Margaret Herndon

Chief Marketing Officer at WestRock Company

Margaret Herndon, CMO of WestRock, discusses resilience and why it’s a critical skill for any marketing transformation role within an organization.

If you’re trying to avoid organizational disruption and prefer a steady marketing approach, Margaret Herndon is not the person to call. However, if you’re looking for transformation, ring up Herndon.

Herndon is the CMO of WestRock, a global provider of sustainable paper and packaging solutions. She is the first person to hold the CMO position at the company, and formerly served as the CMO of Ericsson North America, where she led marketing and communications strategy in the United States and Canada. Prior to joining Ericsson, she spent a decade in senior leadership positions at Hewlett-Packard.

In this episode of Change Agents, Herndon talks about:

  • How resiliency is one of the main factors that shape an organization’s marketing success in an era of uncertainty.
  • What ‘pivoting’ really means in practice, versus theory.
  • Why using data to anticipate customer demand is essential for company staffing and day-to-day operations within an organization.

As a self-described “builder,” Herndon is motivated by building organizations, teams, and marketing structures. However, when COVID-19 hit at the beginning of 2020, the strategy, budget, and campaigns her team had meticulously crafted were suddenly null.

Herndon credits her team’s ability to pivot on a moment’s notice as the key to building a new strategy centered around people. This strategy resulted in a moral-boosting campaign which further cultivated customer connectivity and engagement.

But it’s not an easy task to change course so suddenly. Getting consensus and morale from multiple teams can be challenging, yet Herndon has mastered the art of buy-in throughout the course of her multiple leadership positions.

Her secret?

“I listen first. This is a team sport. This is not about a hero CMO coming in and making all this change [happen within a company]. It’s about the team and listening to what’s working and not working. Then, it’s about getting the team involved in the change.”

Watch the interview to learn more about how Herndon deals with change management as a leader in a large-scale organization, how she uses data to communicate the value of B2B and B2C marketing, and why the “builder” mindset has driven the leadership style during her career’s tenure.