Only 70% of CMOs will survive 2017 – How Reputation Management Can Save the Rest

January 12, 2017

By Bill Coletti, CEO, Kith


In Forrester Research’s “Predictions 2017: The Post-Digital CMO Appears,” they predict at least 30 percent of CEOs will fire their CMO’s for “not mustering the blended skill set they need personally to pull off digital business transformation.” In a business climate where “adapt or die” is a common battle cry, this approach is understandable. Does your CMO have the tools and skills to adapt and subsequently survive in this new era?

Forrester says CMOs must “develop their art and science acumen” and illustrates this using the “right brain” and “left brain” model. CMOs, Forrester says, need to bring together both sides of their brains:

  • The right side, which designs experiences to engage customers; and
  • The left side, which masters technology and analytics.

While I agree that this approach makes sense, I’d argue that it’s not enough for CMOs to tick the boxes on design and analytics. There is a third component that CMOs and CEOs should place at the forefront of their organization’s activities: reputation management.

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This intersection of design and customer experience is the landscape where today’s successful CMOs live. The future Transformational CMO resides in the intersection between Design & Customer Experience, Reputational & Public Expectation and Data & Analysis.

At Kith, we believe there is one fundamental truth in reputation management: a company owns its brand, but the public owns its reputation. Reputation is what people expect us to do next. As Seth Godin said in his practical definition of reputation, it’s the “expectation of the quality and character of the next thing we produce or say or do.” The impression left on stakeholders by your actions and their evaluation of those actions over time earns a company its reputation.

The CMOs list of expectations is growing. A CMO is tasked with managing a company’s brand—they do so by creating and sustaining a brand’s identity. However, solely managing a brand is not enough to influence your company’s reputation. In many industries, organizations do not have a defined reputation management function at all. Regardless of size, your organization’s CMO should play an active role in managing reputation by reinforcing and/or executing on reputational tactics.

When evaluating your CMO, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are we going beyond selling a product and telling our company’s story?
  • Do our marketing tactics reinforce our company’s authority in the marketplace?
  • Beyond awareness of our products, do stakeholders know who we are and what we stand for? Does the public trust us?

If your CMO demonstrates valuable, measurable contributions to your company’s reputation, they are doing their job in the current marketplace. If not, it may be time to show them the door.

Filed under: Blog


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.