Corporate Affairs Officers! How to cope with increased expectations of the CEOs

Among executive roles today, the corporate affairs officer may be one of the most influential, yet least predictable in terms of career track. Skill set that a corporate affairs manager should have is also not that obvious.

Today's business environment has become increasingly complex due to political and regulatory changes, greater proliferation of social channels and activist shareholders.

There is a growing demand for elite candidates who can successfully navigate this business environment—while also leveraging and aligning the responsibilities of corporate communications, government relations, public affairs, stakeholder engagement and community relations—and guide companies.

Well.. who could be this person? As a trusted advisor and strategic counselor to the CEO, and members of the senior leadership team, the corporate affairs officer should have the required skills and knowledge base. The job is not just safeguarding the corporate reputation. It is also about being strategists and corporate narrative and its dissemination across all platforms and audiences. Savvy corporate affairs officers have both a deep understanding of the business, and how it is perceived from a social context. Corporate affairs officers are uniquely capable of contributing to analyses of both macro and micro trends.

Today, there is no longer a wall between internal and external audiences. As business strategy is developed, corporate affairs leaders must ensure the organization’s direction and actions are clear, consistent and accurately represent the organization's ethos. Beyond their experience, these leaders are also “learning agile,” meaning they are comfortable adjusting to a fluid business environment where rapid change is the norm. They also are resilient, and have the courage to take risks, push back against prevailing opinion, and actively engage in debate and dialog. In brief, they are skilled at not only building strong internal relationships, but team-building and deploying talent in a way that broadens key skill sets and builds organizational capability. We talk about a kind of super hero. Such a super hero that can elevate and evolve in parallel with the expectations of the board and C-suit.

As an organization gives a bigger importance to corporate reputation, it is expected that corporate affairs officers take a place within upper level management.  Corporate affairs officers should be in a position not commenting on but contributing to the strategy.  People in the first circle of CEO or Chairperson of Board say that everything is great to make them happy. But corporate affairs officers should leave their comfort zone and have dare to say the truth.

Which positions can have so many names? All the names can be used interchangeably? Corporate affairs position is exactly like that. This position can be named in a different way at different sectors and at different companies. Even if the same name is used, you can see big differences in terms of responsibilities.

Let’s start with the names. Corporate affairs, government affairs, public relations, public communications, corporate communication which covers internal communication, official relations, external affairs, Ankara representative. While at some companies’ corporate affairs and communication are carried out by the same department, at the others they are separated.

We can see corporate affairs function in a different structure with resource development in the universities. It is essential here the development of existed partnerships and organizing the relations with the business world.

If you ask Google what corporate affairs is, you may come up with corporate communication. If you change your question as “corporate affairs” you may be directed to the right section.

How corporate affairs is described at job postings? As it is described in job postings; corporate affairs department conducts the business on related sectoral regulations within a company. It is expected that corporate affairs officer work closely mainly with law, sales, marketing and production departments for full compliance of the company with regulations. Another duty which needs to be carried out by corporate affairs officer is to help company for the adjustment to changing market conditions. Corporate affairs department may be responsible for media relations and also for supplying information through efficient intercommunication works that employees may need on the company and sector.

Some corporate affairs officers described their job in a survey as follows;

“The social aspect of corporate affairs is very important since we always present and sell a business.”

“My job is to push through somethings and make a change.”

“For me, corporate affairs do everything related to brand and reputation.”

Is the function of corporate affairs known very well in Turkey? Although it is very common to see corporate affairs position in international companies, visionary national companies hold this position too.  People who have strong political relations, former ministers or bureaucrats were chosen for the positions in the past but now it is not the case. Because the only requirement for the function is not limited to getting paper works done very quickly or having necessary permits or license even though appointments from various organizations without any nuisance. Especially as CEO understands the importance of the function, corporate affairs both in terms of function and position level moves to a higher rank. But nevertheless, many corporate affairs officers are busy with fire extinguishing. In fact as part of golden standard of corporate affairs’ performance, it is expected him/her to foresee and manage significant corporate reputation risks. Prerequisite for this is knowing the perception of key stakeholders better than anyone. Stakeholders’ perception measurement and understanding should be based on sustainable oriented research rather than fragmentary ones. At this stage sustainability becomes a part even fullest extent of agenda of the corporate affairs officer. As a result of this s/he starts managing corporate reputation risks rather than fire extinguishing. Besides s/he deepens his/her knowledge about sector with sustainability perspective and becomes a good corporate story teller. The social aspect of sustainability shows how the business is perceived from a social context by this means it would be possible to meet rising expectations of CEOs. It should be noted that the expectations of the department of corporate affairs from the CEO will also evolve and change too.


The new breed of corporate affairs officer, Richard S.Marshall

A corporate affairs function for the modern World, Odgers Berndtson

Corporate Affairs, Korn Ferry