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Monica Smiley

Monica Smiley is editor and publisher of Enterprising Women. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute of Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW). To learn more about how you can become a mentor in the Peace Through Business program or donate to the organization, visit Contact her at

4 Ways CEOs Can Overcome Mistrust And Make Marketing Their New Best Friend by Denise Kohnke

Eighty percent of CEOs responding to a global survey admitted that they don’t trust their marketing departments, saying they believe marketing team members don’t have business credibility and are too disconnected from the financial realities of their companies.

But Denise Kohnke, who has worked 25 years in marketing and directed brand development for more than 100 organizations, thinks the opposite is true. She says it is CEOs who are too disconnected from their marketing departments and don’t understand how they can help grow companies.

“The truth that CEOs must embrace is that marketing is their best friend,” says Kohnke, founder and CEO of the marketing firm House United LLC ( and author of All of the Other Marketing Books Are Crap ( “If you’re a CEO, stop doing it yourself and buy your marketing department some beers, then get out of the way.

“The relationship a CEO has to marketing should be stronger than any other departmental relationship because it’s marketing that does the heavy lifting of pulling an organization forward.

Kohnke offers four tips to help CEOs communicate better with their marketing team and give it the kind of support it needs:

  • Make the marketing team part of the mission and vision. Many senior executives and CEOs tend to focus more on what other departments, such as sales and production, can do to move the business forward. “CEOs, at their best, are visionaries, and they should make it clear to all departments where an organization is going long-term,” Kohnke says. “Mission and vision need to be communicated in colorful detail to the senior marketing staff. Then give the marketing team all the tools and resources it needs to align with that vision and mission.”
  • Help the marketing team grasp the financials. Many CEOs complain that marketing’s efforts can’t be accurately measured. To ingrain the importance of tangible company results in their creative marketing team “CEOs should help them understand the landscape of equities and liabilities of the organization,” Kohnke says. “And from there you need to make them more aware of competitive threats.”
  • Check-in, be realistic, be available. A CEO having a consistent and supportive presence in their midst makes a marketing team feel it’s on the same boat with the company, not floating alone and aimlessly at sea. “So many CEOs won’t give the marketing department the time of day, except to give them outlandish and unsubstantiated numeric goals out of the sky and expect the marketing department to achieve them – with budget cuts,” Kohnke says.
  • Respect their talents. Kohnke says good marketing can bring a company immense value, but first a CEO must learn to value the marketing team for more than sales leads generated and stop second-guessing their decisions. “So many CEOs look at marketers as the spenders and the people with the crazy ideas,” Kohnke says. “But good marketing people make a major difference. They make business targets think favorably of the organization before the conversation begins.”

“When done well,” Kohnke says, “marketing will make a CEO look great – like a 40-year-old Richard Gere walking into a boardroom with a $20,000 custom suit and a briefcase full of million-dollar ideas. It’s all presentation and framing conversations to boards, customers, non-customers and employees.

About Denise Kohnke

Denise Kohnke, author of All of the Other Marketing Books Are Crap (, is founder and CEO of the marketing firm House United LLC. ( Her book is packed with astute advice delivered with edgy, sharp-witted humor. Kohnke has directed brand development for more than 100 organizations in her 25-plus years in advertising and marketing. She was the strategist behind the 2012 Effie award-winning campaign "No One Deserves To Die" for Lung Cancer Alliance.

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