I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel of CMOs at the recent The CMO Club Leadership Summit to touch on some of the key themes in my new book, The Changing MO of the CMO – How the Convergence of Brand and Reputation is Affecting Marketers. Joining me were two of my book interviewees – Danette Leighton of The Pac-12 and Harry Pforzheimer who had just left Intuit. Also on our panel was Doug Biehn from Blue Shield of California, so we had a healthy mix of sports, healthcare and technology.

Social media seemed to take center stage with this panel as it had with many. Talking about how they continue to evolve with social media in the rapidly changing environment, Danette spoke to the unique assets that the Pac-12 has as a sports entity, so it's about creating an emotional connections and dialogue with the organization and the individual institutions. One of their biggest objectives is trying to identify what's coming and what's next, and connect with the fans – some of whom are powerful alumni – and the institutions.

For healthcare, Doug explained that it's a highly considered purchase where people have, for decades, asked their family and friends for recommendations. So social media provides a platform in a different way to engage, and the lines between marketing, customer service and PR are blurring.

Harry called out a particularly successful experiment for Intuit's Turbo Tax product. Intuit were getting hundreds of thousands of questions, so the company started allowing customers to answer questions. Last year, customers answered 45 percent of the questions (correctly) from 22 million users.

CMOs seem to agree that there's a certain amount of "magic" around social media in terms of engaging with their target audiences. But what about measurement? ROI? According to Doug, no one has cracked the code because one of the issues is that social media isn't "just media". It's a way to engage with consumers in a two-way dialogue, and add value that's going to make their lives better.

Harry was able to give a direct revenue-building example however. Two years ago, the Turbo Tax team undertook a two-week experiment tweeting about an issue, and redirecting consumers to its blog. It generated $180K additional revenue. So last year, Intuit ran the same program for four weeks, which generated $1 million revenue. Next year, it will run for six weeks against a revenue goal of $2.5 million, for an investment of just $60,000.

Social media clearly is driving the most change, but how do these CMOs ensure that the power of three – paid, owned and earned media (POEM) – work together for maximum impact? Danette dived into this question because, with a very small marketing budget and team, she doesn't buy any advertising but rather relies on PR and experiential activity. "People want to talk about us because we're sexy, and PR has become my lifeblood," she said. She and her team have transformed the brand, and 90 percent of the efforts have been through PR.

According to Doug, "For us, reputation is really the central galvanizing thing we focus on, so our brand and reputation are critical. But we are moving away from 'broadcasting'. We still use TV, but we're moving away from one-way broadcasting-style communication to creating dialogue, and publishing content that will provide value to as many people as possible. We just won a Press Club Award for developing content in conjunction with The Today Show."

Social media also is driving proliferation and fragmentation in audiences. Most CMOs need to expand their reach to new audiences, and this is no different for Doug. Given the Healthcare Reform Bill, the healthcare insurance industry will go through a complete transformation, moving more towards retail. "It represents a huge paradigm shift," according to Doug, "as we move from essentially a B2B company to more B2C oriented." And there's a huge need, with 40 million uninsured Americans. 8 million of whom are Californians (representing 25% of population).

According to Harry, "At Intuit, it's evolving and includes employees, customers and shareholders with the first two being most and of equal importance. If you get that right, the shareholders are taken care of."

The conversation turned to analytics, and everyone seemed to agree that the days of pre- and post-testing were over. Now, everything is "real time", rapid experimentation and all-encompassing.

MaryLee Sachs was most recently US Chair and Worldwide Director of Consumer Marketing at WPP firm Hill & Knowlton. She launched her new book, The Changing MO of the CMO, How the Convergence of Brand and Reputation is Affecting Marketers, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 23. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Read all MaryLee's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at MaryLee Sachs.

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