Yet another PR list

The list of PR lists has grown yet again with the Salt & Shein Power 50 – a list of Australia’s most influential corporate affairs executives

The list was prepared by an external consultancy and nominees were selected on the basis of their track record as senior practitioners; the regard they are held in by their senior management and peers; influence within their organisations and the corporate affairs industry as a whole; and, their track records as thought leaders.

If you are on the list you probably already know about it; if you are not you don’t want to; but, for others the list can be found at  The blog’s not too sure about who it would put on or turf off but it seems fairly sound. The blog did take the trouble to count the number of alumni from its old firm and found it was 6%. With some immodesty the blog notes that two listed the blog as a mentor and influence although most of the inclusions carefully listed their current boss as a major inspiration. 87% in all nominated an important mentor or mentors who assist them with their careers.

Most of the people on the list were interviewed (a few were unavailable) and the interviews revealed that one of the 50 had a PhD, ten hold MBAs and 22% nominated either Bill Clinton or Paul Keating as the communicator they most admire. Eight per cent of them worked as corporate lawyers at some stage during their career and 21% began their careers as print or electronic journalists. 31% have a political background as a media advisor, policy advisor or chief of staff at State and/or Federal government level. In the mix is one former Premier, Alan Carpenter, at Wesfarmers and four former Chiefs of Staff to a PM, Premier or Cabinet Minister.

In terms of what they do 15% are responsible for managing a communications team outside Australia and 26% have responsibility for investor relations as well as corporate affairs.85% of them believe social media has changed the way their companies are communicating with their stakeholders. Reading the interviews throws up some interesting contrasts and comparisons with the work of senior corporate affairs people in the UK and can be very roughly cross-referenced with Anne Gregory’s research in this area. See the blog 13 March 2014 for more details.

In terms of gender balance there are roughly twice as many males as females in the top 50 – the survey points that there are 34 males and 16 females with a respective ration of 68% to 32%.  This doesn’t reflect the situation in the industry as a whole of course and also throws some adverse light on theories about women being denied Board positions because they are over-represented in allegedly ‘softer’ management areas.

The most striking thing about the interviews with the 50 is that these ‘thought leaders’ have a rather banal take on the key challenges facing business. The challenges nominated were the high cost of doing business in Australia; the need for productivity improvement; over-regulation; and, harnessing social media. Now a check on any day of the finance media suggests these are the themes most Australian business leaders prattle on about all the time – usually demonstrating abysmal levels of knowledge about the actual facts of the matter (eg the productivity situation and the root causes of any problems therein). They are like characters out of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit who comfortably rabbit on about their class conventional wisdom.

One can understand the senior corporate affairs leaders echoing the concerns – however trite – of their bosses. But really outstanding corporate affairs advisors display exceptional environmental intelligence. In the words of Peter Drucker they bring the outside inside an organisation and act as gatherer of information about trends and realities outside the parameters normally encountered at the front end of the plane, in chauffeur driven cars or in the Business Council of Australia. They challenge conventional wisdom rather than accepting it. The majority of the 50 may be doing this within their organisations and prefer not to disclose their innermost thoughts about the real issues to Salt & Shein and the world. As most of them would be earning between $450,000 and $1 million a year one sincerely hopes so.