The role of corporate affairs directors has changed over the last two decades. These individuals could once rely on more consistent hours and traditional media and public relations tactics, like hand-delivered press releases or newspapers.
In today's world of news access from anywhere and instant social media posting, these positions have become more demanding. They sometimes require incumbents to be on call twenty-four hours a day.
Because responsibility has increased, those in director positions must have a firm grasp on many aspects of company operations, including industry analysis, technology updates and overall strategy.
It makes sense that these roles would be heavily involved in wider business decisions. Here's a look at why giving these individuals a seat at the table is so important for any organisation.
Managing the brand and reputational risk
Corporate affairs professionals manage the way the public views a brand. And these people oversee communications strategies, both external and internal, among employees and executives.
Branding is a major part of a company's success. According to research done by Havas, 75 per cent of consumers expect brands to make contributions to their wellbeing and quality of life. Brands that focus on more meaningful messages have outperformed by 206 per cent in the stock market in recent years.
It's the job of corporate affairs staff to develop branding that people will connect with and return to again and again. These experienced professionals know the latest news, the latest research and how well people are responding to a variety of outreach channels. Simply put, these leaders know what's going on with the brand, and they know what's going on within their given industry.
Similarly, reputation management is also a big part of these roles. Now more than ever a company's reputation can be altered in minutes on the web. The instantaneous nature of online interactions has become a reality with the introduction of smartphones, social media and other trends.
A study from Deloitte showed that 88 per cent of Australians owned a smartphone in 2017. What's more, these users tended to use their phones to consume online content more than any other use.
Word travels fast. Research from the Public Relations Institute of Australia indicates that 85 per cent of leads will research a company online before deciding to buy anything. It matters what business information is out there, whether reviews, new research or even scandals. Corporate affairs directors have to manage this reputation on top of other communication objectives.
85 per cent of leads will research a company online before deciding to buy anything.
Another part of managing brand and reputation is that these directors have to understand their given market overall. An article from Communications Director referred to these leaders as politically savvy, noting that they are attuned to global and policy issues across different industries.
This big-picture view, combined with brand and insider knowledge, makes these directors crucial decision-makers for businesses.
Growing corporate affairs teams and functions
As the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs reported, since 2015, more of these types of teams have been moving to hire internal digital content production staff. Additionally, roles focused on issues management have increased.
The Centre predicts that at the end of 2018, more organisations will have integrated stakeholder brand managers into the corporate public affairs department. This move will require more positions in order to manage multiple communications strategies.
Growing teams will create additional hierarchies within companies that will require more management positions. It's likely that these managers will become more essential to business and will be able to have a seat at the decision-making table.
The corporate affairs department will continue to grow to be responsible for more than just communications and public relations.
An Oxford 2015 report revealed that the corporate affairs department will continue to grow to be responsible for more than just communications and public relations. There will be a greater demand for hiring these employees in at board level, expected to work closely with executives.
These factors and supporting research make it clear that corporate affairs directors will continue involving themselves in big business decisions. They must manage brand and reputational risk, leading to key industry insights, both internally and externally. And the function of these departments in general is expected to change and expand, creating more positions that focus on these issues.
Because of these trends and growing responsibilities, company strategy is dependent on high-level corporate affairs insight. And this expertise is expected to gain even more importance as bottom lines become increasingly dependent on whether or not businesses are succeeding in these areas.