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The CMO, the Agency, and the Wardrobe

By Ruth Brajevich
Chief Marketing Officer at Ware Malcomb

"What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing." —C.S. Lewis

Just like in C.S. Lewis’ classic novel—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—two realities often co-exist. The reality you live in shapes your beliefs. In the marketing arena, your role is either as the marketer for an organization or an employee of a marketing, PR, or social media firm. In either position, to C.S. Lewis' quote, you see and hear the world in very different ways. In my case, I have the blessing—and the occasional curse—to live in both worlds, as I oversee my firm's marketing while also consulting with clients on their marketing projects.

My employer, Ware Malcomb, is an international design firm that provides architecture, interior design, site development, and graphic design services. In 1998, I joined the Ware Malcomb team and launched our marketing program. Since then, the company has expanded from three to 11 offices, from regional to international, and from a marketing team of one to a team of seven.

In 2005, I discovered the "wardrobe" that led me to a new reality, WM Graphics. Ware Malcomb's graphic design studio offers marketing and graphic design services, including branding, logo design, website design, environmental graphics, and most recently, social media consulting to clients.

Leading Ware Malcomb's marketing strategy and advising our graphics clients have given me a healthy appreciation for the challenges of both surprisingly similar—but different—worlds. Here are some tips from my adventure so far.

Tips for Agencies

  • Help sell it! Too often, CMOs and other senior-level marketing professionals must sell social media to the rest of the C suite. Many CEOs and CFOs are still skeptical of social media's ROI and are very focused on the bottom line and managing their companies back to economic health. It may be hard for those of us entrenched in the marketing and PR world to believe, but there is still a wide range of understanding about social media and misperceptions about its benefits. To help educate your clients' teams, provide statistics on the scale and growth trends of social media. Other persuasive information to share includes:
    • Client's industry involvement with social media
    • Client's competitors
    • Client's customers/clients
    • How the client's brand is already being talked about on social media
  • Be a chameleon. Do you really understand your clients' industries, or are you the "expert" just telling them what they should do? Do you really understand their challenges? Do you know their future goals and directives? To be effective, you should dig deep to gain a thorough understanding of all aspects of your clients' businesses. You should know them so well you are like a chameleon, blending right into their organizational mindsets.
  • Speak the language. I am not a big fan of outsourcing the day-to-day management of social media, because I think it is so valuable to be part of the conversation. However, in some instances, a company will not have or want to dedicate in-house resources to manage it effectively. In this case, the agency or consultant truly needs to operate as an extension of the organization's marketing and PR team.

Tips for CMOs

  • Become the expert. Even if you work with an outside firm, you should learn and be in the space yourself—and this includes senior level staff. I talk to clients who are so excited about getting into social media but don't really understand it well. At Ware Malcomb, some of the best opportunities and ideas we have implemented could have only been inspired through our direct participation in social media. Remember, as an in-house marketer, you understand the nuances of your company the best.
  • Develop a strategy. Before you jump in, define what you are trying to achieve with participation and engagement. Increased brand recognition? Customer service? Sales? I often bring my clients back to these questions to make sure the tactics align with the goals.
  • Lead like a lion, not a witch. As a senior-level marketer, you must understand, develop, and lead strategy for social media that aligns and complements your overall marketing plan. You also need to continually monitor, innovate, and shift in this ever-changing forum. And it is very valuable to involve your marketing staff at all levels. Innovative ideas come to life when we work creatively and collaboratively together.
  • Always be learning. Social media and digital marketing are continually changing and evolving. On a daily basis, read and experiment with new ways to use digital technology to enhance your marketing and engage with your customers and clients. Some of the resources I rely on include Mashable, Inc. Magazine, Brian Solis, Seth Godin, Fast Company, iMedia Connection, and of course, Social Media Marketing Magazine.
  • Collapse the silos. What encompasses the umbrella of marketing keeps expanding. Be knowledgeable about all of it: marketing, sales, public relations, digital, social media, blogging, etc. The days of working in silos are over!

No matter what land you call home, one aspect of social media marketing remains constant: it is always changing. Just like in Narnia, sense of time is vastly different. So when working with those from another world, try to be empathetic and see things through their eyes.

"Things never happen the same way twice." —C.S. Lewis

Ruth Brajevich

Ruth Brajevich is the Chief Marketing Officer at Ware Malcomb, an international design firm offering planning, architecture, interior design, graphic design, and civil engineering services to commercial real estate and corporate clients. Ruth leads strategic planning, marketing, communications, and graphic design services for the firm. Her strategic vision of redefining every aspect of Ware Malcomb's marketing methods has been instrumental in increasing the firm's brand recognition in all of its markets. An accomplished writer, Ruth has authored numerous articles on marketing and graphics, including pieces for CREW Networks, CREW OC, Building Design & Construction, and Rain Today. She has also been a speaker for Vistage, NAIOP, and Grubb & Ellis's National Conference.