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How Marketers Can Position Themselves for a Board Role

November 08, 2014


Myths and Opportunities: How Marketers Can Position Themselves for a Board Role from Spencer Stuart
written by: Julie Hembrock Daum and Greg Welch


“Of the more than 9,800 board seats for those companies, only 38 are occupied by top marketing leaders.” Spencer Stuart

With all the focus on how social media and digital technologies are affecting business today, it stands to reason that marketers with contemporary experience in these areas would be in significant demand on corporate boards looking for ways to “get smart” on these important strategic priorities.

But the fact of the matter is that few marketers currently serve as directors on Fortune 1000 company boards today. The list in the attached pdf highlights some of the marketers who are among the very few marketing executives serving on public or private company boards, including two marketers serving on their own company boards.

So this begs the question, why aren’t we seeing more senior marketers serving on boards?

The good news is that we have seen rising demand among boards for directors with what we call “modern marketing” skills. Specifically, more boards are looking for experience in digital and social media as well as mobile platforms and omni-channel retail. Advancements in digital technologies, social media and smart phone applications are certainly changing the way customers interact with brands, requiring new business models and strategies.

For marketing leaders aspiring to serve on an outside board, we would offer up the following advice on how to position yourself for the opportunities that will no doubt arise.

Be careful what you wish for: Understanding the pros and cons
An outside board assignment can provide many personal and professional benefits to executives. Many find that outside board service enhances their ability to interact with their own boards by improving their knowledge of governance and their understanding of board dynamics and director expectations. On the down side, board service can demand a significant time commitment, particularly for members of the audit committee.

Understanding the search process
The process boards use to identify and recruit new directors is very different than a traditional executive search. Aspiring directors should understand the process and what they can and can’t influence. Recognize that you cannot “apply” for a board position; boards often reach out to candidates through retained search firms such as Spencer Stuart. In fact, by the time a search firm or board contacts a candidate about a director position, it already has articulated a very specific profile for the role, vetted numerous potential candidates (on paper) and narrowed the list to the top two or three to contact for assessment interviews. Most often, candidates actually have no idea they are being considered or that there is even an opening during this initial phase.

What you can do: Positioning yourself for a board role
Drawing upon our industry-leading work recruiting marketing and digital talent for corporate boards, we have developed several recommendations for how aspiring directors can best position themselves for outside board opportunities.

  • Be prepared to talk about your “USP” — unique selling proposition.
  • Make sure your boss is on board.
  • Build a wide network of advocates.
  • Get involved now.
  • Get smart about boards and governance.
  • Do your homework.

To see all the great tips and details on the above, download the full white paper now

Download Now

About the authors:  Julie Hembrock Daum co-leads the North American Board & CEO Practice and Greg Welch is a member of the firm’s Consumer and North American Board & CEO practices.

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