Oral Histories

Alan Marks

Interview Segments on Topic: Counselor/Counseling Advisor

Alan Marks Biography

Alan Marks is senior vice president of corporate communications for eBay Inc., and is responsible for leading communications strategy for all areas of the company, which includes business and consumer media relations, employee communications, executive positioning and issues and reputation management. Prior to joining eBay, Marks was at Nike Inc., Gap, Inc., and Avon Products. He began his career as a journalist.


INTERVIEWER: Well that’s a good lead-in for our next question, which is basically, that the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State, and the Page Society—which you’re a member—their aim is to help individuals become counselors to leadership, in all these areas of change that are happening in corporations today. How can individuals best prepare themselves for this role as counselors to leadership?

MARKS: Well I think it goes beyond counseling today, particularly if you’re in a chief communications officer role. You have to deeply understand the business. I think increasingly today—and I work today in the technology environment and there’s constant change in technology and e-commerce. You can be disrupted from so many different directions every day. And so you almost have to think like a general manager and really be deeply grounded in the business, the business model and what the business is trying to solve. Then your role as a chief communications officer is to apply your communications expertise to how we help address those business opportunities and business challenges. So I think it goes beyond an advisory role, and really to be effective in today’s environment, you have to be a strategic business partner. That means you have to be able to exhibit almost a general manager like mindset, and a general manager type understanding of the business and what the opportunities are. Then your role is to bring communications solutions to those business opportunities and those business challenges.