We have recently had a blog posted on the Arthur Page website, which looks at the reasons behind the elevation of the role to the ExCo. We identified the convergence of three developments:

In our most recent (2016/17) FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director Survey, Watson Helsby, the specialist communications and government relations executive search firm, disclosed that over 51% of FTSE 100 group corporate communications/affairs directors are now formal members of their respective executive committees. This is the first year that this is now a majority, albeit a marginal one. We have been tracking this since 2013 (using the same methodology) when the figure was 44% and it has been rising every year since, so we can state, with some degree of confidence that this is a trend, rather than a blip.

 We have recently had a blog posted on the Arthur Page website, which looks at the reasons behind the elevation of the role to the ExCo.  We identified the convergence of three developments:

 (i)         Business is more alert to the importance of trust and the need to either merit it or regain it.  This is particularly true of companies that are in the public eye and operate in politically sensitive and heavily regulated sectors, with a diverse and multi-faceted collection of vocal and influential stakeholders. There is a recognition that stakeholders want to see, and expect to see, ongoing evidence that a company is sensitive to the societal issues in its sector and in its communities (and helping to solve or address them) and that it is making a positive and responsible contribution to society, the environment and the economy (e.g. not avoiding tax). These issues cannot be ignored and the media, certainly in the UK, is relentless in its mission to expose any wrongdoing or discrepancy between words and actions. They are not going to relent on this and companies are getting the message.  We know from our network of corporate affairs directors, that purpose, brand and culture, and the impact of all these on trust and respect, are now a boardroom topic in many companies.  A couple of quotes from FTSE 100 corporate affairs directors illustrate this.

             (ii)        Social media are shifting power to the people 

 The second development is the ever increasing influence of social media and the shift in power it has engendered.  This is not new, but its growth and impact has accelerated exponentially over recent years.  Boards and executive teams have had to come to terms with the reality that if you don’t do the right thing, you will be found out and found out quickly. It is the realisation that everything has speeded up and that there is no hiding place, that has focused the minds of boards on behaviour, brand, culture etc. 

 (iii)       Stakeholder community

             The last of these converging trends is stakeholder connectivity and the need for a much more ‘joined up’ approach to stakeholder engagement and dialogue across the organisation, one that recognises that they all influence, and are influenced by, each other. To quote another FTSE 100 corporate affairs director, “the whole world is inter-connected now and there are a whole lot of conversations going on out there that we are not a part of. You can no longer control this, but you need to influence it, navigate it and be as much a part of it as possible”.

 All of this has created a situation in which the CEO (and the Board) wants someone on the Executive Committee who can focus on this and represent these issues at the most senior level.  Companies and their leaders are naturally focused on the internal world – strategy, operational issues, finance, people etc. This has to be balanced by someone who takes a more holistic view of the company, its relationships and environment, the way it is perceived by others and its longer term issues. Someone who represents and presents the outside perspective.

 Please see our full blog on the Arthur Page website. 

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