Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Smith College Turned Christine Lagarde's Cancellation Into a Win for Women's Voices

Ruth Simmons gave a brilliant, beautiful and moving commencement address at Smith College, MA on Sunday. Emotional to be back at Smith where she was previously president, she spoke to the students about free speech, about the importance of "tak[ing] good care of your voice" and the power of the opinions of people who disagree with you.

Her perspective is one of a child growing up in the South: "My coming of age was marred by the wide acceptance of the violent suppression of speech," she said. "No forums of open expression existed for me in the Jim Crow south of my early youth. Once you have tasted the bitterness and brutality of being silenced in this way, it is easy to recognize the danger of undermining free speech."

But what made her speech so perfect for that day was a disappointing event that had happened earlier. A small group of Smith students (less than 500) signed a petition objecting to Christine Lagarde as their commencement speaker because of objections to the policies of the IMF. Christine is the first female leader of the IMF, and a powerful role model of how a woman can change the world, so perfect for Smith College but, given the controversy, she withdrew, as Condoleeza Rice had withdrawn from giving the commencement address at Rutgers a few weeks earlier.

So Ruth spoke about the importance of allowing, and hearing, opposing points of view. How when you speak out, and someone disagrees with you, and then you stand up your voice is stronger. How disagreement is a key part of learning, and freedom, and something we must all protect. And so, how it was limiting free speech to reject Christine Lagarde. The Smith faculty agreed in a HuffPost article and Smith's president, Kathy McCartney, told the students "Those who objected will be satisfied that their activism has had a desired effect. But at what cost to Smith College?"

It is still so new that we, as women, have a strong voice. It needs to be heard and not suppressed, no matter how much we may disagree with some of the voices. The movement to suppress women's voices is alive and strong. In radical Islam in Nigeria, in attacks on Hillary Clinton (she'll be a grandmother -- she can't be president), in the relentless drive to reverse our rights to our own bodies.

Nora Ephron spoke so eloquently about this in her commencement address at Wellesley in 1996 (as Jessica Goldstein reminds us here). Every attack on our path to leadership, and our voices, is an attack on women's progress to equality. To reach the goal of equal opportunity regardless of our gender (or color, or sexual orientation) we must all vigorously pursue equal pay (Jill Abramson stood up and was fired), equal seats at corporate decision making bodies (less than 17 percent of board seats are held by women in the U.S.), equal representation in our governments (still only 20 percent of the U.S. senate and 18 percent of the house are women).

We have a long way to go. But Ruth Simmons strengthened Christine Lagarde's voice on Sunday by reminding the audience of parents (me included), students and faculty, with clarity and passion, that we must speak, and protect our right to speak, and just as importantly protect the right of those who disagree with us to speak, so we can move forward to a world of learning and equality of opportunity.
 
Posted on the Huffington Post earlier today

Do all CMOs have to be data geeks now?

Written by me in the The Economist Group today

Few would argue against data’s importance in marketing today. Data is essential to every marketing decision now, and the techniques used to transform that data into actionable market insight can make or break a company.


DataCMO Given this, some data-intensive companies now require their CMOs to have a background in data science—but will we get to a point where all CMOs and senior marketing leaders have to have a background in data science? Or will tools continue to emerge that will help marketing leaders better interact with big data and enable them to make strategic decisions?

As the Internet and sheer amount of available data expand, companies are rushing to take advantage of it—but they are finding themselves overwhelmed, and many marketing organizations are reacting by hiring data scientists. In fact, data scientists are in such high demand that a recent McKinsey study found that there would be a deficit of up to 190,000 data scientists in the U.S. alone by 2018.

Because so many marketing decisions are data-driven these days, having someone adept at finding relationships, identifying anomalies and making predictions based on data can be key to an effective go-to-market strategy.  CMOs absolutely need to understand how to interpret data. To quote a column by Computerworld Executive Editor Julia King, “Data science is all about predicting the future.”
The particular responsibility of choosing and driving strategy based on where the market is headed lies with the CMO. But if the CMO arms herself and her team with the right tools, she doesn’t need to be a data scientist—and she doesn’t have to fill her bench with data scientists, either.

Senior leaders will find more and more that cloud-based apps—like emerging personal business analytics and marketing automation solutions—will become their go-to tools to solve their big data overload problems. These solutions will allow the business user to make better real-time decisions, helping them to embrace not just analysis, but also synthesis of the data.

Solutions whose analytics are easily embeddable into existing platforms and apps, and which provide clear visualization and collaboration tools, will ultimately help leaders strategically grow their businesses without requiring a team of onsite data scientists.  By choosing the right solutions, CMOs can save themselves the headache of searching for a team of data scientists, but reap the same benefits quickly and economically.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Your CEO Is Part of Your Brand Marketing Whether You Like It or Not

Posted in the Huffington Post earlier today

We're living in a transparent world today. Everything your write or share online is public and you cannot hide. Anything you say outside (or in) the privacy of your home can be recorded. Anything you do can be video taped and posted on YouTube.

But somehow executives can forget this--and more now than ever before the CEO is indistinguishable from the brand of the company. If the recent uproar over the Clippers' Donald Sterling, Mozilla's Brendan Eich and RadiumOne's Gurbaksh Chahal has taught us anything (besides that it doesn't pay to be hateful or beat up your girlfriend), it's that, in this age of social media, the world sees the CEO as a key element of the brand, with the associated advantage and liability.

In a recent article about Target's dismissal of it's CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, writer George Bradt wrote that "any of you doubting the importance of your brand in this age of complete transparency should take a look at what's going on at Target... Steinhafel has not done the job he needed to do as brand steward." Unlike the CEOs I previously mentioned, Steinhafel's personal beliefs or actions didn't cause a scandal--but his point that the CEO is the "brand steward" resonates across every industry. Starbucks' Howard Schultz and Zappos' Tony Hsieh pioneered this to the positive as social media first emerged.

Companies need to differentiate themselves from their competitors and establish their brand as representing something special. In tech, where innovation and brainpower are the driving currency, companies and their CEOs work hard to establish themselves as thought leaders on the industry they are serving. This means that the CEO has become hyper-visible; he tweets, goes on TV, writes blogs, posts on Facebook and speaks at events. While that is certainly by design, hyper-visibility curries a public fascination with all aspects of their lives -- just look at celebrities. And with this "age of complete transparency" being what it is, anything, whether a recorded off-color remark or a campaign donation, can be shared and seen by millions in a matter of hours.

So what does that mean for your company's CEO? Even though the argument rages on about whether it's right that her private life should have any effect on her qualifications in business, it is abundantly clear that it does make a difference to the brand. The new CEO may have a successful business history and a visionary mind, but if customers mistrust her, they will be less likely to use the products, or do business with the company -- and sales will fall.

But in contrast to the CEOs whose actions and exposure hurt the company, some CEOs are harnessing the power of their pulpit to be a force for good, and strengthen the brand of their company at the same time. In the midst of the social unrest in San Francisco, brought about by tech boom and subsequent rapid increase in rent (and evictions), Marc Benioff has been leading San Francisco tech companies to donate $10 million to SF Gives and help fight poverty in the city by the Bay--and in doing so he has reminded the world of the strong role philanthropy plays in Salesforce's culture and brand.

So good or bad, whether we think it's fair or not, our new world of 24/7 transparency and social media has thrust CEOs into the public eye and made them an integral part of their company's brand. Their actions, their political beliefs, and if they are even slightly careless, their behaviors in their private lives, have consequences for their business. Something every brand manager, and CEO, must remember.

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