OK, true confessions: I did something I tell my clients to never do — I overrode my intuition. Recently I took on a project to be the outsourced CMO for a CEO brand of the leader of a mid-cap company, but against my better instincts, I agreed to answer to, and be creatively directed by, his company CMO. You know how this story ends….
To be fair, this woman was capable and experienced — just not in the arena of CEO branding and book marketing. Finally, I realized that my greatest contributions had no space to be realized under that circumstance. Even in the face of my company producing the promised results, every battle was an uphill one. It made me stop and think about exactly why using an interim CMO is a better way to go than using the company CMO. Here’s my take on the topic.
- Their attention is focused elsewhere. Most company CMOs are already busy doing a juggling act between building a personal brand on social media, advertising, content marketing, and more. Adding the CEO brand onto their plate can tip them into overwhelm. Even if they have the knowledge to do the job, their attention is often focused on other larger, company-wide initiatives.
- They may not have the expertise needed. Company marketing and branding has some crossovers with CEO branding, but in many ways it is its own animal. Underlying issues of executive presence, media savvy and thought leadership are essential for the successful launch and implementation of a CEO brand. Many CMOs don’t have the needed skills or knowledge in this arena, but an outsourced CMO who has specific expertise can save wasted time and money.
- They can get caught in an inherent conflict. Imagine that you run the marketing department for a $200 million business and your total budget is $1.5 million. Your job is to allocate those funds to the places where they can do the most good for the company overall. You measure the return based on the broad results produced — not on the narrow ones. CEO branding by its nature produces more limited PR and branding results, although often very high-profile ones. It can be difficult for a company CMO to balance these two seemingly conflicting objectives.
- CEO branding is not business branding. Despite involving some of the same activities, such as social media marketing, blog writing, speaking, and other foundational brand building, CEO branding is its own animal. Certain subtleties require a different approach, and it can be frustrating for the company CMO when the rules for business branding are applied but don’t produce the desired results.
- It doesn’t usually work out. Of all the reasons to hire an outsourced CMO to manage your CEO brand, perhaps the most compelling is how often it fails to have a company CMO do it. Again, this is rarely a result of incompetence, and more usually a case of time and expertise deficiency. An interim CMO can bring the needed know-how in building a personal brand and getting it up to speed quickly and effectively.
While it can work out, do you really want to take the chance that your CEO brand will fall by the wayside while you wait for your company CMO to pick up the ball and run with it? A better bet is to look into hiring an interim CMO who can take on your CEO brand with their full-time attention.