Corporate Affairs and Communications is undergoing a massive transformation, based on technological changes, new forms of communication, emerging stakeholders, and an evolution in the perception of the role of corporations (and corporate leaders) in society. Like marketing services, this interdisciplinary sector involves people from multiple specialized segments such as public affairs, public policy, media relations, corporate social responsibility, branding, digital/social media, internal communications, investors relations and thought leadership.
There is hardly another sector that evolved as rapidly in the last 20 years. Much of the reason for this is that a corporation’s reputation is now comprised of so many elements. For example, the rise of an entity’s employee base as a key stakeholder has given rise to specialists who focus on internal engagement. Similarly, the growth of corporate social responsibility has become a key issue in the Boardroom and throughout the organization, requiring the engagement of specialists in CSR and sustainability. The same can be said for brand communications and regulatory affairs. Managing these specialists requires a unique set of skills.
The change in the media landscape is another key factor in the evolution of the corporate affairs and communications function. An entity now must be able to respond to a social media attack within minutes, not hours or even days. Further, a corporation must be able to communicate with different constituencies in different manners through different communications tools. At the same time, as social and digital technology is changing at a blinding pace, this innovation requires constant attention for effective implementation.
To manage all of this complexity calls for a specific type of leader. Most people in the last 20 years have not been trained to think in an integrated fashion — they were groomed to be specialists. As the industry looks to bring capabilities together, some talent stands out as being capable of navigating across the spectrum of diversified offerings. They are the ones who can successfully manage a corporation’s reputation.
Understanding the talent in this universe requires new skills. It is not about adhering to old models of talent evaluation — past performance as an indicator for future performance. Today — the assessment model necessitates a deeper insight into the ability in which people can navigate innovation in a sea of change. The quest for talent in the corporate affairs sector has historically been competitive. Today, it can be defined as hyper-competitive, fluid and laser focused.