News & Insights

Limelight brings exposure: 10 pressures facing corporate affairs directors today

Last week, BOLDT hosted a discussion in London for a group of senior corporate affairs directors to look at one of the thornier topics affecting the profession currently – the relationship between that function and the CEO.

LONDON – Looking at the statistics, the role of the CEO appears more fragile than ever at the moment, with enormous economic and geopolitical disruption causing pressures that only exacerbate the challenges of driving commercial success in today’s world. About a fifth of FTSE100 companies changed their CEO last year alone.

At the same time, those strains and the unique pressures forced on the CEO/corporate affairs chief relationship by the COVID-19 pandemic have in many ways brought the two roles closer together. CEOs invariably want to be involved in hiring the corporate affairs director, want to feel that they trust them, or want to bring their own pre-trusted person into the role.

Over lunch, one common theme was the reliance that the business now has on the corporate affairs or communications lead to serve as the “conscience” of the organisation. Often, they have to see around corners to sense the reputation risks ahead – and are more in the limelight.

As we said, this was a confidential session. But it produced some fascinating insights into corporate affairs challenges today, the approach to tackling them, and how new business drivers like AI are being approached and governed.


Our guest expert was Gavin Ellwood, founder and Executive Chair of the search firm Ellwood Atfield, which handles many high-stakes corporate affairs roles. He shared multiple insights and recent experiences, but also these observations of the current pressures:

Across the course of the conversation, Gavin touched on the main 10 pressures impacting corporate affairs roles currently:

  1. Public scrutiny of the CEO: being under the microscope increases vulnerability.
  2. Global economic uncertainty: volatility, tensions and curved balls have become the new normal.
  3. Legal and regulatory compliance: ever-more challenges of staying abreast of and ensuring compliance with ever-changing regulations. 
  4. Cybersecurity threats: of breaches, and a failure to protect data can result in significant financial and reputational damage.
  5. Social and environmental responsibility: failure to address the most important areas or indeed getting involved unnecessarily can lead to reputational damage, resulting in the removal of a social licence to operate and impact the company’s bottom line.
  6. Responsibility for stakeholder interests: broader horizons to consider, particularly employee engagement.
  7. Rapid technological changes: AI in particular brings opportunity but fear of obsolescence.
  8. Talent management and retention: managing the expectations and needs of employees can be challenging and people have a greater voice than ever.
  9. Innovation and disruption: the rapid pace of innovation and industry disruption means CEOs must be proactive in anticipating and responding to changes.
  10. Mental health and well-being: CEOs may face stress, burnout, and a sense of isolation. Balancing work and personal life is crucial for their overall resilience.

According to Gavin, the past few years have upped the ante for corporate affairs and seen it more in the limelight. “Peak pandemic saw CA leaders responding to raised demands for employee and stakeholder engagement. The organisation’s agility, securing its license to operate was paramount, the FTSE firms’ share prices were greatly influenced by the corporate narrative at that time. Companies needed to have an opinion or position on issues of the day. The post-pandemic bounce saw lots of businesses thinking it was them, that they were doing something special. It was a short-lived rising tide for everyone.”

We hold confidential lunches in London from time-to-time, covering high-stakes topics. If you’d like to know more, email [email protected]


BOLDT is a senior-led consultancy focused on delivering business strategy, communications and stakeholder engagement to transform organisations and performance. BOLDT has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Düsseldorf, London, Oslo and Zürich. ​BOLDT has a network of international partners which enables us to give clients support across Europe and around the world. BOLDT is now part of Bully Pulpit International. Please visit to learn more.