In this trip to the Rockstar CMO Swimming Pool, Ian Truscott is inspired by Rebecca Biestman, the Chief Marketing Officer at Reputation, who, on the podcast, suggested “the pressure on CMOs to be social influencers”. What do you think? Did he chuck it in?

The Rockstar CMO Swimming Pool is our portal to marketing hell for all the snake oil, bullshit, and hype that plagues our wonderful industry, inspired by rock stars with a reputation for chucking things in hotel swimming pools.

It’s been a while since I visited the Swimming Pool with an article, although each week on the podcast, I ask my guests for nominations, and we have gathered quite a list, and it’s time to start chucking some of them in.

Rebecca Biestman, the Chief Marketing Officer at Reputation, who I chatted to on episode 93, inspired this trip to the penthouse balcony. As we look down at the swimming pool, in our hands, ready to heave over the railings, is her nomination for our portal to marketing hell – “the pressure on CMOs to be social influencers”.

As she says in the interview:

“..some CMOs are great at being social influencers, but this is becoming an expectation of the job. And this needs to be decoupled”.

Do you agree? 

Do senior marketers need to be big on social media?

We feel this pressure that in order to be hired, we have to demonstrate our ability to market ourselves to be seen as effective at marketing. We need to be hustling, staring into that insatiable social media abyss of vanity metrics, likes and shares and growing a personal brand. With the voice of Gary Vee telling you that “If you want to crush it, there is no time for watching NetFlix or wasting an hour on lunch break”.

A quick Google will throw up articles like this one on B2B Marketing that use phrases like “you are who Google says you are” and infer that to lead a team, you need to show you are savvy with the socials with your personal brand. And, as Rebecca shared during our chat, it seems to be a lazy way to find talent:

 “…sometimes, that is one of the first things they look for when they’re going to hire. And while that’s great, and some people are great at it, the truth is the work should speak for itself.” 

And let’s face it, if you consider the much-discussed short tenure of a CMO, being hired can’t be too far from our minds. Whilst I think there is value in twisting that Google statement to say “you are who LinkedIn say you are” (you need a tidy profile which is a shop front for you), do we need to go further than that? 

It’s not a new pressure. Years ago (2009), I read an article on ReadWriteWeb that stuck with me. In it, author, ex-Forrester analyst and marketing influencer Jeremiah Owyang talked about building his personal brand by “paying himself first” and is quoted as saying: 

“I budget time every morning to read and blog. I do that before I check my personal email or work email. I believe you have to pay yourself first. When you open your email, you pay someone else because it’s usually people reaching out to ask you for something. Taking the time to read blogs, synthesize and add value that builds your community. That’s paying yourself first.”

At the time, I tweeted whether this was fair to Jeremiah’s colleagues and clients, but this is the effort and discipline needed to be a social influencer. I know a marketer that wants to be a “thought leader” but is less keen to do this extracurricular work thinking his employer will gift it to him. Love or loath the hustle culture, nobody will make it happen for you. 

Anyway, let’s get back to Rebecca’s point about it being hiring criteria and look at this from the employer’s perspective. Does that make sense? 

If influence is part of the reason for hiring, would an employer expect their total focus on the role or for the candidate and future employee to continue to pay themselves first? Or, maybe more importantly, once the market knows the influencer is on the payroll, will the audience now see them as a shill for the product or service and lose their value as an influencer? 

I was once a B2B tech analyst for a short time (and I credit social media and my writing for helping me land that role). I had a little influence, my blog was relatively popular, and people would engage with my social media feed. But, once I was back at a vendor, that declined. 

Tainted by the belief that I was now flogging something, people were less inclined to engage or share my ideas, as it would infer endorsement of a product in an intensely tribal B2B tech market. Fortunately, the vendor hired me for my category knowledge rather than because I could bring influence (I assume!). 

So, if an employer has social influence as criteria for hiring, and they hire on that basis, sure, there is some buzz at first, but as that wains, they’ll have to hope that the new hire has some skills beyond honing a personal brand; they are no longer a Social Influencer CMO. They are just a CMO. 

So, while good things can come from nurturing a personal brand, back to Rebecca’s nomination for our portal to marketing hell, is investing time in building a social following a necessary activity for every CMO?

I’m going to go back to what she said in the interview:

“…the truth is the work should speak for itself.”

Absolutely. Let’s hope so – that should be why we are hired.

And as we peer over the balcony railings and watch the splash, I’ll give Rebecca a high five. 

It’s gone. 

Listen to the full episode

Our guest this week is Rebecca Biestman, the Chief Marketing Officer at Reputation. We discuss Rebecca’s marketing career, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and she makes an excellent suggestion for the Rockstar CMO swimming pool.

Rebecca joined Reputation last year from Dialpad, a business communications SaaS platform. Before that Rebecca held various marketing leadership positions for RMS, a risk modelling software company, where shelaunched the company’s inaugural Social Impact program. Before moving to B2B tech, Rebecca specialized in B2C marketing for CPG and retail, working for Earth Essentials and Gap, Inc.

Photo of Swimming Pool by Jubéo Hernandez on Unsplash

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