The changing CMO role

As CMOs' roles evolve, so must their tactics, explains Abe Smith, president EMIA at Cision.

marketing strategy

There was once a time when all a chief marketing officer had to worry about was overseeing a company’s marketing strategy and keeping a laser focus on the marketing department.

Those halcyon days are long gone. Now a CMO is expected to take a holistic overview of the company similar to a CEO, show awareness of new software and processes akin to a CTO, have commercial acumen on a par with a CCO and have an understanding of data comparable to a CIO.

The proliferation of information online means that customers have become savvier and undertake extensive research before they engage with products. For example, data from Gartner shows that the typical B2B buyer is 57% through a purchase before they even approach a seller, meaning that marketers must now engage customers earlier during this research phase, meaning a CMO’s remit must expand to encompass this.

It’s little wonder then that a study by recruiters Korn Ferry found that CMOs have the shortest tenure on average of any of the C-suite.

However, while technological advances have expanded the scope and complexity of a CMO’s role, martech also provides solutions to many of their problems.

Adopting paid and owned strategies to earned

Indeed, CMOs were quick to harness the power of data across the paid and owned sectors in order to prove the ROI of their work by targeting specific audiences with tailored messaging and mapping results to objectives critical to the business, like shopping cart conversions.

This did not extend to earned media. While CMOs have implemented strategies and standardised systems for paid and owned media, earned media practitioners are still mostly operating in silos working to hit vanity metrics.

Using metrics like reach and engagement, rather than linking output to business objectives, means that earned media professionals are not demonstrating ROI and therefore not persuading their CMO to invest in them. This is a huge issue, as study after study shows that marketers believe that earned media is the most effective form of marketing.

confirms that senior marketers and CMOs prefer “pull marketing” methods, with a survey of over 1,500 industry professionals showing that 80% believe pull tactics like earned media are more effective than print, TV and native advertising. The study also illustrated that consumers find “push marketing” tactics like email intrusive.

So, CMOs know the power of earned media is greater than paid and owned, but with communicators unable to prove how their work aligns with business objectives, investment still goes to the two “safer” options. However, the discipline of Earned Media Management is set to change this.

Why Earned Media Management helps CMOs

Earned Media Management is the idea that communicators must have standardised systems and processes when going about their work, adopting practices which are already used in paid and owned media. Its tenets redefine traditional PR and comms practices, allowing communicators to demonstrate ROI and prove their value to CMOs.

For example, like their colleagues in the paid and owned sectors, communicators should measure the real number of people who consumed content – rather than reach – and track how that consumption led to specific business outcomes. Clearly, these measures are of far more use to demonstrating ROI with a CMO than simply saying “we got coverage on page 10 of this publication”.

Part of the reason Earned Media Managers have relied on vanity metrics for too long is because the technology has not existed to allow them to identify and track these key objectives in the same way as their colleagues in paid and owned. This is no longer the case.

The benefit of combining new technology and Earned Media Management

While it is down to CMOs to ensure their PR and comms team is following the discipline of Earned Media Management, it is also incumbent upon them to support the team by investing in technology which allows them to demonstrate the value of their work.

A by the IBM Institute for Business Value highlights that companies which outperform their peers are more likely to believe that new advanced technology, such as AI and cognitive computing, will be important to their organisation’s future (91% against 64%).

New earned media martech powered by AI and machine learning means that CMOs and Earned Media Managers will finally be able to successfully demonstrate ROI and its effectiveness when compared with paid and owned.

While the role of a CMO is constantly evolving, to realise the full power that earned media can have on company performance, it is their outlook which needs to change. Rather than falling back to the paid and owned media staples, it is time for CMOs to recognise that earned media has matured to the point where investment in technology is crucial to a company’s success.

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