CIO's Guide to Hiring the Right Shadow Marketing Talent

CIOs must not confuse shadow marketing technologists with marketing communicators.

shadow it
Credit: Business Insights

In a previous blog post, I proposed the case for shadow marketing to build the "digital brand called IT." Many reading this blog may already have embedded marketing talent within their IT teams who are far from stealthy in the eyes of the businesses.

Other CIOs may have a reciprocal service relationship with marketing where the CMO serves as a trusted advisor for branding enterprise IT in much the same way the CIO partners with the CMO on deploying marketing technology projects.

Regardless of whether they're embedding shadow marketing or partnering with the CMO, many CIOs still underutilize marketing talent when it comes to building their personal and organizational brands.

Part of this is related to better defining the skills of the shadow marketing talent pool being brought into the IT organization. For example, for obvious reasons, many CIOs are desperate to hire marketing technology experts to avoid disintermediation by the CMO’s organization on marketing cloud and other SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) implementations.

Highly talented SMACs and marketing technologists are very hot commodities regardless of the organizations they work for. Unfortunately CIOs could make a huge mistake by thinking they're getting an organizational or personal branding expert as part of a marketing technologist hire, unless of course that person does indeed have double-deep skills.

Because of the urgency to become digital leaders and strategists, the immediate need for marketing talent, CIOs typically err on the side of tactical digital marketing skills to assure the businesses that IT is relevant. Given the typical budgetary constraints and ROI demands this is a perfectly logical hiring move.

But as in the marketing organization, having a team of talented marketing technologists does not directly equate to the art and science of branding the corporation as a whole. This is no different when it comes the departmental talent required to brand the IT organization within the enterprise.

So what should IT leadership look for when exploring shadow or embedded marketing talent? Here are three things that I would put on the priority list.

First, the dream would be finding candidates who know marketing or digital technology as applied to branding strategy. Being able to run a marketing cloud platform in no way assures client-facing brand engagement skills. Having the skills to use the marketing cloud to drive brand engagement is a higher-level integrated skill that gives the CIO two for the price of one.

Second, experience tells me that marketing technologists can be as geeky or socially awkward as the stereotypical IT pro. CIOs need to be very careful not to confuse marketing technology skills with marketing communications talent. The truth is that the twenty-first century CIO needs both of these skill sets within their organization to build their brand.

Last and most important, as CIOs develop their digital strategy blueprints, they must include a communications architecture to reinforce these newfound skills to the businesses and CEO suites. Most CIOs know how to send self-serving broadcast emails giving themselves high-fives immediately following the successful deployment of a new technology.

The right marketing talent will be able to develop a continuity in messaging for the brand called IT using a multi-channel approach within the enterprise. Something as basic as having a professionally produced "State of IT - Annual Report" can assure the businesses that there is a diversity of skills within corporate IT and provide the assurances that the organization is in fact contemporary from a digital communications perspective.

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