Before Twitter, LinkedIn, search engine optimization, and mobile apps there existed an individual within many enterprises that has gone all but extinct today: The public relations director. When my own PR career started on the agency side two decades ago, our in-house client contact would often include one or more professionals exclusively focused on public relations. Yes, some corporate communications positions have endured, but over time organizations saw less value in PR specialists, and more interest in hiring multi-disciplined marketing leaders and staff for which yes, public relations was one function of the broader purview. As a result, in-house PR titles have dissolved faster than the polar ice caps as it was expected that marketing professionals would come with built-in public relations skills.

A similar scenario is being debated with digital marketing leaders, as some enterprises question whether a separate position is required, or if the CMO should be expected to lead digital marketing efforts. The conversation bubbled up in an  AdWeek article last week, which chronicled the departure of Umang Shah as director of global digital marketing and innovation at Campbell Soup Company. The move was announced as the company’s CMO, Greg Shewchuk, assumed digital marketing strategy responsibilities.

Addressing the move, Campbell’s spokesperson Megan Haney told AdWeek that, “Digital marketing is a core competency of all our marketers. Umang’s role was a global position that will be not be filled. What we’re doing is recruiting a team of digital experts with specialist skills to be part of our U.S. marketing team.”

Haney’s response reflects that fact that many organizations expect CMOs to arrive hard-wired for digital, and while global corporations like Campbell Soup may have a dedicated digital team, it will operate under the stewardship of the CMO.

All of this said, the shift is far from universal. The AdWeek article goes on to cite a number of marketing experts who acknowledge that while digital is an integral part of marketing, familiarity with digital channels does not by default equate to an understanding on how to best use these channels and data for maximum impact.

Organizations seeking the right balance of internal and external digital marketing strategy and execution resources should take a handful of factors into consideration:

  1. Have you made significant digital marketing investments that aren’t paying off?

If you have hired digital specialists and invested in digital activities but are not seeing the expected ROI, this may be an indication that the digital initiatives lack proper strategy and innovation. There can be many reasons for this, ranging from the lack of a digital director to marketing leaders that are stretched so thin that there is no way they can devote the proper time to creating and tracking digital efforts on a day-to-day basis.

  1. What are the core competencies of your CMO?

CMOs bring a diverse range of skill sets, and increasingly data analytics is a competency business leaders seek to analyze the efficacy of digital marketing programs. Alternatively, some CMOs with strong data chops may not have as much experience developing innovative digital marketing campaigns that encompass video, web, social, virtual reality, etc. For organizational leaders, it’s about putting together a puzzle of personnel and capabilities that can deliver the full digital and traditional marketing strategy and execution stack that leaves no gaps.

  1. Can and should the CMO run the digital marketing stack?

It’s not just people and process that CMOs and digital marketing directors must run, its tools as well – digital marketing technology tools that have multiplied exponentially just in the last five years. Marketing leaders could spend a good part of their day evaluating these tools and trying to figure out the right combination for their organization based on need, budget and impact.

Marketing Land columnist Jim Yu reiterates the challenge CMOs face to navigate a web of tools that often focus too little on performance-led technology that drive a healthy ROI. Yu speaks of building digital marketing stacks that can plug gaps in the “digital performance gap,” and it is worth questioning whether all of this can and should fall to a CMO versus a dedicated digital strategist.


  1. How much kool aid has the marketing team been drinking?

Your marketing team may know digital, and it may know your company, but does it have a firm grasp on how competitors are marketing to target audiences? And is it up to speed on digital marketing innovation that can help the organization rise above the noise in selling products and services? While digital marketing agencies may not know your organization as well as internal staff, they can offer a gut check perspective beyond what may be possible with an internal team that is “too close” to be objective.

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