Disconnect Between What Chief ...


As shared time and time again, I’m a fan of visual communications and particularly infographics.

So it should come as no surprise that I like the infographic created by the Horn Group called “What CMOs Want in an Agency” which you can see below.

what cmos want

One piece of data caught my attention.

When asked what is the most important factor in hiring an agency, CMOs pointed to “able to execute” as the top criterion.

Really? The ability to execute?

If that’s true, there’s a disconnect in how CMOs evaluate PR agencies.

Steve Tobak, who’s served as CMO for a number of tech companies (led Cyrix’s legendary tussle with Intel), and now pens a leadership blog for BNET, equates hiring an agency to hiring a key executive:

If your goals, spec, and process are amorphous or misaligned, that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t care how smart or savvy you are, if you wing it, the results are likely to be just as random. The worst part is then you get to do it all over again. That’s painful for the whole company and bound to royally piss off your CEO.


Drilling down into the details, the typical agency review – answer questions in an RFP followed by a 90-minute presentation – does not exactly scrutinize an agency’s ability to execute.

In fact, I think the vast majority of CMOs and decision-makers view ability to execute as a commodity which “every agency can do.”

Which brings me back to the review process and how else to explain the absence of probing the implementation side.

Selfishly, this one has always frustrated me because I view one of our greatest strengths as our ability to effectively execute month after month after month.

Any agency drawing breath can put forth an impressive case study or two.

At the very least, a review should correlate the case studies with the people who will make up their account team. Just because Mike, Robbie and Chip demonstrated incredible acuity on the WikiFace launch doesn’t mean Keith, Laurie and Danny will bring this same “game” to the table.

Better yet, ask for a quarter’s worth of status reports from clients currently supported by members of the proposed account team. (Yes, the agency will need to get permission from clients, but older stuff shouldn’t be a problem.)

I think such an approach would reduce the divorce rate.

Elvis has now left the soapbox.

P.S. Under the category of cheap parlor tricks, this post alludes to two popular TV shows in their day. First person to post a comment identifying the two shows will have a 20-buck Starbucks gift card coming his or her way.


  • Doug van Aman

    My three sons and partridge family … Too easy lou

  • Lou Hoffman


    You’re the man.

    Any plans to be in the Bay Area over the next few weeks?

    If yes, I’ll take you out for a cup of joe + turn over the gift card.

    Otherwise, I’ll put the card in the mail.

    I thought it would be a sad commentary on my ability to “engage” if this stumped the panel into Thursday.

  • Paul Roberts

    Interesting piece Lou. It does seem that in many ways the RFP / agency selection process is faulty at best.

    There is certainly some irony in the fact that, as you point out, many executives consider ability to execute basically a commodity, yet execution is probably also the reason many of these relationships end.

    I do like the idea of having status reports integrated into the selection process. If I’m hiring and agency I’d like to see what my perspective team of let’s say Jill, Kelly and Sabrina have accomplished in the past. (cheap parlor trick right back at you)

  • Lou Hoffman

    Thanks for weighing in Paul.

    It took me a long time to figure out any type of sales is both an intellectual and emotional exercise.

    I just wish the PR agency review process tilted a bit more on the intellectual side.

    P.S. Big fan of Kate Jackson and the old school Charlie’s Angels.

  • Doug van Aman

    I’m in the Bay Area for a Giants game on 8/23. Speaking as a former CMO, what Joe, Adam and Hoss do day to day is even more important than Ben’s strategic counsel. There are many paths to success but each requires precise execution.

  • Lou Hoffman

    Funny stuff Doug.

    Timing sounds good.

    I’ll drop you an email to work out the details.

    Definitely can’t call one of your main characters “Hoss” in CSI; only works in a western.

    Look forward to catching up.


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