Danny Rogers: Corporate affairs is gaining influence

A top corporate headhunter told me this week that corporate affairs directors had, without doubt, gained in influence compared with marketing directors over the past few years.

Danny Rogers: Corporate affairs is gaining influence
Danny Rogers: Corporate affairs is gaining influence

Whether this is a good thing or not depends on which career path you have taken, but it is certainly grist to the mill of all those corporate reputation advisers who have been arguing for a seat at the top table.

Indeed, many CEOs are now insisting that 'reputation' is among the top three items on the board agenda.

As Marketing, the bible for marketing directors, is also part of my Brand Republic Group portfolio, I've certainly got no desire to see either role diminished. On the contrary, in enlightened organisations, the two functions work in harmony, with corporate and product brands integrating to form more than the sum of their parts.

But I would argue that having corporate affairs reporting to a chief marketing officer is rarely a good idea.

The reason that the corporate affairs function is gaining in importance is that CEOs and, increasingly, chairmen realise they need to have their fingers on the pulse of day-to-day reputational issues. A good corporate affairs adviser must have fast access to the entire 'c-suite'. Only then does an organisation listen and respond, and act with a public conscience.

After decades of agonising, the age of 360-degree stakeholder relations has arrived. In fact, the recession may even have accelerated this process. Firms that are 'up against it' have been forced to see the value of both tactical and strategic reputation management.

But all this means the corporate affairs role is becoming more demanding. Where once such advisers could specialise in media relations, with comparatively long lead times on issues, true stakeholder relations require so much more.

With more regulation, government affairs is growing in importance; the connected world means internal and external comms must be seamless; and social media crises come out of left-field, at sickening speed.

So while those in corporate affairs have finally been vindicated, they should also be aware of the need to upskill in many areas - the same headhunter also talked of a dearth of high calibre UK operators.

As the recession and cuts continue to bite into publishing and the civil service, there will be a flood of top talent coming into the PR profession. Good news for recruitment consultants. Bad news for anyone looking for a quiet life.

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