As the Chief Marketing Communications Officer, President of the GE Foundation and co-leader of the GE Women’s Network, Linda Boff describes herself and other marketers as the “keepers of the flame”. On the 150th episode of CMO Moves, Linda shares the power of storytelling, and a look at how she’s able to wear so many “hats” while sticking to what is core to the brand’s DNA.
You’re not only Chief Marketing Communications Officer, you’re the President of GE Foundation. You also co-lead the GE Women’s Network and now you’re leading Learning and Culture for GE. How many hats do you have and how did you get all those hats?
Probably too many on any given day. But I never set out to wear more than my CMO hat, which I loved early on and is still the love of my life. I would say professionally, the second love of my life is, is GE. It’s a privilege to work here just about every morning. I kind of pinch myself and say, “I’m lucky to be here.”
As marketers, we are good at many things but one of them is listening and paying attention to our customers. In the GE world, we have many customers. We have the people who buy things from us, be it equipment or services or software. We have employees, we have stock owners. And I don’t think it is such a big leap. At least it isn’t to me that some of the things that I now help to look after are our own employees and their development and training as they work to become even better leaders and more customer-centric.
The Foundation to me is frankly a wonderful way that we get to the right organizations in the communities where we live and work. In some ways, it’s kind of the expansion of our brand and reputation. And that’s what I’m paid to do. To quote Indra Nooyi on a call many of us were on in early COVID days, “marketers are the soul of an organization.” On a good day, it really feels that way, right? That we’re kind of keepers of the flame, the Jimminy Crickets of marketing, so to speak. So, these hats may look different to me but they’re really just facets of one thing. And that is the reputation and the brand of our great company amongst audiences that matter internally and externally.
You have been able to really communicate brand through this beautiful art of storytelling, which in your case is fueled by innovation, given the heritage (Thomas Edison). So tell us a little bit about storytelling and what that means to you.
I am blessed with a team and a set of agency partners who are ridiculously good at this and who (this is kind of our mantra) sweat every touch point, sweat every asset. It’s not enough just to put up a post on Instagram or tell a story in a video. It’s how do we do it in a way that really is core to our DNA.
Years ago, we got very clear on our voice, on who we are, on what matters. We better embraced our “inner geek” or something and decided that we weren’t going to chase. We weren’t going to try to be anybody else, but who we are–Thomas Edison’s company, all these decades and decades later. We embrace innovation.
We also, and I think every company feels this way to a degree, we have such an impact. We’re part of the energy transition in renewables and in clean gas. We’re part of the future of healthcare. We take very seriously our role in the return to Safelite in the sky. So these are things that fuel everybody at GE every day. And it’s kind of a privilege to get to tell those stories. They’re endless–they’re the stories of the technology and the people.