Meet Stephanie Marchesi, CMO & Senior Partner, FleishmanHillard

If a CMO can make one indelible mark on a company in a decade’s service, that’s an accomplishment. Stephanie Marchesi carved her initials in what promise to be two enduring initiatives in less than four years at FleishmanHillard. Realizing that the agency lacked a new business training program, she established WinIt!, an annual four-day symposium of top executives from offices around the world capped by a team competition to devise a program for a real client. The effort helped lift the agency’s new business close rate by 70%. Next, Marchesi led an in-house effort to rebrand the company in its transition from traditional public relations to integrated marketing, and “The power of true” emerged as the agency’s new tagline. “It took us almost a year to land on that and we all felt really good about it,” says the classically trained pianist and mother of two teenage sons. “People who had been here 25 years said, ‘That’s it!’”

Marketing strategy: Listen to all of the brand’s stakeholders to understand how it’s truly perceived. Only then will you truly understand your brand’s reputation and the gaps in real versus desired perceptions. Surround yourself with the best talent possible, even if they don’t report to you. Finally, details matter. All the best planning and intentions don’t matter if you don’t execute brilliantly when the time comes. 

Winning ways: Leading the brand refresh of FleishmanHillard. The firm had evolved significantly to become a fully integrated communications company, redefining the potential of public relations. By refreshing our brand—positioning, logo, tagline, website, intranet, social channels, and more—we were able to create new relevance and attract new types of clients and employees.

Defining moment: Taking the risk, when I was 21 and a new college grad, to sell my car for $2,000 and move to New York without a job. I interviewed with lots of agencies and took the highest paying job I was offered, which ended up being a secretary for a healthcare advertising and public relations firm. After two years and a promotion, I was recruited to work in the healthcare practice of a global public relations firm and I focused on healthcare for the next 22 years.

Trend watching: Social media creates an environment in which reputation is formed and shaped in real time. No longer can a marketer decide in isolation what she wants to communicate about a brand and go forth and spread the word. Marketers need to focus on the gaps between what you say about yourself and your reputation, and what others say about you. 

Words to live by: “You get the behavior you tolerate.”

Good read: I just finished A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. It’s the true story of a 12-year-old boy from Sierra Leone whose family was killed in the civil war and he was captured and forced to be a child soldier by the army. It’s a stark reminder of how divergent the world can be. It reminds us how big the world can seem, but how interconnected we really are. 

Good advice: Build your personal brand. Become really good at something you’re passionate about and become known for it.

Meet the rest of the 2014 Marketing Hall of Femme honorees and read their inspirational stories.

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