Sep 14, 2023 - Economy & Business

The search for exec-level communications unicorns heats up

Illustration of an arcade claw machine filled with different colored briefcases

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. job market has stabilized, but there's still demand for executive-level communication talent who aren't afraid to stick their necks out in defense of a company's reputation.

Driving the news: No one understands the changing nature of the job better than top headhunters, who are challenged with recruiting these unicorn-like experts.

And these search firms are also staffing up.

  • Talent advisory firm Diversified Search Group has added Teneo alum Megan Shattuck to oversee its corporate business practice, Axios exclusively learned.
  • Heyman Associates — which focuses on filling executive-level communication roles — just appointed Jessamyn Katz as its new CEO.
  • And DHR Global recently brought on Jessica Bayer to launch their corporate affairs and communication practice.

State of play: The talent pool is more stacked than ever, making these top jobs even more competitive and trickier to fill, according to Brooke Kruger, founder of KC Partners.

  • "Big Tech layoffs created a major influx of comms talent and very loyal, seemingly untouchable employees are now more open to new opportunities with bigger titles and bigger pay," says Kruger.

What they're saying: "The best corporate affairs and CCO talent is able to work across functions, flow from internal to external seamlessly and bring a perspective that adds value and represents good judgment when there's a decision that may impact the reputation of the company," says Shattuck.

  • "Communications has proved its value and it's become a more professionalized function, and with that the stakes and expectations are raised for these candidates," Katz told Axios.

Zoom in: CEOs, founders and boards are more involved in these searches given the critical role these comms leaders play — and they are willing to take their time to find the perfect fit.

  • "The CEO is one of the first people that I'm sitting down with to talk through what his or her priorities are and why this is an important hire for the company ... and if that conversation, isn't there, it sometimes sends a signal on how the function is valued internally," says Shattuck.
  • "Leadership teams have started to really [understand] how reputation equals business value and have dialed up the expectations of our leaders in corporate affairs."

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