Blog Tagged Articles

Injecting a dose of strategic rigour into internal communications

With COVID on the march again, along with the PM’s U-turn on encouraging office workers back to their desks, companies will inevitably be communicating their updated quasi lockdown guidance and policies to employees. They will also be redoubling their efforts to support and protect employees and to support their mental well-being, something that most companies have put enormous effort into since…

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Changes in the corporate affairs landscape and the organisation of the function

Soon we will start gathering data and insight for our annual FTSE100 Director of Group Corporate Communications & Affairs survey. This year we will be exploring the usual topics through a COVID lens (budget cutbacks, salary freezes etc.) as well as adding a few COVID related questions to the questionnaire. It…

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Getting a business to a better place – the role of Corporate Affairs in an uncertain world

Three things seem certain in the coming year(s); continued uncertainty and volatility, that many businesses will have to reshape their business models and structures (with inevitable job losses), the conduct of business will be intensely scrutinised and held to ever more exacting standards, and the current (relative) positive sentiment towards business and its leaders will be stress tested against an…

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Business resilience and reputation are increasingly dependent on purpose, character and values

Although COVID may not have made companies question why they exist (purpose), it has certainly focused the minds of most leaders on their broader societal responsibilities. Companies have been leaning over backwards to find ways of using their resources to contribute to the effort and to make the right societal response, and to seen to be doing so. “Doing the right…

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Necessity is the mother of invention.....and change

The perspective of corporate affairs and communications leaders, and the world they inhabit, has framed the content of our blogs since March. They, along with IT and HR, have been at the sharp end of the corporate response to the pandemic, coordinating it and frequently leading it. Without their insights, and willingness to talk candidly, there would be no blogs. In this…

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The power of language and human connection – the Communications function states its case

Another communiqué from the front line, with insights, anecdotes and quotes derived from a number of interesting conversations with senior communications and HR executives as well as consultancy leaders. Until this crisis arrived, it is probably fair to say internal communications was some way from being an established business discipline. It is also not unreasonable to state that…

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The silver lining of deeper employee engagement....and other stories of humanity

Every crisis has its silver lining, where some good comes of it, and in the case of Covid-19 it could well be the humanity that companies have discovered. Over recent weeks we have heard many heartening stories, mainly from corporate comms/affairs and internal communications directors, about the herculean efforts that companies are making to assuage the anxieties…

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Corporate Communications – dispatches from the front line

Over the past few weeks we have been talking to corporate communications/affairs directors (for simplicity I will use corporate comms) in a number of well known organisations to learn first hand of their experiences on the front line. Along with HR and IT, the communications function has been in the eye of the storm, with companies constantly having to communicate,…

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Internal communications: A defining moment but a big test of leadership and capability

It is normally external communications that gets all the recognition and accolades (assuming any are given out) when an organisation is dealing with a crisis and its response to it. In the case of this pandemic - partly because no one company is being singled out and receiving the full glare of media scrutiny, but mainly because of the universal…

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The essential qualities of a communications director in times of crisis

In a crisis, and we are now a few weeks into the crisis of all crises, there are certain qualities that high calibre corporate communications/affairs leaders (and their teams) must demonstrate in order to help an organisation to deftly navigate its way through uncertain and challenging times.  Four of these are absolutely paramount and they are by no means commonplace…

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Crises expose communications capability shortcomings

It is often said that that it takes a crisis for a company, more specifically its executive team, to appreciate and recognise the value of a strong corporate communications function with senior management level leadership If that is truly the case, the communications function will be due a widespread re-calibration of its importance and value when this COVID-19 crisis comes to…

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Key Findings - FTSE 100 Survey

In a blog earlier in the week we referenced the release of the Watson Helsby 2019/20 FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director survey, now in its sixth year. Below are some of the headline findings: Average salaries and average headcount for the function has dropped across the FTSE100 since 2018 There is a gender pay gap – across the FTSE 100…

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Watson Helsby 2019/20 FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Survey

This week we published the Watson Helsby 2019/20 FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director survey. The timing is sadly far from perfect, but it is currently impossible to predict when would be a good time, so we have decided not to delay any further. The survey findings are based on interviews with over 60% of Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Directors and it…

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Housebuilders – building houses a greater priority than building reputation

Every year the executive search firm Watson Helsby publishes a FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director survey. As ever there are a number of companies that do not have such a position/individual. This year (2019/20) there are 22 companies where the position is not represented at a senior level at Group. This figure has oscillated between 20% and 23% since…

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The unrealised potential of Internal Communications

As a head-hunter who has conducted many communications searches, and has a strong interest in the discipline, I have always been struck by the difference in approach taken to employee communications and engagement vs external communications and stakeholder engagement. External communications (particularly with consumers) has clearly defined outcomes, it is underpinned by insight, research and strategic analysis, and it is…

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Internal Communications - is rebadging the answer?

In a blog earlier this year entitled “Internal communications must seize its opportunity in 2019”, I remarked on an interesting development we had observed during 2018 and that has continued into this year.  This was the addition of the word Engagement to the role title, as in Director of Internal Communications and Engagement (a search we conducted in 2018).…

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Sustainability accelerates up the corporate affairs agenda

Our latest Watson Helsby FTSE100 Group Corporate Affairs/Communications Director survey (to be launched in March) confirms that Sustainability is a bigger responsibility in more corporate affairs/comms functions. Four developments stood out: 1. The speed with which it has accelerated up the CEO and executive board agenda. This is evidenced by the fact that over 60% of interviewees reported…

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The problem with Content

Companies have long published content (annual reports, sustainability reports) so it is not a new part of the communications mix.  However, digital and social media has opened up almost endless ‘owned media’ possibilities and enabled companies to build their own processes and platforms to deliver content direct to stakeholders and customers…

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Building employee trust & confidence in leaders

I was at a roundtable last week with a number of communications directors as well as others from related backgrounds, and the topic of trust in business came up, as it so often does. We discussed some of the contributory factors; corporate greed and pay offs coupled with apparent rewards for misconduct/failures exacerbating the situation; data privacy/loss of data; profiteering at…

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5 reasons leaders fail to recognise the strategic value of internal communications & engagement?

The ability to communicate has been considered a key competency for business leaders for several years now.  Although a growing proportion of leaders are natural communicators and readily prepared to invest valuable personal time in it, there are still many who are not.  That comes across clearly, and the reasons explained, in the longer version of our latest report, “The…

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“Work is a social experience”. Do companies go out of their way to make sure it’s not like that?

This is a quote from our latest report, “The Missing Link”, which examines the importance of the employee experience and how companies so often neglect this fundamental concept, or fail to consider it as a strategic priority – is this your experience? Our research also highlights a number of developments that have further underlined the importance of the employee experience and the…

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The Missing Link

The research that I frequently blogged about last year is finally about to see the light of day. Entitled “The Missing Link”, it takes as its premise the fact that culture, purpose, brand and the overall employee experience, along with the factors that influence all of these, are still, by and large (and there are exceptions), not a strategic priority for…

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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…

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The Arthur Page Society, the US professional association for CCOs, has recently published a blog by Nick Helsby entitled “Why the Director of Corporate Affairs role is being elevated to the Executive Committee”.

The Arthur Page, the US professional association for CCOs, has recently published a blog by Nick Helsby entitled “Why the Director of Corporate Affairs role is being elevated to the Executive Committee”.…

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HR & Communications working in harmony

In a previous blog I referred to the frustration we had picked up on amongst HR professionals with regard to their relationship with the communications function. It does, of course, work both ways, as illustrated by some quotes from our Employee Experience research (not officially published yet but due out shortly). “There is a strong streak in HR that likes to regulate…

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Joining-up culture, brand & reputation

Over the past year, Watson Helsby has been conducting an extensive research study to explore the following questions: To what degree is internal communications used and valued as an integral, strategic business discipline and what is the evidence for this? Are organisations taking a more integrated and coherent approach to culture, brand, and communications and the overall employee experience? If so, what does…

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Professionalising story telling

As the opportunities to engage customers and other stakeholders with powerful and emotionally engaging visual content continues to proliferate it is interesting to see how companies are going about building this capability. It is not historically a core skill of PR/communications and yet, in this deficit attention world, the ability to capture people’s attention is imperative. Back in October 2016 PR Week…

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US CCOs earn more than their FTSE100 Group UK Corporate Comms/Affairs Directors counterparts

Each year Watson Helsby publishes its' annual FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director survey. We thought it would be interesting to compare our findings with Korn Ferry's most recent Chief Communications Officer (CCO) survey of Fortune 500 Chief Communications Officers, where comparable data sets exist in each survey. Since the corporate affairs director position/title is…

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Marrying reputation risk with strategic reputation management

The rigour and modelling methodologies that are often found in the Strategic Risk practices of the management consultancies have rarely combined well with the strategic reputation management expertise found in some communications consultancies.  It was, therefore, interesting to see that H-K Bryn, former partner for Strategic Risk at Deloitte, has teamed up with the Headland Consultancy to launch a new reputation…

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Does the external affairs function need to be reinvented?

A recent McKinsey survey – “How to reinvent the external affairs function” – undertaken amongst a sample of executives (it did not specify titles) revealed a dissatisfaction with the capability of their external affairs teams. A few stats stand out: “Only 11% of executives said their companies frequently succeeded at shaping government and regulatory decisions.” And there were no regions or…

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Outlook for mid senior level corporate affairs hiring

There is no doubt that Brexit will further extend a period uncertainty and we all know in periods of uncertainty, investment decisions are postponed. This applies as much to strategic hires as it does to capital expenditure. Although the last six months have seen some senior level hiring in corporate affairs, activity levels have undoubtedly declined year on year. In…

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Our guest blogger Hans - Kristian Bryn provides his view on reputational risk and the role of the CAD

Reputational risk - where do the responsibilities of the Corporate Affairs Director start and end?  A view by our guest blogger Hans-Kristian Bryn, an international risk management and governance advisor, formerly UK leader of Deloitte’s Strategic Risk Practice.  Reputational risk management is a hot topic and often debated with and amongst Corporate Affairs Directors (CADs).  However, CADs are only one of the…

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Who should play the role of consigliere to the CEO?

In a recent article in HR Magazine, Richard Hytner suggests that the HR Director is the most obvious person to play the role of consigliere to the CEO. He has just published a book called ‘Consigliere: Leading from the Shadows. There is no doubt CEOs have a lonely job and most would admit to…

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What's the future of the CCO role?

Somewhat belatedly, since it was published in March, I am flagging a new research study, published by the Arthur Page Society (a US based professional association for senior PR and corporate communications executives), which explores the future of the Chief Communications Officer (CCO) role here: http://goo.gl/7VcCTO. The research was led and co-authored by Jon Iwata, SVP of…

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Is corporate communications really embracing data and insight?

In a recent conversation with a large FTSE 100 retail bank, one of their communications leaders told me that the capability gap that concerned them most was in data analysis. This is now their main hiring priority. And in a recent discussion of the findings of the latest Arthur Page Society report, “The New CCO: Transforming Enterprises in a Changing…

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To be or not to be there

We are shortly to publish a research study, in partnership with a Brussels-based headhunting firm, Viapublic, which investigates how companies organise and resource their Brussels and broader EU public affairs capability. It should be of interest to any company either reviewing their approach to monitoring and influencing policy in Brussels/EU or considering establishing a presence there. One interesting finding was the…

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FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director Survey

Our latest FTSE 100 Group Corporate Communications/Affairs Director Survey (2015/2016) is now available.  This has become the most comprehensive and insightful survey of its type, in terms of both the number of companies surveyed (over 90) and the range of questions we ask/themes we investigate. …

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It’s “tone at the middle” not “tone at the top”

With the recent spate of corporate scandals in mind, many of which have been behaviour-related, it is worth referencing a report published earlier this year by Thomson Reuters (written by Dr Roger Miles, an expert in behavioural economics and conduct risk) entitled “Tracing the true…

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Who's leading on reputation risk?

Reputation risk is a hot topic right now and a major preoccupation for most boards who are looking for reassurance that reputation risk is being managed systematically, and with the same rigour and frameworks, as every other risk.  The City is increasingly also looking for evidence that reputation management and intelligence systems are in place.  There is an opportunity here for…

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Is corporate communications really embracing data and insight?

In a recent conversation with a large FTSE 100 retail bank, one of their communications leaders told me that the capability gap that concerned them most was in data analysis. This is now their main hiring priority. And in a recent discussion of the findings of the latest Arthur Page Society report, “The New CCO: Transforming Enterprises in a Changing…

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European Association of Communications Directors (EACD)

At the European Association of Communications Directors’ Conference in Brussels last week there was frequent reference to a development, probably more prominent in the US, which is the integration of the marketing and corporate communications/affairs functions. Historically corporate communications has concerned itself with traditional ‘corporate’ stakeholder and marketing has focused on the consumer of customer.  However the lines between ‘corporate’ and…

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"Staying on the front foot"

Our latest research report, “Staying on the front foot”, is published this week. Drawing on both our observations as specialist headhunters and on interviews with respected corporate affairs directors it describes, in considerable depth, the unique contribution of the corporate affairs leader, and their team, to the leadership and success of an organisation. This analysis is accompanied…

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What happens when general counsel leads the corporate affairs function?

Over recent weeks I have had a number of conversations about the impact on the role and contribution of the corporate affairs function when it is led by a corporate lawyer (i.e. general counsel). And the subject cropped up again today over lunch. There is no doubt that CEOs of companies in heavily regulated industry sectors (e.g. tobacco) feel more…

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Is the corporate affairs director role sufficiently valued and understood?

In a recent article http://tinyurl.com/mj5c8w we highlighted that 43% of FTSE 100 companies have a corporate affairs director on the executive board. With NEDs increasingly wanting reassurance that relationships and reputation are being managed with the same rigour as any other business risk, it would be surprising if this did not increase. The Watson Helsby 2014 FTSE…

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