What’s Missing in the Job Description of Facebook’s Next CMO?

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The recent job description posted for the next CMO of Facebook calls for the “Chief Marketing Officer to build, manage and inspire a global marketing organization focused on its consumer business and overall company reputation.” It goes on to describe talents of this person as requiring “substantial experience across the full suite of consumer marketing disciplines for product marketing, digital marketing, regional and country programs, social media, retail and channel marketing, marketing analytics, branding, events and partnerships. This executive is a natural storyteller with a passion for new markets and technologies, connecting with consumers in non-obvious and creative ways.”

Faced with growing skepticism of the marketplace and loss of trust in the Facebook brand, an expanded view of this position would pay valuable dividends to the company. While the description states the winning candidate will be charged with managing the overall reputation of the company, the qualifications focus on traditional skills associated with storytelling—no mention of the importance of guiding the company’s “storyliving.”

The reputation of Facebook is not in the toilet today because the company failed to tell a great story. In fact, they’re among the best at telling stories and giving people a platform for doing the same. Facebook’s current reputation crisis resulted from its inability to connect the image of the company they had crafted through effective storytelling with the behaviors of the people inside the organization. This misalignment has the tarnished the social networking giant’s most valuable asset—its reputation—because it appears they failed to engage their most important resource—people—with the values the company espouses. As a result, not only did public trust in the Facebook brand take a nosedive, so did its stock price. According to reporting from MarketWatch.com, “Facebook announced its Q2 earnings, which missed expectations on revenue and showed slow user growth. Consequentially, Facebook lost about120 billion in market capitalization and its stock dropped roughly 20%, in its biggest stock market decline since 2012.” Analysts were quick to cite Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica controversy—and PR crisis—as major reasons for the drop.

What can we learn from Facebook?

It’s interesting that Facebook, who led the “connectivity” revolution that has redefined so much of what we do in building brands, is still defining the job of the CMO as building reputation through storytelling. This legacy, a leftover era of Men of Madison Avenue who focused more on sizzle than substance, is dead. Creating loyalty to corporate brands is increasingly complex, requiring a focus on authenticity and transparency that is very different from what was needed to influence past generations. Today, it isn’t enough to sell just the sizzle. People want to know the company that stands behind the glitz of the stories they tell. 

The commonsense lesson that Facebook has brought home for us once again, is that people want to do business with companies they trust. In today’s hyperconnected world that Facebook helped create, reputations are built and destroyed by with a keystroke. It’s vital that we embrace the fact that the walls once dividing the internal and external audiences have crumbled. The power of influence lies largely in the hands of the masses connected by technology. The interconnectedness of people, supported by the mushrooming number of communication channels, has democratized influence. But business has been slow to embrace that fact that corporate brands are not built by marketing departments, branding experts or even CEO’s...no matter how good a storyteller they are. 

Corporate reputations are dependent on a highly connected matrix that requires reimagining organizations as brand ecosystems and branding as the process of managing the cohesion of this system. Everything is connected, and everything communicates. As in nature, when the elements of the brand ecosystem work together, the system thrives. On the other hand, when they are disconnected, they struggle and sometimes die. From this view of organizations, the ability to thrive is predicated on how well the various components of its ecosystem work together to build trust. The components include: identity (who are we?), image (how do others see us?) and culture (how do we do things around here?). From this perspective, brand strategy involves maintaining cohesion between these components of the system. 

The Opportunity

During the Q&A portion of a presentation I recently delivered to a group of public relations professionals about brand ecosystems and trust building, someone asked if I thought Facebook could recover from their recent crisis of trust. My response was, ‘Yes, but.” 

In recent speeches, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has talked about the company’s new vision, “to give people the power to build community to bring the world closer together.” As Zuckerberg weaves the new Facebook story, he is saying all the right things. But the challenge, and answer to the question posed to me at the PR meeting, will be answered by how he ensures the behaviors of the people of Facebook support this new vision. Real community is based on trust and that begins by building an organization culture that reflects the lofty intentions of the leader’s vision—whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg or the leader of a small business in your town. 

The dawning of this new era at Facebook begins with the authenticity of intentions of its leader. Is Mr. Zuckerberg’s purpose to build a community that brings the world closer together, or to make money at all costs? What will the behavior and decisions of the leadership team say about what the company values most? I applaud the story Mr. Zuckerberg is sharing about his intentions to rebuild public trust in the Facebook brand by becoming a community builder that brings the world closer. But even this big vision won’t be accomplished without engaging people inside the organization in living the values this story represents. 

Culture change, which seems to be needed at Facebook in order to align Zuckerberg’s vision with the company’s behavior, begins with shaping a new internal narrative that supports behaviors (at all levels of the organization) that align with those values. Storytelling that builds trust begins inside the organization with the shaping of an organization’s identity narrative, the internal dialogue that binds the organization to its core purpose. A collective identity embraced in words and deeds by the people of Facebook is the first step in birthing a new era of engagement, pride, authenticity and trust at Facebook. 

The next CMO of Facebook can play a vital role in helping bring this vision to life by tearing down false silos and outdated ways of thinking while redefining measurements of success from convincing to connecting. Perhaps consideration should be given to moving past the title of CMO to new position of CCO (Chief Connection Officer), reflecting a bold new focus on the importance of a boundary-spanners who offer a hybrid set of talents capable of being a catalyst for connecting external communications (storytelling) and internal performance (storyliving).   

In a recent 2017 Harvard commencement address Zuckerberg opined, “In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities, comes down to this — your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.” The next CMO and others on the team at Facebook have a tremendous opportunity to show us how to build a purpose-focused community culture that not only tells a great story, but also lives it through every corner of the organization. See Job Description

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