Episode 05 - Developing Future Marketing Leaders w/ Jenny Rooney of Forbes



Episode 5 - Developing Future Marketing Leaders w/ Jenny Rooney


Jenny Rooney:                  The industry has been transforming so dramatically that the task of keeping up with that dramatic transformation for universities has always been challenging but certainly I would argue is more challenging now than ever before.

Dave Knox:                         I'm your host, Dave Knox, and this is Predicting the Turn, a show that helps business leaders meet their industry's inevitable disruption head-on.

Dave Knox:                         Welcome to another edition of Predicting the Turn. Today, I'm joined with my good friend Jenny Rooney as we're taking the stage here at Cradle of Marketers in Oxford, Ohio as we both return to our alma mater. So Jenny, welcome to the show.

Jenny Rooney:                  Thank you so much for having me, it's great to be here.

Dave Knox:                         Thank you. I always like to start with a little background, and especially this is a little bit different. The last few episodes have been with some chief marketing officers, some with some venture capitalists. You're on the journalism side, but you spend every single day with CMOs. So tell us about your background that ultimately led you to be at Forbes.

Jenny Rooney:                  Sure, yeah. I've always been a business journalist, I got my master's in magazine journalism, and started in trade magazines covering the healthcare industry, and then quickly moved from that to covering the use of IT in the healthcare space, and then really early on in my career I made the leap to covering advertising industry by moving to Advertising Age. I was covering interactive agencies, this was during the dot.com boom, sort of 99, 2000. So I was able to cover the industry from that perspective, it was a super exciting time till it all went bust.

Jenny Rooney:                  But after Ad Age I continued to cover marketing, advertising, and branding at magazines like Business 2.0, which was one of the original internet economy magazines. I went to Chief Executive magazine, became editor of Sales & Marketing Management magazine, so I basically continued to climb my career ladder covering, not only marketing, advertising, and branding, but specifically marketing leadership and marketing executives. So that became my core focus, my beat if you will.

Jenny Rooney:                  So I went back to Ad Age another time to start something called Point, which was a monthly supplement, for and about CMOs. It later became CMO Strategy and was folded into the regular issue of Ad Age, and then after that I went to Forbes and I became editor of CMO Network, and that's where I've been for the past seven years.

Dave Knox:                         Love it. So, Forbes, one of the most recognized brands in the world. People might not be as familiar with CMO Network and what that is, so talk about the ... How does that live within a media industry, and what's involved with the CMO Network?

Jenny Rooney:                  Sure, when I think about the CMO Network I think of it as a component part of our overall CMO practice. Basically, CMO Network is our core content channel that I edit and I oversee, and obviously that's news stories, that's analysis, that's second-day news where we're looking at industry events and giving perspective, whether it's from myself or through my stable of contributors, they're all experts that are individually vetted.

Jenny Rooney:                  But then beyond the CMO Network, which is this core content channel, we've built out a whole community of CMOs with whom we engage on a regular basis through various touch points. We certainly have our events, we have our tent-pole event, our Forbes CMO summit that we hold every year, it's an invitation-only event for CMOs. We do one in Europe now. We do dinners throughout the year.

Jenny Rooney:                  And then I personally am engaging with CMOs in my video interview series, I actually am the cohost of the Wharton Business Radio Show CMO Spotlight. I do a lot of events with universities such as this one. So I engage with CMOs on a regular basis throughout the year in a lot of different contexts, and I think that all together comprises the CMO practice at Forbes.

Dave Knox:                         Perfect. So you mentioned one of the events that we're here at, the Cradle of Marketers. This event is all about helping shape the leaders of tomorrow. From your perch, what do you see in terms of the role of marketing leaders to help those future leaders and the future business, why do you find yourself involved with universities?

Jenny Rooney:                  To your first question, what's the role of marketing leaders, I think all CMOs or marketing leaders are recognizing that they have ... First of all, there's a big problem happening right now in marketing, in that marketing companies need the most cutting-edge skillsets within their walls. They need to be hiring, retaining, developing talent that's gonna enable them to meet their goals, and a lot of these goals are around digital transformation, etc., the new ways of engaging with consumers.

Jenny Rooney:                  For me personally, in covering the industry I've witnessed A, how important it has become for CMOs to really give back, and by giving back, not just talking about it and not talking about it from afar, but literally, physically being on college campuses, engaging with those students one-on-one, being in front of them, talking to them. It all stems from a personal passion that I think you share as well, of making sure that we're bridging marketing practice and marketing education.

Jenny Rooney:                  I feel like, obviously now more than ever, the industry has been transforming so dramatically that the task of keeping up with that dramatic transformation for universities has always been challenging but certainly I would argue is more challenging now than ever before. So anything we can do to bridge those two and bring them together is only gonna benefit everybody involved.

Dave Knox:                         So you talked about industries transforming every single day, and even more so. As you spend every single day working with these chief marketing officers, what have you seen over the last few years of how their mindset is changing in terms of thinking about their own jobs and their role within their company?

Jenny Rooney:                  I think that they're recognizing that they have to be driving, not just brand growth, but business value. So how they do that has become such a critical focal point, whether it's being able to have conversations in board rooms where you're basically selling marketing to board members, to others in the C-suite, the CMO has had to really hone and isolate his or her reason for being in companies, and I think we're all coming down to the fact that it is owning the voice of the customer in a way that nobody else in the company can. And that is the unique value ...

Jenny Rooney:                  Obviously, historically chief marketing officers were custodians of the latest ad campaign, and they were very functional. So, as we have all seen, this transformation of the CMO role to being so much more than that, it hasn't just come without effort in terms of CMOs having to take on the responsibility of telling their own stories within organizations, explaining to everybody, not just the value of a CMO, or equivalent title, by the way, but the value of marketing as a business growth driver and not a cost center.

Dave Knox:                         Love that. So, on that note, one of your recent efforts is the CMO Next that you just had published, coming out. It talks about redefining the CMO and embodying all that that role is becoming, can be, and will be in the future. Let's talk about that, as you pulled together that list, what did you see as the changes for what the CMO job actually is?

Jenny Rooney:                  What I looked at with that list is first I looked at CMO's experience, education, mandate within organizations, and mindset. I chose those things specifically because I think altogether they help to define the CMO of the future. What I ended up noticing is that all these people, just through their actions and by virtue of being in those roles at these companies, they are redefining the role. I decided what I wanted to do was not just talk about how the role's being redefined, but who is redefining it through the actions and through their actual posts.

Jenny Rooney:                  They're owning the customer relationship in a way that I had never, frankly, previously experienced in other conversations with CMOs. I had given every nominee, every candidate, a questionnaire that I had developed, and in reading through their responses one of the things that became strikingly obvious was a true and complete understanding and passion for the customer as the ultimate guide of everything that marketing's doing. It's almost like marketing exists only at the request of the consumer, if you follow what I'm saying. It's a different way of looking at it.

Jenny Rooney:                  As a result ... And they weren't all D2C companies, but certainly some were, and even at the ones that weren't, this concept of obviously owning the full relationship, the data behind that, the full transaction, and truly listening to what the consumer wants, needs, and is demanding, was pervasive throughout all the candidates.

Dave Knox:                         So you made an interesting comment there, you said it was a CMO list, but not every title was a CMO. So there was chief brand officer, chief customer officer, chief experience officer. When you looked at all of these different titles, is that a signal of real change, or is it marketers coming up with fancy titles like we sometimes do?

Jenny Rooney:                  I personally don't think it's marketers coming up with fancy titles, I don't think it's just semantics. I actually think it is indicative of the fact that the role is changing. Some will say, “Oh, the CMO's dead.” I don't think the CMO's dead, but it's certainly not what it had been, it's a new sort of role. The CFO doesn't own it, the CEO doesn't even own it. It is a unique role within an organization, and I do think it is about growth, it is about customer relationships, it is about engagement, it is about experience.

Jenny Rooney:                  And so titles, I think ... I'm gonna naïvely believe that they are actually legitimate reflections of the way that the role has been changing, is transforming, and how companies are regarding that role.

Dave Knox:                         Yeah, makes total sense. On that note of change, we have a fun story of how we even met, which was on social media through the power of Twitter and all of that. When you look at a lot of those CMO Nexts, they were talking about how to use social media, how to use customer engagements. How do you see brands doing that? How are they using these new technology tools?

Jenny Rooney:                  Well, I think they're trying to probably throw out any sort of rulebook that they may have had, or thought that they needed to be wedded to, in that social is about listening. It's about engaging. It's about reacting. It's not necessarily about pushing, it's not just one more medium the way past media had been. I think they're just using it to really capture consumer sentiment, to respond and to build that relationship because it's the tool that they can use to, in real time, in a very personalized way, respond to consumers. And that's what all consumers, certainly younger consumers, are looking for.

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Dave Knox:                         Let's talk about content, though. As this next space, your career has been in journalism, and you've watched brands start becoming content creators.

Jenny Rooney:                  Sure.

Dave Knox:                         That's a new skillset, and not one that they traditionally have the power to be able to do, and the setup. So what best practices are you seeing of the worlds of journalism and brand coming together, and what watchouts exists?

Jenny Rooney:                  Obviously we're seeing a lot of brands start hiring journalists, people who have formal educations in journalism. I think marketers, now more than ever, recognize the value of people who can write, who can string words together, who can create narrative, who can create story. And I think storytellers are in high demand in all aspects of business right now, but certainly in marketing.

Jenny Rooney:                  On the flip side, frankly, journalism, media companies have had to adapt and create opportunities for brand marketers to help them create content, pulling on traditional journalism resources to create content that lives alongside pure editorial. And I think a while ago there was a determination made that the reader, if you will, the consumer, the audience had every ability to decipher editorial from branded content. In fact, value comes from both.

Jenny Rooney:                  There's such a blurring of lines there, but I don't think it's all bad, and I think both sides are benefiting from the prowess and skillsets that the other can bring. I will say I've talked to people who are, frankly, in journalism, journalism students, and I've said to them, “You have to start thinking more broadly about your career opportunities, because there are opportunities working for brands who, frankly, have amazing newsrooms, they're creating content, they want the same storytelling skills and abilities that you are bringing.” But that's a different ... Especially if you're a traditionally trained journalist, that's hard to sometimes get your head around.

Dave Knox:                         Very much so. One of the things I love from the perch you're sitting on is you spend your day with some of the most influential marketers in the world, with the most influential list. You then work with the CMO Next, and then you're working on college campuses. The common theme in that is marketers' jobs are changing today, and the job we're doing today is gonna be different than the job of five years.

Dave Knox:                         How can marketers think of themselves being agile in their learning, in their development? It's not just getting an MBA anymore and then building your career and going up the corporate ladder.

Jenny Rooney:                  Yeah, I think ... The CMO Next list is a great example. The people on that list have degrees in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, international relations, languages, English, it is such a mix of educational backgrounds that, if you wanna take the CMO Next as an example, these people are bringing to bear. Just like marketing in organizations has to get out of its ... We've seen the breaking down of silos ... I think marketers need to stop thinking of themselves as just siloed marketers.

Jenny Rooney:                  I think there's an opportunity to, within organizations, to spend time in many, many different functional areas, and also bestow the learnings of marketing throughout an organization at the same time that you're learning about it. And if you haven't spent time obviously managing a P&L or doing something else completely un-marketing related in a business, you might wanna think twice about that. Certainly if you're new in your career, think about working in other parts of a company first before you move into marketing. Some would argue that the best marketers don't have marketing educations, which is anathema around here, so I have to be careful about that.

Jenny Rooney:                  And then otherwise, certainly in the industry I think there's ... CMOs in general, there's a lot of collaboration, there's big community, and there's a lot of best practices sharing. We're seeing a lot of breaking down of competitive walls, and I think the industry at large is trying to better itself and learn from each other, and so there are a lot of similarities even as there are differences in CMOs and the companies that they're leading. But I think more often than not there are similarities.

Jenny Rooney:                  So talking to, spending time with, your fellow CMOs, your other peers, that's hugely critical just as it is hugely critical within company walls to be really talking to a whole bunch of different people. And I will say CMOs smartly are also recognizing that they need to go ... Hierarchy is gone, they need to get the best ideas, the freshest ideas, the best insight, the best wisdom, from frankly anybody at any level within a company. I think that bodes well for the success of CMOs, and also obviously for marketing and for the companies themselves.

Dave Knox:                         So, speaking of getting some of the best insights and wisdom, Forbes CMO Network's one of those. If somebody wants to go get involved in the world of the Forbes CMO Network, where should they go to learn more about it?

Jenny Rooney:                  To me!

Dave Knox:                         I love it.

Jenny Rooney:                  Yeah, start with reaching out to me directly, I'm happy to provide my contact information. But obviously we have an active Twitter presence, we have a Facebook page, and so hopefully people will reach out to learn more about either being a contributor or being part of the CMO community. Because hopefully, as CMO Next represents, my goal is to certainly widen that community and start to learn more about, frankly, people who may not necessarily be household names at this point, but who are truly innovating and changing the dynamics of marketing and the CMO role.

Dave Knox:                         Great, and what's that Twitter Handle?

Jenny Rooney:                  It's @ForbesCMO, and mine is @Jenny_Rooney.

Dave Knox:                         There you go. Well, Jenny, it's always a pleasure, we've got a lot more of Cradle of Marketers to get off to, so thanks for taking the time.

Jenny Rooney:                  Thanks, Dave.

Dave Knox:                         Thanks so much for listening. If you like the show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode, and for more resources head over to predictingtheturn.com.