I recently ended up with a flight out to Frankfurt – and one back from Florence – without one in between. Before I knew it I had a meeting in Vienna and with that I decided to revisit an earlier form of the sharing economy: the humble hitchhike.
As I travelled, and reliant on the goodwill of fellow Europeans, I thought some of the insights would be useful for the IABC Executive Committee, which is meeting in San Francisco this week. Our focus will be on prioritising the work underway on the #IABC1417 strategy – as well as the #IABCieb business as usual.
And I would like to share here too – often the best insights come from unexpected corners, so I am encouraging you to heckle.
In this week’s Weekly Venn I dig into how the ‘gig’; ‘sharing’ and more ‘traditional’ economies intersect, and in this post I’ll be looking at just one of the circles: the so called #sharingeconomy and what it means (in my view) for IABC.
Why am I focusing in on this one over the others? Because the ethos aligns strongly with our purpose as an organisation.
When I am not busy doing IABC stuff, giving talks or facilitating purpose-driven groups; one of the things I do is to help organisations with their communications strategy, business models – and getting their governance structure right.
I have for some years been member of a network of physical spaces that go under the name Impact Hub. They’re focused on start-ups with a social change imperative and are located all over the world – including 3 out of 4 of the cities I visited last week. They’re the perfect place to run workshops like this and meet a type of client I particularly enjoy working with.
I also wanted to get a fresh perspective on some of our enduring challenges as an association (technology) and a short term one (the IABC HQ lease runs out at the end of the year and we’re exploring new ways of working as we work towards the move).
What does hitchhiking have to do with comms?
You might have heard of the phenomenal growth of Airbnb. From niche to mainstream seven short years. Unlike a traditional hotel chain, it owns no rooms, yet claims to bring greater economic benefit to neighbourhoods than traditional operators.
Incidentally, the first website I used to offer up a spare room (or indeed borrow one for the night) is still around now some fourteen years later. Back then I hosted people from Asia, Africa, America, Australia – and of course Europe (and I was in turn hosted across all of those). It was entirely without charge.
Whilst I never had a single negative experience using the completely free approach, it is a lot easier to explain to people the premise of Airbnb. And I have to admit that their website is a lot cooler thanks to the resources they’re able to throw at it.
In similar arena – that of transport – people who would probably never have stuck their thumb out and hoped for the best are trying services like Bla Bla Car to get from A to B as I did last week. It is effectively app-enabled hitchhiking.
Office space, where and how you stay, and the transport you use in-between – have all evolved massively.
People trust Airbnb, Bla Bla Car and a number of the other leading platforms out there because they all integrate an element of social proof. The fact that you share experiences and see how we’re all connected gives an extra level of assurance. These platforms have invested big in this – and for a few of them it is really paying off.
…which leads to a perhaps counterintuitive insight:
Even in our hyperconnected world we should not forget that the analogue often works just as well. A practical example are these two simple boards from one of the coworking places I spent time at on the trip:
They work because of the shared – and sharing – culture.
A. The sharing economy is not new and the Cluetrain Manifesto from 1999 is still as topical (and provocative to some) as ever. It is time to re-read it and make sure we’re not getting stuck in outmoded ways of operating. I welcome your comments.
Meanwhile, one thing is certain: the demands put on our technology infrastructure at IABC will only increase. We will need to continue to invest aggressively to overcome years of underinvestment.
B. ‘Associating’ is one of the purest forms of social proof – and whilst competition for attention might be stronger than ever and there are more free resources coming online every day, we shouldn’t be timid: we provide an essential glue that helps bind people together thanks to our strong, sharing culture.
But I will always know that if it is an IABC event I will not only have a warm welcome (because IABCers are like that) – it’ll also be useful professionally: network extended; insights shared; skills gained; referrals earned.
C. Whilst we must continue to invest aggressively in the underlying technology that keeps our organisation current and dynamic, we must also remember to temper our desires. It is easy to get distracted or lose focus. Technology is the area that can most easily kill an organisation if it isn’t tied to core purpose, competence and clear direction. IABC went through a near-death experience some 15-or-so years ago due to over-ambition. We have also recently experienced some significant technical discomfort due to underinvestment – at a much more basic level. I reported on this at this year’s AGM.
In conclusion, whilst we continue to uprate our core technology infrastructure, I do wonder what we might learn through the use of a simple paper-and-pen approach at local events as well as our global conferences for part of the drive to connect people.
If you’ve tried it, I’d love to hear from you.
I am also interested in any other ideas you have for IABC to further embrace the sharing economy as a way to build our diverse community, strengthen the global profession – and of course #createconnection like never before. Whether in Frankfurt, Florence or indeed San Francisco or any other number of places where communicators can be found around the world.
P.S. If, incidentally, you wonder where all the hitchhikers have gone, then the good people at Freakonomics have part of the broader answer beyond Bla Bla Car.
‘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.
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.
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.
Associations sit naturally in the intersect between the ‘gig’, ‘sharing’ and the more ‘traditional’ economy.
Let’s dive into each in a bit more detail:
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…
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).
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…
Please help #createconnection – share your story.
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:
— IABC (@IABC) August 15, 2015
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Claudia Vaccarone brought two papers for consideration. Both advance our 2014-17 strategy – and a number of 2015 priorities in specific. Both were adopted:
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!
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).
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).
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
Again, look out for the Open Call!
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:
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.
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:
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.
Stay tuned for the next steps on this blog.
Let’s #createconnection like never before.
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.
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?
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.