Does Your Chief Electricity Officer Think an Ohm is a Yoga Routine?

When electricity was not yet ubiquitous – companies has a Chief Electricity Officer. Their job was to ensure a steady supply of electricity and to integrate that supply into the rest of the business.

(Not an urban myth, but I must confess that I can only find blog posts about the electricity officer. No harm – I just needed a good title, anyway).  You’ll find those blog posts here, here, and here.)

So – stick with me. Imagine back in the day that you had a Chief Electricity Officer, and they thought an Ohm was a yoga routine.

Assuming that *you* knew better – wouldn’t you start shopping for a new chief?

Fast forward, and ask yourself if your Chief Marketing Officer knows that:

  • a CDN isn’t a financial instrument
  • SASS isn’t what you get from your kids
  • Metrics aren’t a newfangled way to measure the 100-yard dash
  • GitHub isn’t a meet up group for people with horses
  • A pixel doesn’t sprinkle fairy dust
  • Mobile first doesn’t mean you always keep your cell phone in your pocket

That was fun. I could go on. But I won’t.

You wouldn’t hire a CMO that didn’t know how to make a print buy. Or that didn’t understand Nielsen ratings. Or that didn’t understand the fundamentals of brand management.

So why are we letting them off the hook for all things digital?

If you are working a project and your CMO is under-educated about digital, it’s your job to close that gap.

You don’t need to send them back to school, but you do need to help them up their game. It will make your project go better, and it will strengthen your relationship with the marketing team. Here are a few tips:

1. Every interaction is a learning opportunity, but don’t force it.
No one enjoys having their ignorance exposed in public. If you spot a knowledge gap, address it in a way that doesn’t undermine your CMO

2. Use analogies.
Marketers are story tellers. You should be able to explain tech concepts in a way that your CMO can understand. For example – if it’s important that they understand what a CDN is, try this: Tell them that a CDN (content delivery network) lets your website assets get delivered more quickly – because they are closer to the person that wants them. It would be like making sure that there is a gas station next to every car owner – instead of making every car owner drive to Detroit (or Japan) to fill up.

3. Don’t tackle everything at once.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) expect your CMO to love getting in the weeds with tech. You don’t want them giving you tips on your CSS schema. So pick the right target when helping them learn: maybe it’s mobile this quarter, or social media, or responsive design theory.

4. Don’t make yourself the only expert.
There are terrific CMO’s out there, and very well written information all over the interweb. Help your CMO find and access those resources.

5. Focus more on the “why” and less on the “how”.
You shouldn’t expect your CMO to review your schema for minifying your code. (You *are* minifying your code, right?) But they should understand the importance of a speedy website and should work with you and your team to have a standard. Minify might be a way to get there, sure. But what you really want is a savvy CMO, not one that is going to review your JavaScript.

I don’t think the Chief Marketing Officer role will go the way of the Electricity officer. But I do think that over time, marketers will more fully embrace the why of digital. In the meantime – it’s your job to speed that shift along!


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