenure at Siemens has been marked by dramatic change in the way the company communicates its brand. But unlike the Pitney Bowes marketing officer, Bergen came up through the communications ranks, having jumped to the electronics and engineering conglomerate from the presidency of industry body the Council of PR Firms. And the difference shows. So far, Bergen, who is responsible for the marketing group, public relations, internal communications, and philanthropy, has reversed the way that the company does its marketing business, moving from a corporate brand advertising focus to an integrated one in which, as CMO Thomas Haas - who reports to Bergen - puts it, "We have divided the pie more evenly." "Integration is a lot easier when done with a communications person at the center as opposed to a marketing person, mainly because the communications person has better experience working with multiple audiences," says Bergen. Aside from incorporating a new philosophy, Bergen also has shifted some of the company's massive advertising budget to communications, a situation that most in-house PR pros can only dream about. "Being fortunate enough to have advertising as part of this area has given me a critical mass of budget that I have never had before and communications people do not normally have," Bergen explains. "The great advantage of marketing is that marketing sits on big bucks, especially having come out of the PR side, where we have always scrambled for budget." A real-world execution of this philosophy is a series of golf tournaments organized by Siemens, which used to be a sponsor of the Ryder Cup. Partnering with Golf Digest to gain entry to exclusive courses, Siemens was able to get its brand in front of its key audiences. "We spent $2 million on the Ryder Cup and some media and hospitality packages," Bergen says. "For that amount of money, we got four thought-leadership events and five golf events for the cost of one media package, all because we brought a communications mindset to leveraging all of that." Mindbridge Scott Testa, COO, CMO and cofounder For proof that you don't have to be a major corporation to make PR work when it reports to the marketing officer, look to Mindbridge, a 120-employee company based in Norristown, PA. Just 7 years old, Mindbridge, with organizations like the American Bar Association and Fidelity Bank using its intranet software, made Inc. magazine's 2003 list of America's fastest growing companies. Marketing is vital to the firm, and it uses a mix of PR, direct mail, telemarketing, and online marketing. Its six-person communication department reports to Scott Testa, the COO and CMO, who says the reason for this is that his background is in sales and marketing, while CEO David Christian is mainly concerned with the technical side of the business and products. The upside of this, Testa says, is a corporate culture where measurement thrives. "We're really big on justifying everything we do from an organizational standpoint," he says. "Everything we do is measured. From an online standpoint, we like situations where we can measure our ROI. From a telemarketing standpoint, we like to measure that ROI. It's a little trickier on the PR side, but even on that side we try to do it." However, Testa adds, "There'd be a lot less measurement if there were a direct report to the CEO. This is not a rub against him, but this is not his background." Rockwell Automation Matthew Gonring, VP, global marketing and comms When Matthew Gonring took over as the top marketing executive at Rockwell Automation, a manufacturer of industrial automation controls and products, the marketing functions were, in his words, "fragmented, disparate, and separate." For example, marketing reported to one of the business units, internal communications reported to human resources, and PR reported to the SVP of development. Gonring pulled all these together, and now corporate communications and global marketing, which includes a strategic marketing council comprising marketing heads of each of the corporation's businesses, and a variety of other functions, report to him. The new organization allows for a unified front among Rockwell's businesses. "Because of having the collective responsibilities, we can drive and set the agenda, and the businesses will stay on strategy," Gonring explains. "There is no separate public relations agenda. There is no separate internal communications agenda. They are all driven by an outside-in point of view, and that is the marketplace." Gonring, however, who has had marketing responsibilities throughout a career that has brought him to Arthur Andersen, USG, and Baxter International, does not think this is necessarily the best of all worlds for a communications department. The reporting model, Gonring explains, "can be a negative if the CMO is oriented strictly toward customers. The broader responsibility of managing the company's reputation means that I have to be wary of other constituents beyond, exclusively, customers - [such as] the area of managing threats to the enterprise. Many CMOs do not have the broader experience of handling reputation management across all constituents." The ideal model, Gonring says, is having the communications department report directly to the CEO, though, he adds, "there can be a down side to that. A CEO has many direct reports and has to allocate his or her time accordingly. Sometimes the function might not get as much airtime as it might through another senior operating officer." General Electric Beth Comstock, CMO In promoting Beth Comstock to CMO last year, CEO Jeffrey Immelt chose a communications executive to, as he put it at the time, make General Electric "a more externally focused market-driven company." As Comstock tells it, this is one step in creating a strong, integrated team where public relations, advertising, marketing, and branding all seamlessly work together. "It would be pretty hard to separate them, as we have pulled them together over the past few years," she says. "It is the strength of the integrated team that has been most important." In the current setup, Gary Sheffer, the general manager of GE public affairs and employee communications, reports jointly to Comstock, as well as to Bill Conaty, the SVP of HR, an arrangement that allows for those under Comstock to have "great access to Jeff Immelt. He deals with them on an as-needed basis." However, Comstock warns that this organization's scheme might not be the best for every company. "You have to be careful not to apply a one-size-fits-all for any given model," Comstock points out. "This is great for what we are trying to do. It works well for a company like ours where you've got a very strong brand. Most of our businesses, except for NBC, go to market as GE. It is very important in a go-to-market strategy that you have this integrated base. That is why it works well for us right now." One of the obvious possible down sides for a communications department that does not report directly to the chief executive is not having a potent relationship. Comstock does not think that this has to be the case, however. "What is going to get you a seat at the table is a very good understanding of the business and a keen strategic mind," Comstock explains. "Do you have a strategic mindset? Do you know what the goals and objectives of the business are, and do you know how to support them? As long as you have that, you are going to get a seat at the table."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in