Is Your Boss Advertising for Your Job?

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, May 21, 2008

The large, glossy postcard from a hospital looking to hire a chief marketing officer caught my eye. I'd thought it was interesting that a business looking to hire one executive would use direct mail for their search. So I put the piece in the pile of interesting things that might turn into a story one day.

And then one day, a few months later, I realized I'd received about five more direct mail pieces, along with several e-mails and a couple of voice mails—all from hospitals looking to hire a senior marketer.

There's a saying among reporters: If it happens once, it's not a story; if it happens twice, it's a coincidence; if it happens three times, it's a trend.

When it happens a dozen times, it's definitely a story.

But what does it mean? Are hospitals taking marketing more seriously and getting more aggressive about hiring the best and brightest executives to lead the department? Is it a question of supply and demand—are talented senior marketers so sought after that they can hop from job to job at will? Is the job so stressful that chief marketing officers are leaving in droves to go live on a beach somewhere?

Or is it simply that more CMOs are getting the axe?

If you believe a handful of surveys, various media reports, and a healthy dose of anecdotal evidence, it's the latter.

There's been much hype over the study conducted by executive recruiter Spencer Stuart, which found the average chief marketing officer at big companies only keep their jobs for a little more than two years. The annual study, which tracks CMOs at 100 leading consumer companies, pegged the average tenure for a CMO at 26.8 months.

In the 2007 HealthLeaders Media Marketing Professionals survey, many respondents said job security was one of their biggest worries. And maybe they have a right to fret—based on my mailbox, anyway.

So what to do about it?

Not much, unless you can show how your marketing department is aligned to the overall strategy.

Senior marketers must figure out how their departments can help the organization accomplish its business goals, says Cindy Commander, an analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, MA. They must find ways to add value and drive success.

Not that it's an easy task. Organizations and even individual leaders within organizations have vastly different views of the chief marketing officer's job description. "Many are treated purely as doing advertising and communications," Commander says. "That's a hard silo to break out of."

Looking to keep your hospital from sending out a glossy direct mail piece advertising your job? Check out the article I wrote for this month's issue of HealthLeaders magazine, CMOs at Risk. You'll find four ways to make yourself more valuable to the CEO and, hopefully, avoid spending time in the unemployment line.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at
Note: You can sign up to receive HealthLeaders Media Marketing, a free weekly e-newsletter that will guide you through the complex and constantly-changing field of healthcare marketing.
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