Catherine Hernandez-Blades drops marketing oversight duties at Aflac

Hernandez-Blades will keep communications and add responsibility for environmental, social, and governance.

COLUMBUS, GA: Aflac communications leader Catherine Hernandez-Blades is changing roles and responsibilities at the insurance company.

Hernandez-Blades is adding environmental, social, and governance duties to her remit and dropping responsibility for marketing in the U.S. As a result, her title will change from chief brand and communications officer to SVP and chief ESG and communications officer.

The changes, which went into effect this month, are a shift towards more traditional chief communications officer duties, said Hernandez-Blades, who noted that the company went through a handful of CMOs in the decade before she took over marketing in 2017.

"What we’re doing is spinning U.S. marketing functions back into [the] U.S. business area, and I’m being elevated into a more traditional corporate affairs role with responsibility over ESG," she said.

Hernandez-Blades added that the company has not determined who she will report to for the ESG work, for which she is building her team. For corporate affairs, she is reporting to Teresa White, president of Aflac U.S. Shannon Watkins, VP of brand and creative services, will take over Hernandez-Blades’ branding duties and also report to White.

"We’ve always had a great story to tell, but it was a bit siloed," Hernandez-Blades said, explaining Aflac’s ESG progress. "I’m going to be pulling all of this together and make sure areas that need to grow do so and that we speak with one voice."

Hernandez-Blades said she will focus on building Aflac’s environmental outreach, which has been limited, continuing the growth of its CSR and equity and inclusion efforts, and deciding how to proceed with corporate governance.

"From a governance standpoint, there is no industry standard," she said. "We’re just determining what’s the right measurement model to move forward with that will be meaningful and relevant to all stakeholders."

Hernandez-Blades was named chief brand and communications officer amid a restructuring of the company’s communications and marketing department in fall 2017. CMO Gail Galuppo left the company, and Rich Williams was hired as EVP and chief distribution officer during the process.

Hernandez-Blades was also named Outstanding In-House Professional at the 2018 PRWeek U.S. Awards. She was also a member of the 2017 class of the PRWeek Hall of Femme

Aflac posted a 5.5% decline in revenue in Q4 2018 to $5.1 billion, while net earnings were down 79.7% to $525 million.

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