Former Ambassador to Greece, David Landsman OBE is currently Director of Tata Limited – the representative office of the multi-national Tata Group in the UK. Here David joins the debate on the changing expectations around the role of CMO and reinforces the fact that the ‘people behind the products are as important as the products themselves’. And, with the increasing convergence of internal and external communication, integrated skills will increasingly form the bedrock of the CMO.
Imagine a village. Like Ambridge in The Archers, or one from one of those old-fashioned children’s stories. Where there’s a shop or two, a few farms and a pub. Where everyone knows everyone else and where many are probably related. Where you know where the village shopkeeper gets their produce from, how they treat their employees, and where they dump their rubbish. Today, social media has brought us back to that world, where the people behind the products are as important as the products themselves. In this world, positioning a more holistic end reputation is strategic, in the sense that it can make or break sustainable competitive advantage: a threat but a huge opportunity too, if you get it right.
Marketing and reputation management therefore overlap in the same space. Quality, performance and values are different, but not always separable: you can tell a story with words, numbers and actions. Getting both right is essential, but the emphasis will depend on sector and context. In some cases, product is (almost) all, but for a global and diversified corporate like Tata it’s crucial to be able to explain “who are the people behind the brand”. From my experience as a diplomat, a “country brand” is another complex example made up of everything from the leadership and culture to the quality of the visa service.
So a CMO or Chief Reputation Officer? Does it matter? The senior figure, whatever his/her background, increasingly needs to be above professional silos and take an integrated approach, with both internal and external audiences. I quite like “Chief Engagement Officer”, but the abbreviation’s already been taken, I fear…