THURSDAY 13 JUL 2017 3:46 PM

WATSON HELSBY SURVEYS CORP COMMS DIRECTORS OF THE FTSE 100

Company reputation is difficult to make and easy to break. In a world turbulent with political shift, uncertainty in media and the digitisation of information, the role of the corporate communications and affairs director is arguably now under more scrutiny than ever. Yet, in the annual survey of the FTSE 100 group directors of corporate communications and affairs, carried out by executive headhunter firm Watson Helsby, some unexpected changes emerged. Perhaps the as the corporate landscape shifts, so too does the corporate communications role.

A notable shift in corporate communications has been in lexicon surrounding ‘values’ and ‘goals.’ If not readily applied to a corporation’s day-to-day working, the use of such words is meaningless. As a result, Watson Helsby says, the survey results show how ‘purpose’ has come to be the remit of communicators. “Corporate brand is less about corporate identity and more concerned with purpose and behaviours (“what we stand for, why we exist”) and it is very much seen as the domain of corporate communications/affairs rather than marketing,” says the survey. “This is because of the strong connection between the corporate brand, the corporate narrative and ultimately reputation.”

Furthermore, organisational scale continues to influence pay brackets; the higher the number of the company, the less the wage. “The average salary for a FTSE 20 corporate communications/affairs director is £380,000, vs an average salary of £210,00 for a FTSE 51-100 corporate communications/affairs director,” says the Watson Helsby report. The correlation between salary and membership to the national executive committee is pronounced, but does not tell the whole story. Indeed, influence, years of service and sector in which the director operates are all factors informing the director’s average salary.

Gender is another area in which the historically male-dominated corporate communications director role has shifted, this time in a dramatic – and perhaps unprecedented – sense. Now 51% of those in FTSE 100 with group corporate communications directors are female, said by Watson Helsby to be part of a wider trend noticeable each year.

Says the report, “For the first time since… 2013, there are now more female group corporate communications/affairs directors than male. Though the split is marginal (51% vs. 49%) women have consistently gained ground in recent years.” Although the report gives no concrete reasons behind such an interesting development, initiatives taken by many organisations which strive towards achieving gender parity in senior management could be a factor. More flexibility in work-life balance and addressing workplace gender imbalance might also contribute.

Change is not confined only to gender, however, with the career ladder climbed to reach corporate communications director roles less straightforward than in previous years. “The figure for those who have a background in PR/communications has declined from 70% to 59%,” read the Watson Helsby report findings. Dropping significantly to 18% is the next biggest group, those stemming from investor relations or banking backgrounds. In third place, dropping from second in 2015/16, is communications directors with a background in public affairs or governmental positions.

Overall, the findings by Watson Helsby point to a role subject to a wide variety of external influences. The report indicates numerous important changes for both corporate communicators and workplaces in which they operate. Ultimately, however, reputation and trust is at the crux of all things corporate communications directors and affairs directors achieve. “A key part of the role is to make sure that building trust with its stakeholders is a fundamental part of the company’s corporate strategy and that we are delivering it,” says the report. It is likely such an approach will continue.

For the full report, click here.