GE taps PR head Comstock as its first CMO in a decade

FAIRFIELD, CT: General Electric has named Beth Comstock, most recently its VP of corporate communications, as its first CMO in over ten years.

FAIRFIELD, CT: General Electric has named Beth Comstock, most recently its VP of corporate communications, as its first CMO in over ten years.

Comstock will report directly to CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

In her new role, Comstock, whose career path has been that of the traditional corporate PR pro, will now oversee marketing efforts across the entire conglomerate.

As part of the move, Gary Sheffer, formerly public affairs manager, has been promoted to general manager of GE public affairs and employee communications, reporting jointly to Comstock and Bill Conaty, SVP of human resources. Sheffer will oversee media and public relations, messaging, and employee campaigns.

GE was ranked second in last year's Fortune 500 with revenues totaling $186.7 billion, and claims businesses as diverse as medical devices and aircraft-engine production, to corporate finance, to ownership of television network NBC.

Comstock said that the integrated communications structure at GE makes her appointment to head the marketing function more seamless than it might be at other companies.

"For the past five years at GE, we have had integrated communications, so if you understand that, you'll understand why I'm now assuming more of a marketing role," said Comstock. "The success we've had seems to show that the integrated strategy works very well at the corporate level for a company like GE."

Immelt indicated that he expects marketing and messaging to help drive sales.

"While we have made good progress invigorating GE's commercial efforts, our next step is to drive marketing leadership, in tandem with sales, across the company," he said in a statement. "Beth and her team will focus more resources on serving markets where GE has multiple business efforts."

While most GE units and divisions have their own marketing staffs, Comstock's mandate is to help reinforce central authority and uniformity to GE's marketing efforts. She is also tasked with helping units learn from each other.

"We want to make sure that we can take a good idea that's working in one of our businesses and [help] another take advantage of it," said Comstock.

Comstock has headed corporate communications at GE since 1998.

Most recently, she was instrumental in developing and launching the company's new tagline, "Imagination at work," which replaced "We bring good things to life." The latter had been in use for over a decade.

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