There will always be room for specialists in corporate affairs team. If you’re hiring a government relations manager, for example, you’re want them to have a well-developed understanding of how the public service and Ministers' offices work, how they interact and what influences and drives them.
But talking to some of the people who head corporate affairs at major companies, it is clear there is a big demand for generalists with the ability to apply their skills across a wide range of tasks and disciplines.
There always has been, of course, but it seems the need for flexibility and agility has never been greater.
One function head put it this way at a recent conference: “The walls between internal, external and executive communications are collapsing.
“I’m not so interested in talking to someone who has spent 20 to 30 years in internal comms – because it suggests they are still in a silo. I just want good corporate affairs people.”
There is one attribute that just about everyone says is crucial – good writing skills.
Another head of corporate affairs was bemoaning the lack of writing skills in the large number of young comms graduates being turned out by universities.
Someone once said he was writing a long letter to a friend because he didn’t have time to write a short one – it’s a comment attributed to many people from Thomas Jefferson to Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and many others.
Perhaps the modern day equivalent is that telling a story in 140 characters is harder than telling it in 1,000 words.
But while words will always be important, so is numeracy and data analysis.
Some companies are starting to hire data analysts for their corporate affairs teams – it’s one specialist skill the generalists may have to master.