Keeping Competence Up

Communications as a global profession is the subject of a huge amount of change, and keeping up with all of this makes the difference between excellence or mediocrity.

In some cases, that’s also the difference between being in a job and not.

Keeping up with Professional Development is of course a bread and butter activity for IABC members and the Association does it well. But we also have to keep our offerings up to date.

For the last few months, IABC has been working on updating our offering.  These fruits will come to light over the next few months as new learning products roll off the production line from the IABC Academy (we are putting a committee together for this) and the first exam for the Global Communications Management Professional is offered at IABC World Conference in June.

But meanwhile, last week I took part in a roundtable of ‘seasoned practitioners’ (ie those who have been around for a bit) at Ketchum PR’s office in London.

It was a distinguished group, including Anne Gregory, the Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management (of which IABC is one of the largest members).

The session was hosted by Stephen Weddington, past president of the CIPR and part of the #FuturePR network that Gemma Griffiths and Charlotte Winslet of the CIPR’s Social Media Group have created.

We explored the value and opportunity for developing a competency framework for public relations.  And our conclusion, after some discussion, was that comptency frameworks absolutely were needed.

This is all a work in progress, but I’m grateful to Stephen for starting this important conversation.    If you would like to get involved, please email me.

Meanwhile, continuing on the subject of competence, I want to wish a happy first birthday today to The ICSpace.   

The ICSpace is a pro-bono resource for Internal Communication professionals across the UK government, which one of my teams pulled together in late 2013 and which we launched across the UK Government last year.

Each chapter has top tips, basic tools, case studies and best practice examples to help people doing internal communications do it more effectively.

The venture is entirely non-commercial and UK Government receives no revenue from people using it.   However, it is available to all, so I thought I’d share it for common benefit.

And finally, a plug for the biennial EuroComm – the IABC Europe, Middle East and North Africa Region’s Conference, which runs from April 12th to April 14th in London (which happens to be my home City).

The theme this year Power to the People – how the shift towards power is happening in practice, and communicators can drive this.

Lots of good speakers including one of my forebears, Dr Barbara Gibson.  Early bird discounts now on!

Those We Can Learn From

I want to dedicate this fortnight’s blog to Kate Gross.

Until very recently, Kate was a senior Civil Servant in the UK Government.  She was a stellar performer.

In Kate Grossher twenties, she advised both UK prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Kate was responsible for preparing the Prime Ministers for all their appearances in Parliament. Most of her time was spent on the weekly Prime Ministers’ Questions, which every prime minister in history has dreaded.

Aged 30, Kate went on to become CEO of the Africa Governance Initiative, where she advised governments of Liberia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone on how to shape a better future for their people.

Kate was one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40. She and her peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Kate died on Christmas Day of colon cancer, aged 36.

The reason I want to dedicate this blog to Kate, for whom I had the highest admiration, and who leaves behind  five year old twin sons Oscar and Issac and husband Billy, is that in addition to being all the above, she was also an exemplary communicator.

Kate had a connection with people and a way with words – spoken and written – that made her a natural counsellor and a born leader.

If you want to understand some of Kate’s talent for communication, read her blog which detailed her illness in an informative, evocative way but without self pity – and with plenty of ironic humour for which we Brits are probably famous.

Her piece in The Times, published in mid-December ( you will need to be a subscriber) is also worth reading.   And her book, Late Fragments, is published in early January.

Kate began to write as a gift to herself; a reminder that she could create even as her body began to self-destruct.

I can’t yet think about reading the book myself.  Things are too raw.  But I know it’s not a conventional cancer memoir; nor is it filled with medical jargon or misery. Instead, it aspires for Kate to give hope and purpose to the lives of her readers, even as her own life drew to its close.

I mourn Kate’s passing, reflecting on a tragic loss of what could have been.

But I also celebrate the fact that she was someone I was proud to learn from and who inspired me to be better at what I do.

Kate’s natural talent for explaining the complex in a simple way, and for leading without any pretences, was an opportunity for communicators to practise what I call ‘good grace’.

For, however good we all may be as communications practitioners – and even more, how much we think we are – the fact that communication is a central business discipline means there is always someone, somewhere in business we, too, can learn from.

Kate, rest in peace. I was privileged to know you.