As an agency that works with a number of cyber security clients, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been on Bluetext’s radar for quite some time. The GDPR, which goes into effect May 25th, 2018 regulates how companies must protect the personal data of European Union citizens.

The impending deadline is not lost on U.S. multinational corporations that touch EU citizens/consumers in any way, but most of the angst has been confined to those responsible for corporate compliance, IT and security. But GDPR is highly relevant to marketers and advertisers, who must start preparing now to ensure compliance. And the stakes are enormous: fines for non-compliance could be as high as 4% of a company’s global revenues! I’m no math whiz, but any executive responsible for that kind of fine can start looking for a new job now.

Whether or not marketers will be yelling Mayday! on the May deadline day roughly eight months from now will in many ways come down to becoming fully educated on the intent of GDPR when it comes to customer data privacy, its requirements, and how to convert the compliance challenge into an opportunity.

Organizations, not just CMOs, have some ways to go towards GDPR compliance. Gartner estimated earlier this year that more than half of companies affected by the GDPR will not be in full compliance with its requirements on deadline day. In commenting on this prediction, Bart Willemsen, research director at Gartner, counters the notion that this is only an issue in the European Union.

The GDPR will affect not only EU-based organizations, but many data controllers and processors outside the EU as well. Threats of hefty fines, as well as the increasingly empowered position of individual data subjects tilt the business case for compliance and should cause decision makers to re-evaluate measures to safely process personal data.”

For marketers specifically, the confidence level in being prepared for the GDPR is similarly low…and dropping. As of May, only 54% of businesses expected to be compliant by the deadline, per a Direct Marketing Association (DMA) survey – down from 68% when the survey was conducted just three months prior. In fact, nearly a quarter of companies had not even started preparing for GDPR, even though the law was first announced in 2012.

The challenge for CMOs will be dictated by how much transparency they need to build into their marketing processes – particularly as it relates to how customer data is handled. The less transparent, the heavier the lift it will be to not only comply with GDPR, but demonstrate this compliance. Ultimately, a core tenet of GDPR – providing citizens with “ownership of their data” and right to erase their data – runs counter to the desire by brands to deliver a superior, customized experience by retaining and analyzing as much data as possible.

Clear guidance will help alleviate those concerns for marketers and others impacted by the legislation. GDPR directs companies to keep data as long as it is necessary. How marketers define what is necessary may be different than how it is defined by citizens and EU lawmakers

At the same time, some marketers are struggling to understand if efforts to be more transparent will come back to bite them. At a Direct Marketing Association (DMA) event this past May, chairman Mark Runacus pondered whether the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) would “penalize those who are trying to be open, honest and transparent.”

DIGIDAY has one of the better summaries of what marketers and advertisers need to start paying attention to now. A few takeaways from GDPR the author focuses on include:

  • The definition of personal data has been broadened to include online identifiers such as IP addresses and cookies. This could cause problems for digital marketing, given cookies are not gathered with an individual’s consent.
  • Under the GDPR, advertisers must get explicit and informed consent from EU residents. This means no more of the so-called “clickwrap” forms, those lengthy contracts that millions of people sign off on without reading each day. Instead, brands must find a way to get user consent, devoid of pre-checked boxes, or attempt to get implied consent.
  • The GDPR won’t just affect organizations across Europe. Any business anywhere with personal data from EU residents must abide by the reforms.
  • Marketers will need to take greater responsibility when processing personal data, and ensuring that the manner in which consent was acquired from customers in the database is GDPR compliant.

Within these challenges lies an opportunity for marketers to become more transparent stewards of customer data, improve data privacy and security, and build a more trusted relationship with the customer. It won’t be easy, but starting GDPR compliance now – if you haven’t already – is critical.

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In scanning the marketing headlines this past week, it is clear to me a theme is emerging about how CMOs are viewing their evolving role and the need to think business first, and marketing second.

So what does that mean exactly? For HP CMO Antonio Lucio, it means that, “if you want a seat at the top table you need to demonstrate that your efforts are not just about building your brand but about building your business, otherwise you don’t matter.” Lucio was answering a question about the changing role of the CMO at an event hosted by The Economist at the Cannes Lions Festival.

I love that quote; it is a nod to a more holistic view of how CMOs and marketers can strengthen and even expand its purview beyond marketing and advertising. In many ways the CMO must take a business-first rather than a brand-first approach to ensure a seat at the management table. For Lucio, his job as CMO has four separate roles: “chief brand officer, driving capability as chief personal officer of the marketing function, working with other departments “to get shit done” as chief alignment officer and chief storyteller “ensuring everything is aligned to the brand”. Lucio is making the point that the easy road for CMOs to take is the shortest one that builds the brand but fails to take into account how the broader business is impacted.

At the Cannes Lions Festival event, fellow speaker Syl Saller, CMO of Diageo, further supported this perspective by adding that CMOs are always tempted to pursue short term thinking at the expense of a longer-term perspective that includes a “strong vision of the future”.

In a separate article by writer Lucy Handley, Lucio’s comments at the event were once again highlighted: “”The CMO needs to be a business person and a marketer second. If you don’t have a seat at the business table, you really don’t matter. (You must) demonstrate that your efforts are not only building the brand but are building the business.”

CMOs have seen a number of factors disrupt their organizational roles and purviews in recent years, ranging from data analytics tools enabling more precise decision making to the increasingly digital customer journey. All of this does impact how CMOs communicate the brand to target audiences, but also offers an even greater opportunity to positively impact the long-term prospects of the business. In fact Forbes, which recently released its 2017 list of the world’s most influential chief marketing officers, noted that business impact was a key filter in ranking top CMOs this year.

As CMOs “increasingly assume responsibility for driving not just brand but business growth, they have an unprecedented opportunity to affect revenue and customer experience,” notes the Forbes summary. As a result, they’re not only gaining influence within their companies and with top management and boards; they’re “becoming more visible and accessible corporate leaders outside of their organizations,” in part through their “personal brands.”

If you are a CMO ready for a business-first approach to taking your brand to the next level, Bluetext would love to be your digital partner. Give us a holler at

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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Tactical is a great word…if you are in law enforcement or the military. As a digital marketer, however, tactical has come to imply – fairly or unfairly – a lack of strategy, creativity and inability to grasp how day-to-day activities fit into the bigger picture.

In the recent Forrester report, “2015: The Year of the Big Digital Shift,” more than half of marketers admitted their digital marketing is more tactical than strategic. While a number of factors may explain this, digital marketers are a victim of their own excess: Forrester reported that investments in marketing technology grew 3.4 percent in 2014 and is projected to rise another 4 percent this year.

Marketers looking to spend their growing budgets will find an ever-expanding landscape of digital marketing tools at their disposal. Ask peers for recommendations on tools for content marketing, marketing automation, mobile marketing, SEO, and social media monitoring and you will likely get dozens of answers. It reminds me of the viral marketing videos from Blendtec’s, “Will It Blend” campaign, whereby items ranging from iPhones to baseballs are placed in a Blendtec blender to see if, in fact, they will blend. Throwing a bunch of digital marketing tools into a blender and just hoping they will “blend” together into a coherent strategy doesn’t work.

To ensure digital tools enhance rather than complicate your broader marketing strategy, consider the following:

Conduct gap analysis

Marketers must draw a definitive line between nice to have and need to have digital tools. In my recent column for PR Week The Hub Comms, I reviewed a new gap analysis tool from SAP that asks the marketer a series of questions about their organizational profile, marketing programs, current systems and processes. Based on the answers, the tool makes personalized recommendations on focus areas for marketing investment to address existing gaps. Marketers should not make tool investment decisions before having a firm grasp of existing gaps, and then evaluating which tools can plug them.

Avoid tool redundancy

There are purpose-built digital marketing tools designed to address a single pain point, such as SEO or content marketing. But it is more common today to find tools that try and do multiple things. For example, one tool might be capable of social media management, PR media measurement and reporting, while another might include a PR media database and some social media management capabilities. Many of these tools don’t run cheap, which means you do not want to be paying multiple vendors for essentially the same service.

Don’t repeat the same mistakes

The path of least resistance is continuing to use the same tools year after year. It is certainly possible that a small handful prove invaluable and are worthy of your loyalty, but the fact is that marketing needs evolve over time and your marketing strategy must adapt accordingly. The key point is that your digital marketing strategy should drive the tools you use, not vice versa. Purchasing a tool or tools and then building a marketing strategy around the tool’s capabilities is a backwards approach that will leady to tactical, rather than strategic decisions. Evaluate what worked last year and evaluate tools that will help you achieve objectives in 2015.

Don’t buy tools in a vacuum

Marketers, particularly those in the technology industry, often talk about how their company or client solutions break down silos and allow for information to be more easily shared. We see that playing out across agencies as far as a need to integrate digital marketing tools with other areas of the business. Burson-Marsteller recently unveiled a new approach aiming to combine its data analytics and Web data tools with creative and production capabilities, indicative of efforts industry-wide to cast the benefits of analysis, data and measurement organization-wide.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “…a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

This definition is of course part and parcel to a CMO’s core objectives, which is why marketing teams are devoting a greater share of budget and resources to content marketing. In a 2014 survey of Fortune 500 CMOs conducted by The CMO Club and Spredfast, 60 percent of respondents intend to increase their content marketing budgets. Their enthusiasm is not based on a “cross our fingers and hope it works” approach; almost two-thirds (66%) of CMOs are predicting a positive return on investment (ROI) from their content marketing campaigns.

As CMOs gain confidence directing more resources and budget towards content marketing, there is very likely a team within the organization growing less sure of its footing within the content ecosystem – public relations. There is irony here, as public relations professionals no doubt read the content marketing definition and grumble to themselves (or perhaps out loud), “sorry to burst your bubble here, but we’ve been doing this content marketing thing for quite some time.”

This is true, to an extent. The efforts may not always be branded in this fashion or as inclusive of as many channels, but PR professionals have long been tasked to create and distribute high-strategy content. And therein lies the danger; that CMOs may forge ahead with content marketing and pull in the PR team as an afterthought, or not at all. This approach threatens to create counter-productive silos by leaving capable, experienced PR teams without a role that can add the most value to the organization.

Because content marketing increasingly lives in an organizational gray area, CMOs with ownership of content marketing budget, staff, and direction should consider the following to fully maximize the value of PR staff, and ultimately the content marketing program itself:

Recognize budgets are growing, but not infinite

Content marketing budgets are expanding, but unless CMOs are seeing immediate, across-the-board ROI it will be difficult to get blank checks from CXOs. Earned media is a no-cost (beyond labor time) investment that can allow content marketing efforts to continue interrupted – even during periods when budget is not allocated to “paid media” channels.

While drawing a straight line between media relations and lead generation or website visits can be difficult to see, it is there. Earned media can drive down customer acquisition costs for a content marketing campaign, as long as the right measurement tools are in place to capture the results of these earned media efforts.

Earned media remains top purchase influencer

Not only can earned media be the most cost-effective content marketing channel for CMOs, it can also be the most effective. A 2014 Nielsen in-lab study commissioned by inPowered exposed consumers to three content sources: third party news and other credible sources (earned media), branded content (owned media), and user-generated content (reviews, etc.). Not surprisingly, earned media emerged as the most effective information source at all stages of the purchase lifecycle and across all product categories. And the difference was not subtle; against branded content, earned media was found to be 80 percent more effective at the bottom-of-the-funnel or purchase consideration stage, 80 percent more effective at the middle-of-the-funnel or affinity stage, and 38 percent more effective at the top-of-the-funnel or familiarity stage.

Bottom line: content marketing initiatives are ultimately judged by sales and revenue generation, and earned media continues to prove itself as a powerful purchasing influencer.

Be cognizant of PR paranoia

The current state of media likely has your PR team fairly freaked out at this point. Print publications continue to disintegrate faster than BlackBerry’s market share, and chasing the social media payoff pot of gold is a tedious exercise. If the CMO shuts PR out of content marketing strategy and execution, or brings the team in so late that it is relegated to a tactical role, significant PR brainpower is going to be left rotting on the sidelines. Identify areas where public relations – whether it is an internal team or external agency – can add the most value, and then provide them with the mandate and resources to execute in those areas.

All content writers are not created equal

Marketing teams excel at developing content designed to sell – whether it is through collateral that provides air cover for the sales team, website and landing page content that can convert leads, advertising copy, etc. Editorial content opportunities however, tilt increasingly towards sponsored content, advertorials, and even earned thought leadership content that requires a much softer sell. In fact, much of the time this type of copy cannot reference the company’s product/service or be in any way self-promotional.

PR teams understand how to walk the tightrope of creating and placing content that communicates core messages without reading like overt marketing copy, and CMOs should leverage this expertise.

Don’t let content volume kill content marketing

Ending up with too much of a good thing is problematic enough – the gourmet cupcake craze is Exhibit A of that fact. Too much of a bad thing is even worse, and therein lies the danger for content marketing operations that spew out page after page of useless content. PR teams are a proven source of valuable content, understanding that low-quality articles cannot be placed in reputable, high impact articles.

$135 billion will be spent on new digital marketing collateral (content) in 2014, and automation tools will spike this volume even further. In this scenario, quality content becomes the great unequalizer for CMOs to differentiate their products, services and brand.