The challenges facing Global Communications Directors

The challenges facing Global Communications Directors

The Global Communications Director (GCD) faces significant challenges today – cultivating the necessary diversity and resilient international networks to speak effectively to the world’s varied audiences and stakeholders while also preparing to consider the impact of global politics as we move ahead into Brexit Britain, the rise of nationalism and new eras of trade agreements

It seems obvious that, because the world hosts such variety of experiences and ground-truths – education, language, income, upbringing, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, religious or social or political outlook – a GCD must be a veritable doyen of diversity.

So what type of person is usually appointed to this role?

Researching the LinkedIn profiles of 52 GCDs at businesses in the FTSE 250, we discovered intriguing similarities between those charged with piloting global business communications through today’s increasingly complex, edgily nuanced worlds. The typical GCD:

  • Studied at a UK Russell Group university (74 per cent of the group had done so)
  • Studied business, communications and law (33 per cent), social sciences (19 per cent), or humanities (19 per cent) – only 6 per cent of the group had studied STEM subjects
  • Might have a government background (12 per cent) and if so, is extremely likely to have been based in the UK (80 per cent)
  • Probably did not complete their undergraduate studies abroad (19 per cent did so) – more likely their postgraduate studies (29 per cent) – mostly in English-speaking countries
  • Is probably based in London (52 per cent)

It’s clear from the job titles that the role of ‘Global Communications Director’ is shifting to encompass greater responsibilities in marketing and external affairs. Nearly half the study are also members of the Executive Management Team. Perhaps surprisingly, given new emphases on corporate culture and digital media, none of the fifty-two has a background in CSR (the nearest field, investor relations, comes in at just 14 per cent), while only 6 per cent had previous experience in digital communications.

It seems safe to assume that the tectonic pressures observable today in our political and economic worlds aren’t going to cease overnight. So how best can GCDs recruit outside the mainstream for the different backgrounds they need? What on-going training offers maximum future-proofing? What are the implications of the study findings for GCDs currently planning and expanding their comms structures, and for the potential growth of key skillsets inside and around the business?

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Patrick is a Partner in Portland’s Corporate team. He has extensive experience acquired through 11 years of work in the Middle East and has provided counsel to a number of world-leading entities in the media, legal, energy, corporate, health and financial sectors.

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