All posts by Michael Ambjorn

Michael is Past Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators. He is also founder of Align Your Org where – with a participation-centric approach – he and his colleagues enable effective strategic planning, communication – and clarity of execution. He has held leadership roles at IBM, Motorola and the 260–year–old Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. A consummate connector, speaker, facilitator - and mentor - he is also active in a number of further networks. You can follow him @michaelambjorn

It’s the economy … but perhaps not as you know it

‘Gig Economy’ and ‘Sharing Economy’ are two catchphrases that have recently been in the press a lot – the first because of negative connotations and the later for more positive reasons.

Neither are new concepts, but they are increasingly being felt as forces of change. There’s a third popular term, the ‘Collaborative Economy’ which sits at the intersect.

And then you have the ‘Traditional’ setup of fixed, 9-5 employment.

Confusing right? Yes. Especially when there is change afoot. This post will hopefully shed some light on these.

The most memorable outrage against the market changing I’ve come across was at a panel discussion in 2009 at London’s Frontline Club: A set of professional photographers practically mauled the BBC’s editor of user-generated content for threatening their profession: accepting photos for news stories from the public – taken by amateurs on non-pro cameras.
Then, from the edge of the packed room, a seated lady of some considerable age and experience weighed in – bringing about complete silence: she shared her story of how she started out as a writer, reminding the assembled group that fance tools don’t equate to talent, professionalism and craftsmanship. Anybody can after all pick up a pen and start writing… It is not the typewriter that makes the professional (or indeed the camera).

A much longer term shift well beyond the semantics has been underway for quite some time – what is happening is it is hitting the mainstream.  And it has implications for how communication professionals operate – and advance. In this week’s Venn we’ll look at the intersect – and I’ll be keen to hear your experiences of how you have adapted, as well as any implications you feel it has for associations such as ours.

The latter is highly topical this week as the IABC Executive Committee and our senior staff convene in San Francisco for a summit set to focus and prioritise the work underway as part of the #IABC1417 strategy.

The Gig Economy explained

Strategic advice on communications has been around as long as Aristotle but the way it is secured has changed over the years. Think of ten communicators in your network five years ago vs. now and I expect you’ll find that quite a few have increasingly been working ‘gigs’ at least part of the time rather than in ‘traditional’ full time employment.

An informal poll of my own network also shows that those who remain in ‘traditional’ employment increasingly supplement their project teams with ad-hoc assistance, either drawn from their own network, or through intermediaries such as VMA, Harkness Kennett and equivalents. You could call it small-scale outsourcing.

Some also turn to platforms such as guru.com (around since ’01), elance or Upwork – and you may even have visited the Crews Control exhibitor stand at World Conference – they act as an intermediary between corporates and video teams having facilitated an impressive 84,000+ shoots!

The advantage for professionals operating in this space is potentially more freedom, self-determination – and ideally higher pay. The drawback is that each needs entrepreneurial skills, in addition to their communications expertise.

The Sharing Economy in context

Where the gig economy is about short-term transactions, usually with a financial element to them, the sharing economy is a much broader concept.

What really sets it apart is the ethos.

Whilst your Airbnb booking might not be that cheap, you do expect a less commercial experience than you might in a hotel. In other words, whilst the gig economy is at least old as the Guilds that used to govern the medieval professions, the sharing economy is as old as hitching a ride and on that note, I’ve got a Field Notes companion piece to this one based on my insight from a week working my way from Frankfurt to Florence, via Prague and Vienna – where I’ll talk more about insights from what you might call the bleeding edge of all three economies. The intersect known as the collaborative economy.

The collaborative intersect – from a global profession point of view

Associations sit naturally in the intersect between the ‘gig’, ‘sharing’ and the more ‘traditional’ economy.

Through providing professional standards, a code of ethics – and a career roadmap – IABC caters for all of them.

Let’s dive into each in a bit more detail:

Traditional

This is the place where standards, the career roadmap, certification etc. (as set out above) at first feel the most familiar – but they have an important role to play in the…

Sharing economy

Through our ethos of collaboration and freely sharing experience and advice, our members advance their careers.

This happens through hundreds of local events; our big conferences (London, San Francisco, Johannesburg, Baltimore, Denver, Calgary etc. this year alone); mentoring programmes – and of course our 42,000 strong LinkedIn group.

What ties it all together and makes it work is that shared objective set of frameworks: the Global Standard, the Career Roadmap etc. and of course for our leaders, the IABC Leadership Competency Framework (you’ll quickly come across the latter if you apply for one of the current opportunities to step up and lead).

Gig economy

It looks like it is here to stay, and railing against it like the photographers in the story from ’09 might consign us to the fate of Kodak (who incidentally is in the news again for suppressing an invention in 1975 which could have put them in pole position for the future).

In fact, I would argue that through the diverse community that is our membership, professionals have been finding and exchanging opportunities for as long as we have been around (45 years and counting!).

We’ve been looking more at how we might best step our support here – and see the P.S. below for one thing on that front you can do right now. Meanwhile…

In conclusion – I’m keen to hear your experiences of:
  • how you have adapted to this changing environment?
  • if it changed your working relationships?
  • what implications do you think it has for associations such as ours?

Please help #createconnection – share your story.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the market on your onw, here’s a worthwhile workshop by one of IABC’s most highly decorated communicators – who has comprehensive across all three economies.

…and as usual, here’s a ready-made tweet for you:

 

The Weekly Venn: Why lead?

I sometimes get asked why I do what I do for IABC and the answer is simple: it sits at the intersect of what I enjoy doing (work with great people), what I am reasonably good at (I hope) and finally, a vision, mission and purpose I believe in (absolutely).

To make that come a bit more alive, I’ve also shared it in the form of a brief story: a 62 word sestude in line with this storytelling challenge (do take it too – you’ll be in good company).

Why lead? Don’t just take my word for it

Getting on Board infographic the benefits of board level volunteering. Click the image to download.
Getting on Board infographic the benefits of board level volunteering. Click the image to download PDF.

We’re an international association – and whilst I recognise that there is invariably some variation across countries, I did find this dataset from UK non-profit Getting on Board on the value of board-level leadership experience compelling (check out the infographic on the right):

It’s official – being a trustee makes the UK’s professionals happier, more confident – and perhaps even richer.

Note: whilst the term trustee/trusteeship is used here, I believe it is interchangeable with board-level leadership – and I also believe that similar results would come out of a geographically broader study. Agree/Disagree? Comment below.

Also worth noting from the study:

The results reveal that for job seekers, trusteeship is more important than ever. 92% of trustees who are currently out of work said they felt being a trustee was building their professional skills and boosting their motivation. 73% of respondents said that a role on a charity board boosted their confidence.

For ambitious workers, board level volunteering could provide the next step up the corporate ladder. Trusteeship has taught vital skills to 100% of respondents aged 18-24, with 65% of all trustees stating that a board volunteering role has improved their CV. A quarter of respondents (22%) even went so far as to say that they received a promotion as a result of trusteeship. Trusteeship can also be an important weapon in cultivating female leaders. 74% of polled women improved in confidence thanks to being a trustee, and 38% had new leadership aspirations as a result.

Board-level volunteering is doing wonders for UK employers too. 85% of bosses said trusteeship is an effective and low-cost way for staff to develop skills. 62% of bosses believe that firms that encourage trusteeships among employees positively raise their corporate responsibility profile.

Need more to justify the time to yourself or your employer?

Continue reading The Weekly Venn: Why lead?

The Weekly Venn: stories that #createconnection

Natasha Nicholson
Natasha Nicholson
Jessica Burnette-Lemon
Jessica Burnette-Lemon
Caroline Cornell
Caroline Cornell

The August issue of Communication World is out.

And it is all about storytelling.

Communication World: What's your story?

I found the Mark Di Somma article on telling stories that connect useful, and I loved Lynda McDaniel’s dissection of the six elements of a good story. Read more here: cw.iabc.com/ – and big thanks to Natasha Nicholson and her team for pulling off another great issue.

IABC is full of great storytellers

To pick up on the theme I am going to challenge a few folk to tell a story… and to make it more manageable in the winter sun (if you’re in South Africa) or the summer heat (if you’re in, say, London): I am going to suggest you keep it concise.

In fact a mere 62 words – aka – a sestude.

Ezri Carlebach
Ezri Carlebach

I learnt about this from long-time IABCer Ezri Carlebach and he’s already put his bit in against this challenge.

// In 62 words, share your story of how IABC helped you #createconnection

The visual leading this story implies that it sits at the intersect of people, profession and practice – but I expect there’ll be some creative interpretations that push those boundaries. That’s certainly what I found at a recent IABC UK event focused on storytelling. Riveting it was too.

Great stories across the globe

Is your Chapter putting something on connected to any of the upcoming Communication World (CW) themes? I’d be interested to know.

Here’s what is coming up:

  • September — Barriers to authenticity
  • October — Targeted communication
  • November — Make change management a participatory process
  • December — Communication trends for 2016: A look ahead

Also, did you know that you can contribute to CW?

This is a timely opportunity to thank the CW Editorial Advisory Panel for their time and dedication – if you’re up for serving in such a capacity, look out for an Open Call coming soon, as I outlined in my inaugural comments at the recent IABC Annual General Meeting.

Ultimately, is the answer is 42… 42,000?

And whilst I have your attention, it is also a great moment to talk about another element of how IABC is using our 42,000 strong LinkedIn group to create connection.

Melissa Dark ABC
Melissa Dark ABC

Our Communications Director, Melissa Dark ABC, has been working with her team to tighten up the moderation on the group so that it is better meeting the its good-practice sharing aim:

The members of this group share new, relevant and thought-provoking content, as well as create and participate in conversations that share knowledge and further the global communication profession.

And practical example which I love is a new effort to connect the dots between a couple of different streams currently in play: an opportunity to continue the weekly #CommChat beyond the usual one hour slots (and the 140 character limit).

2015 08 LinkedIn #commchat continuation

How topical that the first one was ‘choosing the right comms channel’. I hope you’ll get stuck in!

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. You can find the full group rules on the About page within the group.

P.P.S. If you’re up for helping spread the word on storytelling, here’s a ready-made one for you:

#IABCieb Notes & Queries: August ’15 board meeting

Dianne Chase
Dianne Chase
Ginger Homan ABC
Ginger Homan ABC

The IABC International Executive Board – aka #IABCieb – just closed out its third board meeting of this term and here’s a quick recap of what was on the table in addition to the usual reports from the Chair; Vice Chair Dianne Chase (with a specific focus on the work of the Council of Regions – aka #IABCcor); Treasurer Ginger Homan ABC and last definitively but not least, the report from our Executive Director, Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE:

Awards

Cindy Schmieg ABC
Cindy Schmieg ABC
Monika Lancucki ABC
Monika Lancucki ABC

Cindy Schmieg ABC, board liaison to the Gold Quill Committee, shared an update on their work: it is well underway with planning for this year’s awards cycle.

I hasten to bring your attention to the opportunity to serve here: are you the next Vice Chair of Awards? You’ll be working with Monika Lancucki ABC who is looking to take the awards work to the next level in line with the board’s priorities for this year.

If you want to see how the Gold Quill framework can be used off-season too, check out this earlier post.

Academy

Theomary Karamanis PhD
Theomary Karamanis PhD
Sharon Hunter
Sharon Hunter
Ron Hansen PhD
Ron Hansen PhD

The board also had an update from the IABC Academy – one of the perhaps less exciting roles of the board (yet essential) is reviewing terms of reference to ensure clarity of roles, responsbilities – and ultimately alignment with our purpose, vision, and mission. Big thanks to Academy Chair Theomary Karamanis (and congrats again on the recent move to Cornell) as well as board liaison Sharon Hunter for their work on this with Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE and Ron Hansen, our Education Director on staff. This work forms an essential part of the #IABC1417 strategy, specifically in consolidating gains from the 2011-13 strategy cycle.

Meet the full IABC Academy Committee and check out the upcoming workshops and webinars that can help you stay sharp in a competitive environment.

World Conference

Preston Lewis
Preston Lewis
Natasha Nicholson
Natasha Nicholson
Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE
Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE

Carlos, our Executive Director, took us through the comprehensive report on this year’s World Conference – big thanks goes out to Preston Lewis who chaired the #IABC15 Programme Advisory Committee and helped feed into the analysis work led by Natasha Nicholson, IABC’s Director of Content. All that after they had delivered a successful conference too! ‘No rest …’ as the saying goes.

Stacy Wilson ABC
Stacy Wilson ABC

I’m super excited to be working with Stacy Wilson ABC on #IABC16. We’ve had a tremendous response to the Open Call to serve on the 2016 Programme Advisory Committee. Great to see so many leaders from around the world looking to step up and serve.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you all to New Orleans.

Here’s a sneak peek – do help spread the word:

Continue reading #IABCieb Notes & Queries: August ’15 board meeting

#IABCieb Notes & Queries: June ’15 Board Meeting

The IABC International Executive Board – aka #IABCieb – held its first board meeting of this term at #IABC15 in San Francisco and here’s a quick recap of what was on the table:

Strategy 2014-17 & 2015 priorities

Dianne Chase
Dianne Chase
Shannon Frederick ABC
Shannon Frederick ABC
Ron Fuchs APR
Ron Fuchs APR
Alain Legault

In addition to welcoming new board members featured to the right – and thanking those outgoing – the incoming board started off reviewing the road travelled so far.

From the strategic intent for 2014-17:

Financial recovery and sustainability is primary, as is the loyalty and development of our members and leaders and consolidating gains from the 2011-14 strategy.

The big opportunity to be grasped is then: Increased reputation in the profession; better brand positioning; and greater interaction with business – as a revenue generator and reputationally.

To the more detailed priorities for 2015.

I thought I might share what an engaging road it has been – as it has been a long one, I’ve put that right at the end for those who want to geek out on what it takes to arrive at a shared strategy – there are no shortcuts…

Following the strategy grounding, the board discussed alignment – and ran through the playbook for the year: essentially who does what, when and why.

The board then considered a number of papers for decision:

Membership Task Force & Survey Policy

Claudia Vaccarone
Claudia Vaccarone

Claudia Vaccarone brought two papers for consideration. Both advance our 2014-17 strategy – and a number of 2015 priorities in specific. Both were adopted:

  1. The first one kicked off a focused look at our membership offering. A range of initiatives have looked at elements of membership over the years, yet based on feedback from our leaders across the world, it is time to take a look at the bigger picture as the market is changing fast. The group includes leaders from across the world identified through the IABC Council of Regions and will report back at the 2016 Leadership Institute.
  2. The second paper was on surveying – recognising that in the age of big data it also needs to be well structured! The aim is to switch from the current ad-hoc approach to a regular schedule of timely and relevant surveys from IABC that can help inform leaders for action at all levels of the organisation

Nominations Process

In the interest of securing the best leadership talent to help IABC deliver on its mission, vision and purpose – and in line with its stated philosophy:

“IABC is a volunteer-driven organization whose strength is derived from the dedication of its members to the advancement of their profession, with a commitment to improving the effectiveness of organizations through strategic, interactive, integrated business communication management.”

The board agreed to institute open calls for relevant incoming IEB Board and Programmatic Committees using the IABC Leadership Competency Framework. Look out for the Open Calls!

Editorial Committee

Stephen Welch
Stephen Welch

The board considered a paper I had asked Stephen Welch to put together in collaboration with Natasha Nicholson, IABC’s Content Director and Editor of Communication World (CW).

Natasha Nicholson
Natasha Nicholson

I am glad to report that the board agreed to a proposal to reinvigorate our approach here, making it a shared approach across all of IABC – we have great events, insights and outputs created across the world every day. Now let’s turn it into a real global conversation.

Look out for the Open Call for a refreshed Editorial Advisory Committee to come in and help shape the conversation that advances the profession – and if you’re a Chapter Leader, you don’t have to wait, you can align your event schedule to the CW editorial calendar right now (and indeed, pitch an article).

Audit & Risk

Learn what is happening within nonprofit boardrooms today in this comprehensive review and analysis of the Leading with Intent survey data; includes insights into trends, strengths, and challenges across the sector.
Learn what is happening within nonprofit boardrooms today in this comprehensive review and analysis of the Leading with Intent survey data from BoardSource.

The board agreed to a broader remit for the IABC Audit Committee.

Good industry practice, as set out in Leading with Intent – a national index of nonprofit board practice – indicates that an organisation of IABC’s size should have a separate Audit Committee. This is already in place at IABC, yet historically it has focused mainly on the association’s finances, unlike other organisations where it has a broader remit. Also, unlike many Audit Committees it does not meet throughout the year, nor does it consider broader risk for the organisation – as is good
industry practice.

Again, look out for the Open Call!

IABC Annual Policy Review Checklist

IABC Fellow Brad Whitworth ABC
IABC Fellow Brad Whitworth ABC
Zora Artis GAICD
Zora Artis GAICD
Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE
Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE

The board also had a report on the work done by the IABC Policy Review Committe, led in its inaugural year by IABC Fellow Brad Whitworth ABC.

Brad reported that the Policy Review Committee has assisted across a number of areas across in the
2014-15 board year:

  • First broad review of the IABC Policy Manual for 10+ years.
  • Terms of Reference review and recommendations for the Global
    Communication Certification Council and the IABC Ethics Committee.
  • Review and recommendations for 2015 updates to the IABC bylaws.
  • New model bylaws for a Region – with a pilot roll-out for APAC.

Big thanks to the hard working 2014-15 team: Michael Ambrozewicz, Suzanne Poggio and our Executive Director Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE. Also congrats to Zora Artis GAICD who has taken the lead for this strand of work for 2015-16.

Notes from the road to #IABC1417

The IABC operates against a rolling three-year strategy and as the 2011-14 strategy came to a close, the work preparing the way for 2014-17 – aka #IABC1417 – was already well underway:

Russell Grossman ABC
Russell Grossman ABC

Back in 2013 the board directed the then Vice Chair, Russell Grossman ABC, to convene a working group to deliver a framework by June 2014 – and Russell in turn asked me to do the facilitation work.

Recognising that IABC strategy is by its nature iterative – we need to bring all stakeholders with us – #IABC1417 is not a big bang; more an evolution that helps us transform over time.

Overview of how we got to where we are at today:

  • Summer 2013 – Russell Grossman ABC convenes Strategy Group virtually
  • October 2013 – Strategy Group meets for Think Tank in Los Angeles and defines the challenge, sets out ambitions and identifies high level opportunities
  • November 2013 – January 2014 – Strategy Group deliberates further on Basecamp
  • February 2014 – The Council of Regions (CoR) and the leader of the Chapter Relations Task Force + key staff hold a Think Tank session at the 2014 IABC Leadership Institute in New Orleans. Burning issues are explored as a way of creating a common purpose. Prezi: j.mp/IABC1417-LIprogressprezi
  • March 2014 – Outputs from the new deliberations continue on the dedicated Basecamp site; Past Chairs asked to start wrapping up outputs and outcomes from 2011-14 – aka – #IABC1114 so that we can honour and celebrate the many people who helped make it happen.
  • April 2014 – Strategy Group discussion continues via dedicated Basecamp; IABC’s International Executive Board (IEB) reviews strategy discussion deck
  • May 2014 – Deliberations continue virtually across the IEB and Strategy Group Basecamps in preparation for more formal review
  • June 2014 – A formal proposal for the strategy is taken to the IEB for approval
  • July 2014 – A senior staff day-long summit with the IABC executive held to further align on the strategy and agree the prioritised operational plan for the year which flows from it.
  • Autumn 2014 – This then determined the strategic workplan for IABC staff, to operationalise for 14- 15. The Strategy also became the workplan for the 2014-5 IEB.
  • January 2015 – Then IABC Chair Russell Grossman ABC gives update in quarterly report
  • February 2015 – Q&A with leaders at the ’15 Leadership Institute in Orlando
  • April 2015 – Further update in quarterly report
  • June 2015 – Annual Report for financial year 2014 issued

Stay tuned for the next steps on this blog.

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

Introducing #IABCieb Notes & Queries; a Weekly Venn and more…

David Kistle ABC, IABC Chair 2004-05
David Kistle ABC

The first Chair of IABC to blog was David Kistle ABC – back in 2004 – some eleven years ago. Topical at the time as blog was in fact then the Merriam-Webster Word of the Year.

Russell Grossman ABC, Chair 2014-15
Russell Grossman ABC

Russell Grossman ABC picked up on this precedent as part of his commitment to visible leadership – and I’ll be carrying it on across my 2015-16 term.

I’ll be sharing Field Notes from trips. Also, to keep things regular, look out for a Weekly Venn connecting tools, people and practice related to international communications.

Last but not least, one of the things I’ve heard repeatedly over the years from our leaders across the world is a desire to be kept up-to-date with the broader work of the association’s board. People put in a remarkable amount of time and effort across the globe to advance the profession (and of course our shared organisation) and communication and collaboration are at the centre of making that work.

To that end I am introducing a category on this blog called #IABCieb Notes & Queries.

It has two simple aims:

  1. Share brief notes from board proceedings;
  2. Collate questions, queries – and their answers – for easy access.

Want to geek out and get a bit more of the backstory – and also the basic template I went through to explain this approach in more detail to others?

Continue reading Introducing #IABCieb Notes & Queries; a Weekly Venn and more…

The year ahead: greater interaction, greater connection

SAP CEO Bill McDermott thanking his comms advisor on stage at #IABC15
SAP CEO Bill McDermott thanking his comms advisor on stage at #IABC15

If the financial crisis didn’t teach us anything else, then it hopefully taught us that it is not just commercial firms that need to operate professionally and with a solid business model.

Non-profits need to do that too, and increasingly we see expectations like this put on government departments as well. What is common across all of these? These organisations need solid professional communicators to support them. Don’t take my word for it. Take SAP’s CEO – our keynote speaker earlier [at #IABC15] – take his word for it.

The Global Communication Certification Council will, under the leadership of Sue Heuman, ABC, deliver the next level exam. Meanwhile the Academy will step up under the leadership of Theomary Karamanis to meet the need for new skills in fast changing landscape.

What can you expect from me? I will follow the path Russell has forged for visible leadership at IABC. At the time Russell took over we needed a strong central figure to continue to hold things together. Looking at this room, and reflecting on the progress we have made – as challenging as it has been – I would like to venture to say that we now need a thousand leaders to stand up and be counted.

We have a thousand leaders in this association.

You’re a highly engaged bunch. You’re kind. You’re hard working. And you’re demanding.

So what will I do to help you? I will do my utmost to live what we want the tone around here to be:

Accessible          Open         Lighter         Contemporary         Professional

To that end, and accompanying the now once-again regular quarterly reports I am instituting a quarterly progress call – the corporates amongst you will know it as an earnings call – but we of course have no shareholders. We do however have stakeholders and we need to continue to have regular exchanges, as piloted this year as ‘open mics’. Look out for an invite to a Google Hangout where you can hold me, and the board, to account, ask questions and get straight answers.

I will also kick off a new conversation once a month – aligned with the IABC editorial calendar – and I encourage you to participate, or indeed, kick off your own.

What do I hope to review with you when I stand here next year?

Continue reading The year ahead: greater interaction, greater connection