Jeanniey Mullen - Global CMO of Mercer


Jeanniey Mullen

Global Chief Marketing Officer at Mercer

As Global Chief Marketing Officer of Mercer, the world's largest human resources consulting firm, Jeanniey takes a creative approach to internal communications and uses it to garner support for Marketing's vision among both internal and external stakeholders.

Jeanniey Mullen - Global CMO of Mercer


Mercer is the largest human resources consulting firm in the world. Offering strategic advice and tailored solutions to their global client base, Mercer helps companies advance the health, wealth and careers of their most vital asset—their people.


Building a culture of trust

If we imagine an enterprise company as a government, Marketing—the company’s representative on the global stage—would be the Department of State and the CMO, the Secretary. As Mercer’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, Jeanniey Mullen’s role as the number one diplomat involves using soft power to get both internal and external stakeholders on board with Marketing’s mission.

Jeanniey doesn’t shy away from using political language to describe her role. “I see myself as an ambassador for change both within the Marketing organization and at the executive level.” It is, in some ways, the challenge Jeanniey has been training for her whole life. After all, for marketers as for diplomats, storytelling and persuasion are the name of the game. The challenge takes on a new dimension when the target audience is internal stakeholders.

By building consensus from the bottom-up, Jeanniey handles bureaucratic diplomacy without having to climb the mountain of conflict. In this exclusive interview, she shares her creative approach to internal communications and how it can support a practice of patience and a culture of trust. At Mercer, it starts with Marketing. When done right, it impacts growth for the entire company.

A bottoms-up approach to supporting the entire business 01

A few months into her role at Mercer, the world’s largest human resources consulting firm, Jeanniey realized her marketing department needed, well, better marketing. “About three months after I took this role, I began assessing the team’s organizational structure, its performance and how other leaders within the company viewed our priorities and goals. In the process, I learned that there were very few people outside of marketing that understood what function each group was responsible for and what impact it had on the organization.”

To fill the gap in understanding, Jeanniey turned to her team of talented marketers and asked them to put on a virtual career fair. Each one of her business leaders created a three-minute video to describe what their team does and talk about open opportunities. The program targeted people who did not understand the role of Marketing, but did not feel hostile to it, either.

“We tried to target people that genuinely don’t understand what Marketing does, and, as a result, have never fully embraced it. Once we filled the gap in understanding, they became evangelists who could spread the word and change the minds of the skeptics.”

Jeanniey’s word-of-mouth approach to internal marketing mirrors that of the early-stage startups she led in a past life. “A startup rarely has any vocal brand advocates, and it certainly won’t have a brand ambassador program or case studies or video testimonials—even if their product is incredible. They have to first explain to people why the product is so great in terms those people can understand and relate to. Once they get a few people in the door, those people can share the news with someone else, and create a virtuous cycle of advocacy. At Mercer, that’s the approach we’ve taken to try and help 23,000+ people see what Marketing can add to the business.”

A dozen or so educational videos seems insufficient to accomplish such a massive goal, but, given the opportunity to come up with their own creative solutions, Jeanniey’s marketing leaders were able to make the program sing. “The head of the Operations team created a video, and it was literally about how, by 2030, we’re going to be doing Marketing from Mars because operational efficiencies will enable us to get there. It was hilarious and, literally, completely out of this world, which gave it punch and made it memorable.”

Though the advertised intent of the career fair was to alert people looking for a new role within Mercer, the true goal was just to engage people from different organizations and bring them into the marketing fold. “In order to work cross-functionally, other parts of the organization need to not just know what we do, but also who we are.”

Marketing, after all, is fundamentally a support organization. Its work is designed to amplify that of other teams. Building relationships with other parts of the organization dictate Marketing’s ability to understand what other teams want to accomplish, so they can help them get there.

We tried to target people that genuinely don't understand what Marketing does, and, as a result, have never fully embraced it. Once we filled the gap in understanding, they became evangelists who could spread the word and change the minds of the skeptics.

- Jeanniey Mullen, Global Chief Marketing Officer of Mercer

Nimble at scale 02

Specialization can be the enemy of nimbleness. If people don’t have the ability to move outside of their silos, they become hyper-focused on the metrics that apply exclusively to their work—often at the expense of the company’s goals. The problem is compounded when people are hired to handle a specific channel or task, and don’t have the opportunity to see how people engage with their work once it leaves their desk.

“It is a marketer’s job to improve landing page copy or maximize SEO optimization, but if they aren’t able to track the holistic user journey—where a user goes from their landing page or from the search engine—it creates problems for the business. Highly specialized marketers will point to very narrow metrics—‘I was able to increase SEO optimization by 73%’—with no regard for the team’s broader goals. It’s fine to get in the weeds, but we want to trace the longer term effectiveness of tactics like SEO optimization, too. As in, how does each tactic tie to brand, retention, and revenue?”

To bring key cross-functional metrics to the fore, Jeanniey again uses her startup approach: break down silos and bring all hands on deck. While it’s not feasible for marketers to touch every program at a company of Mercer’s scale, Jeanniey looks for versatile people who embody that spirit of co-ownership. For her, specialization is less important than inquisitiveness and a collaborative nature.

“Sometimes, it might look like I’m hiring people with overlapping skills, but I think it’s important that someone who leads brand, for example, also know a lot about social. That way, when she designs a brand campaign, she understands how to make it conducive to social channels. Then, when her works gets into the hands of the social team, they can execute effectively and drive the metrics that matter most to both the brand team and the social team. Those are ultimately the metrics that matter to Marketing, and, by extension the business.”

The necessity of empathy for every audience 03

The diplomacy required for marketing requires Jeanniey to create internal alliances through soft power and building multi-disciplinary teams who can speak each other’s data languages. While necessary works, it can sometimes feel a little inauthentic. But Jeanniey knows there’s more to it than that.

One of the most famous—and most misunderstood—business books is Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and Influence People. It has a reputation as being a Machiavellian schmoozer’s guide to getting ahead in the business world, but really it’s not that at all. The primary takeaway is something far more radical: the way you get ahead in the business world is by genuinely caring about the people around you. It’s an empathetic approach Jeanniey lives by.

“As I've gotten older, I’ve started to realize that when I go to work, if someone is mean or rude, often times we're quick to judge them as bad people or not worth our time.”

By being patient and understanding of someone who is in a terrible mood or who says something to you that you wouldn’t necessarily appreciate, you might give them hope that whatever negative thing is going on in their life will eventually change.”

That empathy, that effort to understand where people are actually coming from perhaps even after they’ve burned the benefit of a doubt, is what Marketing is all about. It’s about learning people’s true motivations and learning to speak to them, both internally and externally.

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