Could Chief Engagement Officers replace Chief Marketing Officers?

This article is by Toby Lewis (picture above) – CEO of Live Group

COVID-19 has likely changed the nature of engagement forever. Across marketing and communications new methods, fresh strategies and a greater mix of offline and online initiatives characterise this new approach.

Reflecting this sweeping change is how events are now organised and hosted, with their digital aspects making them less of a moment in time and more capable of delivering longer, more meaningful engagement.

Events are now the fulcrum and anchor for a broader range of marketing activities. And given their enhanced role, revolving around a more blended approach, even more sophisticated use of tech and an increased focus on inclusion and sustainability some have suggested that chief marketing officers could well be superseded by chief engagement officers on company boards.

So, what exactly are the forces driving this and how should businesses respond to drive further success?

Rethinking engagement

Communications professionals in whatever discipline, marketing, public relations, lead generation and event organisation have all had to dramatically change their thinking. COVID-19 has accelerated the digitalisation that is running through every aspect of business.

While operationally companies have turned to cloud-based platforms, supply-chains to automated warehouses and robots, marketing departments have had their own revolution.

The pandemic, which has restrained the use of offline and traditional face to face meetings, has seen marketeers, relentlessly searching for techniques and initiatives of engagement where outcomes can be measured, the source of leads accurately identified from the range of activities undertaken, embrace with ever-increasing gusto the panoply of online and social media channels.

Marketeers are now publishing an ever-increasing array of owned content through videos, webinars, podcasts, online blogs and articles, all refined and reviewed to appeal to precisely the potential client personas that they have researched as having the greatest propensity to buy their products or services.

Greater focus on sustainability and inclusion

A 2019 report found that 1.2 million tonnes of CO2e is released annually from diesel emissions in generators used by the UK events industry alone. Clearly this is not sustainable. But businesses will only be able to make informed decisions around how green they can make their events by having the right insight in the first place.

This is why Live Group has developed a Sustainability Calculator, to empower businesses to work out the environmental impact of a proposed event. We are also exploring ways to enable businesses to offset any remaining carbon footprint of an event through adaptations such as local greening initiatives.

But just as exciting and transformative are the ways in which businesses can now engage with previously excluded or marginalised groups by taking a blended approach.

For example, many participants are put off asking questions in front of a room full of people. Indeed, many people avoid events all together due to the stress that such situations can produce, especially for those with anxiety disorders. Likewise, people living with physical disabilities might not want to have to travel all the way to a venue.

Similarly, there are plenty of people who cannot arrange the childcare that would enable them to attend networking events or other engagement opportunities.

Why should they be excluded? Once again, a blended approach builds in the flexibility to engage as many people as possible – something that not only makes business sense from an ROI perspective, but can also support diversity and inclusion efforts.

Rise of the chief engagement officer…

The impact of the pandemic across all marketing disciplines, including events organisation, is to highlight that the standard of content and the quality of engagement are now the key factors in driving the success of business’ marketing, lead generation and commercial growth.

Given the rise in importance of these factors, companies may well begin to re-think the responsibilities, priorities and scope of action of their chief marketing officers and see them play an even greater role, as chief engagement officers, in driving a company’s overall communications and marketing.

It is those business that do fundamentally re-think how they engage more effectively and persuasively, which will likely succeed in the post-pandemic world of tomorrow.