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June 22, 2011

Fiske: It's a Fallacy That PR Professionals Can't Be Good CEOs — Marketing Week Op-Ed

Writingi in an op-ed in the June 22, 2011, issue of Marketing Week, PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, says that "it's a fallacy that marketers [and public relations professionals] can't be good CEOs." Her commentary came in response to two recent features in Marketing Week that focused on the value of marketers and communicators as business executives.

Marketing Week editor Mark Choueke also cited Fiske's commentary in his lead editorial in the June 22 issue. Commenting on the industry's reaction to Merlin Entertainments CEO Nick Varney stating that young marketers lack the breadth of experience in finance to become chief executives, Choueke wrote:

Speaking from the other side of the Atlantic, Rosanna Fiske, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, also felt that Varney’s words merited strong reaction. “It’s an antiquated belief that the modern CEO simply oversees the bottom line,” she said in a statement that you can read in full alongside the online version of our cover story. “The CEO is now chief communicator of the brand’s esoteric and real value, and key to ensuring a company’s reputation and credibility remains intact.”

It's a Fallacy that Marketers Can't Be Good CEOs
By Rosanna M. Fiske, APR
Marketing Week
Published: June 22, 2011

Public relations and marketing professionals have made tremendous gains in recent years to earn a coveted spot within the C-suite. It’s been a long, tough battle, but on many fronts, the tide has shifted toward realizing that these professions play a key strategic role in advancing a business’ objectives.

This reality is tempered slightly by two recent features in Marketing Week. One noted that a majority (73%) of CEOs say “marketers lack credibility” to adequately lead businesses; meanwhile, Merlin Entertainments CEO Nick Varney laid bare his belief that marketers are too siloed to become CEOs.

While some respected CEOs, such as Mr. Varney, express exasperation that young marketers are supposedly obtaining a rudimentary understanding of vital finance and sales objectives, others realize that those with a creative or communications background are quite adept at helping a business grow, even at the highest leadership level.

History abounds with tales of successful companies being led by public relations or marketing minds. Prime Minister David Cameron, the former head of corporate affairs at Carlton Communications, now leads the world’s sixth-largest economy; similarly, Sir Martin Sorrell (WPP), Roger Goodell (National Football League) and several others fill the ranks admirably. To be sure, all three gained extensive business and finance acumen, but there is no reason today’s brightest communicators couldn’t do the same.

The best marketers realize that ahead of connecting customers with a great product, or engaging key influencers and stakeholders, the goal of our work is to help businesses grow. If we achieve that, there is no reason we cannot ascend to the CEO desk.

But we must be more than mere analysts, digital gurus or trendspotters.

Read the full op-ed at Marketing Week.
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