The announcement that CIPR member Katherine Bennett will now lead Airbus in the UK as Senior Vice President is a shot in the arm for public affairs professionals who aspire to the boardroom.
By striving to become a leader in an organisation, a public affairs professional will face different challenges from the senior communications or government relations role they might normally occupy. There is the need to understand the commercial and corporate challenges an organisation faces as well as becoming familiar with the financial priorities and risks. It is also vital to understand the other members of the executive team and to be able to offer valuable counsel when required, particularly to the chief executive.
The nature of the public affairs profession requires practitioners to be able to successfully communicate and engage with a wide variety of stakeholders, both internal and external, from the public and the media to chief executives and Secretaries of State. It is this exposure to multiple levels of government, industry and society that makes public affairs professionals ideal candidates for boardroom level roles.
The CIPR understands that professional expertise is developed through a commitment to high quality research, training, analysis and experience. The institute is determined to equip its members with the tools and skills they need to become the business leaders of the future. It would be interesting to understand what skills and behaviours colleagues believe they are lacking and map where that varies across the communications disciplines.
Political communicators need more examples like the one provided by Katherine. Having spent over a decade within Airbus, heading their public affairs engagement Katherine has built strong relationships across the UK Government but clearly and vitally within Airbus itself. Her promotion is clear indication of the faith the organisation has in her abilities and by all accounts richly deserved.
Are Katherine’s achievements all the more impressive for succeeding in the male-dominated world of engineering? Perhaps, yes. Does it matter? Not at all, but that is no reason to not celebrate the success of an expert political communicator and CIPR member!
Paul Beckford is Chair of the CIPR Public Affairs group.
Image courtesy of flickr user Joao Carlos Medau