It’s Sunday fortnight (that’s every two weeks folks) so time to write my blog. In this case, my final as IABC International Chair, before I step across to the Past Chair role.
An attendee at the special Reception we held here in San Francisco, to thank all our leaders from across the world observed that, while I absolutely seemed content to hand over the reins, that action lacked the sense of imperative of my two predecessors.
I explained, simply, that I have had a good year; one in which much has been achieved – the reason being that Robin McCasland and Kerby Meyers worked so hard to tackle some of the really big issues the Association faced, so that the coast was clearer for me to progress.
So as I finish up the year, content I am. At a personal level, it’s been great. But more importantly, I believe it’s been one in which IABC itself has moved forward again.
Much of this has also been possible through the arrival of Executive Director, Carlos Fulcher; and as any Chair knows, working well with your Chief Executive is an essential precursor for organisational success.
I’ve been true to my promise to be more open and transparent with members. I’ve made visible leadership a priority and have visited, in person, around 50 chapters, events or corporate members this year.
I’ve also done this blog fortnightly; produced 20 videos; been pretty active on Twitter; produced two Quarterly Reports (the next will be due in July); and created a direct IABC email link: email@example.com – which did not have to go first to headquarters, and which I have usually replied to people on within 24 hours.
We also did the popular ‘open mic’ session at February’s International Executive Board, held at the International Leadership Institute in Orlando, and I held a similar session, virtually, with IABC Fellows later that month.
The response I’ve received to all this has been excellent. Undoubtedly, in a very enjoyable year overall, connecting with members has been the most enjoyable thing for me.
Plus, we have produced an Annual Report this year, for which I especially want to thank Vita Kernel ABC as the driving force. That should be available online tomorrow (Monday).
And of course we have launched our new ‘brand’. I’ve used marks here around ‘brand’ because so far our communication has actually concentrated on a new logo. It goes along however with the shared brand values which are an integral part of this exercise.
Like an oil tanker, turning IABC takes effort, time and patience. We started to turn the wheel in the 2011-14 strategy; now the ship has begun to alter course, and the propeller is at full speed.
IABC knows we must supplement, and in some cases supplant, our traditional activities with ones which will bring in new revenue sources; those we can then continue to fund activities at the local level with, and ones appropriate for today’s generation.
But let me squash rumours that I have heard more than once in San Francisco that IABC is about to kill off World Conference. There are no such plans. In fact, we have just signed up for the Hilton in Washington for 2017.
Both were long-promised to our global stakeholders; and all the research we’ve done this year on business brokerage also points to this being a winner for the future. More work on this in the coming year.
The fact that I have never been a Chapter President, nor ever served on a Region Board; never entered or judged a Gold Quill nor a Silver Leaf has, I believe, allowed me to increase our ambition this year to strike out in previously non-traditional areas while committing to the best of what we know is the heart and soul of IABC.
But this is a work for the Association far from finished and I know that Michael Ambjorn, who worked with me last year on our three year (2014 – 2017) Strategy is committed to continue bridging the gap between those – principally, older generations – who know and love IABC for what it has been and those – principally younger generations – who do not regard us as a has-been.
We must ensure we remain time served, but do not become life expired..
This year, also, we have established a Communications Committee to boost our external communications : a work started but again, there is more to be done.
Knowing when to step across – and thereafter to step down – is as important as knowing when to step up. In the coming year, I am looking at IABC’s ‘talent pipeline’ : how do we attract not just enthusiastic people to leadership in IABC, but more importantly capable ones.
Then, how do we keep people trained and motivated rather than drained and deactivated.
And finally, when we’ve finished with them, how do we put the best leaders in the recycle, rather than the general trash (what we know in the UK as the ‘black bin’).
Look out for my past chair’s blog, devoted to this subject.
I‘ve had an immensely enjoyable year and would like to thank everyone – and there are a huge number – who have supported me in my work this year.
I could also not have achieved this role without the patience and forbearance of my long-suffering wife, Mrs Grossman who as I write this has yet again gone alone to our friends’ children getting married.
Thank you all – it’s been a blast (as they say in Canada).
(PS – The Secret Weapon)
This is my penultimate blog. It’s a diptych with my “worse than goldfish” one.
….So my eye was caught this week by an item in the Financial Times about “hurry sickness”.
A chap called Richard Jolly, a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, has identified what he calls “an epidemic of executives spending much of their time rushing around”.
They cram so much stuff into their schedules that there is no time to metaphorically look out of the window.
I find much of my own day – and night – is like this.
I regularly have two laptops (work and personal) and an iPad out on the desk : switching to one when the other is showing what we affectionately know at work as “the circle of doom” – that little thing that spins round while Windows 8 works out what it is supposed to be doing. (Mac users please sigh at this stage).
This very blog has been created over a period of four days – three paragraphs at a time.
And I probably read no more than 70% of what potentially I could usefully read. One day, I will get to the end of the IABC Policy Manual. Though I have to get to the middle first.
Basically, unless it is short, easy to read, and to the point : it can all just become too difficult to bother with.
British Airways’ crisis manual is, famously, just seven pages long. This blog, like the way we write news releases today, is deliberately meant to be scanned quickly, tasted, then swallowed or spat out. I would prefer you swallowed.
We need to remember this when writing things. IABC has produced an annual report for the first time this year. It will be online later in the coming week.
Producing the report is a commitment I made on accession, to increase IABC leaders’ transparency and our connection with leaders. The Annual Report is also designed to be a reference for non-members for some months afterwards.
The challenge was to produce something where more people would read it than had written it; an instance which does not always visit corporate reports.
I hope we have achieved this in the IABC Annual Report. Look out for it later this coming week.
And special thanks to Vita Kernel ABC, Sharon Hunter and our pro-bono design agency ImageStudio Creative Communications Ltd who have all done a brilliant job.
I was speaking at a conference last Thursday when someone asked me what book I would most recommend.
“None” I replied…..to the clear concern of at least two prolific authors present. “I don’t think people have time to read books any more”, I said.
Really, I don’t. Sad perhaps, but our lives are so crammed full with snacking on digital content across all our devices that we barely finish a paragraph before being distracted by the next thing. Having to negotiate a whole chapter, never mind a book, feels more than daunting.
You may, in fact, already have lost interest in this blog post……
But if you haven’t, then according to Microsoft research just released, Canadians now have shorter attention spans (8 seconds, was 12 seconds in 2012) than goldfish (9 seconds, was 9 seconds in 2012) — and our always-on portable devices may be to blame.
You can read the rest of that article in Canada’s National Post (it also appeared elsewhere) yourself.
It’s not just Canadians though. In the UK, research we have done in UK Government suggests people look at their mobile devices an average of 161 times a day and that “snackable content” – quick to read, quick to digest…..and quick to transmit to others – is the way forward.
Let’s think about that – and goldfish – when we create our content.
What used to be the standard 75 minute standard presentation is itself now down to an hour. But if you thought you were being short changed, there are more than 80 sessions to choose from. All in downtown, beautiful San Francisco.
Designed around the theme “Changing The Landscape, Informing The Future” , the Communication World Conference is very much about focusing on things that respond to a changing world.
If you haven’t registered yet, time is running out. More on the Conference website.
Sorry, have to go. Just been distracted by something else….
I’m writing this blog at the end of a very busy and successful few days with Canadian Chapters in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal.
If you didn’t know already, the first three of those constitute respectively the second, third and fourth largest in the Association.
I was going to come earlier in the year to Canada but the locals said there was too much snow. (I remember too well all the snow when I was in Toronto in January, but apparently that’s nothing for Montreal – and one of the latter’s residents actually sent me an infographic to prove it).
Anyway, as always with these things, it was a hugely instructive visit and, per my last blog, I did a lot of listening.
With various groups we covered a range of subjects, including the Association’s ‘business brokerage’ proposal (which is nearing the end of its research phase) and Certification, which is offering its first level exam in June at the World Communications Conference in San Francisco.
So what struck me most of all from all these visits?
At the synagogue last week (if you’re interested, the Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount, QC – the oldest congregation, and largest building, in the whole of Canada) the Rabbi in his sermon noted that when he recently hosted a convention of visiting Rabbis, what interested them most was not the size or magnificence of the Sanctuary but a small yet salient technical detail relating to the Ner Tamid – the perpetual lamp which hangs in front of the holy Ark.
Similarly, what struck me most of all from my visits was not actually the (excellent, thank you) responses to the big subjects we were discussing.
It was the small, but salient detail that while we have been pumping out information for months over email and social media at the international level about Certification, ABCs, Gold Quill, changes to our brand etc….much of this has completely passed people by.
Why? Because we have sometimes been guilty of the device we often advise others against – the assumption “it’s in the newsletter, therefore I have communicated it“.
It was a powerful reminder for me that for all the other means of communication, you simply cannot beat face to face.
And, at each visit and each group, as we discussed the details in person, the response “but why didn’t you tell us this earlier?” was both genuine and heartfelt.
Now of course it’s impossible, in a global organisation, to have anywhere near as many face to face conversations as we’d like; but in a busy world, where many emails often stay unread and social media rarely has staying power, voice to voice at least – if not face to face – has never been more needed.
Earlier in April I was in London at our Europe, Middle East & N Africa region conference. One of the topics, by incoming EMENA Region Chair Klavs Valskov, AB’s Katie Macaulay and HSBC’s Ulrike Felber, was especially good : on the value of listening and power of ‘employee voice’.
“No-one is as smart as everyone” said Katie, adding that social media is a behaviour, not a tool.
Through my year as International Chair I’ve tried to incorporate this kind of philosophy as much as possible, listening hard to others, and inviting challenge as part of developing ideas for the future.
Thus it was that last Thursday I chaired a focus group at Pfizer’s New York World Headquarters of senior communicators, brought together for us by NY IABC Chapter Chair Bob Libbey and Past IABC International Chair, Mark Schumann.
The group, mostly non-, or lapsed members, were united in the potential of IABC to make a global difference for and by communicators and to be a stronger voice for the profession in the business and wider world.
“But at the moment, IABC is just talking to itself” one retorted. “Unless you sort your external communications out, no-one will hear you” (an ironic moment, because until it was dropped last year IABC was using the infamous tagline “Be Heard”).
It’s often said that to the outside world IABC is just a well-kept secret.
Some of our chapters are very happily introspective, yet the quality of members and their work (just look at the brilliance of this year’s Gold Quill entries, with over 300 Award winners) means this is a huge untapped resource. The Association, business and society at large are all losing out.
So we’ve created a new international standing committee devoted to improving our external communications and to putting IABC more on the map much more effectively among three distinct audiences.
Those audiences are:
(1) communicators, globally, who are not traditional members of IABC but who will nevertheless attend events and speak well of us;
(2) industry media and stakeholders, with whom we can also present a campaigning platform for the profession and
(3) the wider business community, so it comes to recognise the value which effective communications, and IABC specifically, can add to their firm’s success.
Expect to hear more soon.
This, together with our new brand (to be publicly launched in June) and refresher media training for our Vice Chair, Chair and Past Chair, means we will in the future speak more powerfully for IABC, the industry and business.
Thank you for listening.
The awful events of the Germanwings plane crash last month in the French Alps brought to the fore an issue we don’t like to discuss too often : mental health.
After the initial shock of a pilot who had intentionally downed a plane, taking 149 others with him, the media began to raise poor mental health management as a culprit.
In Communications, as the pressure to deliver faster with less across a wider range of channels -often interactively – increases, mental health is a growing issue. And while I say this as someone running (therefore responsible for the welfare and wellness of) a large (100+) team, the pressures on those acting as independent consultants are equally as great at times.
Increasingly, we need to recognise the signs in our teams (and sometimes in ourselves!) and act to provide support (or sometimes not be afraid to seek it).
This is not an area IABC has yet ventured to campaign on, but it is one we might; as we increasingly raise our sights, and aim to attend to the wider issues facing the profession.
It is, reasonably, at least as important as for example sustainability or ethics : arguably, it is linked to both.
In extremis, but sadly not infrequently, substance abuse, adultery and health problems are the common results of an industry pushing too hard.
Incidents like the Germanwings crash don’t help; on the contrary, they can demonise the issue of mental health. Yet on average 1 in 4 people will experience some mental health issue at some stage in their career.
Groups including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA) are trying to reframe the conversation to focus on the reality that most people with depression or other psychiatric diagnoses are almost never violent but that, instead, it is a silent denuder : of people and of course of productivity.
It has been reported (in PRWeek and other places) that Andreas Lubitz may have been afraid to tell his employer about what he was dealing with.
In an at-times intense profession like Communications, we should never let this be the case, and as managers – as well as an organisation representing the profession globally – be prepared to act.
Today, I want to talk about Fellows.
IABC’s Fellows are those honoured with the highest designation the Association can bestow.
They are, of rote, senior and time-served* members who have distinguished in their professional, work and volunteer lives and are also well ‘published’.
In the old days, ‘well published’ meant writing lots and having it made into books. Today it’s more about being sensibly prolific on social media and being happy to present at seminars and conferences etc – hopefully pro bono.
IABC doesn’t have enough Fellows. Compared with most other Associations (communications and otherwise) we have a tiny percentage.
This was a subject I made recommendations on when I first joined IABC’s International Board, and will pick up again later this year, as Past Chair.
As part of this project we will also define the role of the Fellow more, and in a way which allows both Fellows and the Association to better benefit from each other’s time and expertise.
I had the honour of being with one of our more recently-appointed Fellows recently.
Elpi Cuna is the ‘father’ of the IABC Philippines Chapter. It was my privilege to sit next to him at the recent Philippine Quill awards, a glittering event organised by the local Chapter which attracted nearly 1000 paying guests and where I was invited as International Chair to present awards and give the keynote address.
Elpi started IABC Philippines in the Eighties. It was our first chapter outside North America and today is one of our most prolific, also hugely regarded and respected by the Philippine business community.
Although Elpi stepped back from day to day Chapter management some time ago, he (with other past Chapter Presidents and VPs) maintains a keen interest in Chapter activities and sits on a very active committee called the Board of Advisers.
I found this model very interesting and it’s exactly the sort of role we want to see for many of our Fellows.
There is currently a call out for IABC members to nominate an eminent member for Fellow. I have recently extended the deadline for this to Friday March 27th, so there’s still time for you to nominate.
Any member in good standing who meets the criteria above is eligible to be nominated.
The only restriction is that people who have been on the International Executive Board must wait three years before being nominated.
(This rule was established some years ago and, true to the rigorous ethics of the Association, is to prevent automatic succession simply for a ‘job well done’ on the Board).
I have appointed a diverse committee of six Fellows, this year headed by Paul Sanchez ABC, IABC Fellow, who will next month choose up to five individuals to go forward for this key honour in 2015.
Please consider whom you might want to nominate, and consult the IABC website for more information. That deadline again : Friday March 27th.
*Footnote : Please note that “time-served” is not the same as “life-expired” – a phrase I got caught out by with Canadian members once!)
I was in New York recently, visiting the IABC New York Chapter. While in the City, I noticed something I hadn’t before – that people no longer wait for the white man to light up, to cross the road. It always used to be de rigueur to do so – but no longer. Even on some of the busiest thoroughfares.
Perhaps because life now is busier than ever. And the demands made on leaders at chapter level in IABC to attract, retain, and maintain members grows daily against a torrent of other things to occupy people’s lives.
So it was something of a relief to be able to get away for a couple of days at the end of last week to join with 175 IABC leaders for our Annual International Leadership Institute (ILI) which this year was held in Orlando, Florida.
It was both sunny outside, and sunny inside as we shared what I felt was a really special ILI. Thank you especially to the IABC Council of Regions for putting the programme together, and to everyone who contributed – as a speaker or a listener
As communicators, we know listening is as important as talking. It’s something we’ve tried to do more with members and leaders throughout this year on the International Executive Board (IEB) and I felt we had a good ‘open mic’ session for the last hour of our IEB meeting on Thursday.
In the general sessions at ILI, we gave IABC leaders an update on progress of the ‘new branding’ work, including a sneak peek on the new logo and typeface. We did this despite the date being Friday 13th! The response around the room and on Twitter seemed very good. And I want to recognise at this point Arcas Advertising, for their significant pro-bono work to get us this far.
The logo will be formally launched from April onwards, though it will probably take the best part of a year for us to diffuse it over all our applications, as we want to introduce it at minimum cost. But you can expect the new look to be very evident at June’s World Conference.
More important than the visual logo and type though, is our exposition of what the logo will stand for : the strategic IABC themes of community and camaraderie, of being a global communication practice, of recognising and realising the opportunities for IABC members to interact more with business and of building greater reputation : of IABC in the profession, and of the profession in the wider world.
Also at ILI, I shared with leaders how by the end of 2014 we’d got a grip on the Association’s finances; how we had significantly benefited operationally from the arrival of Carlos Fulcher our nearly-new Executive Director; how we had launched the much-anticipated new website; and how we are doing important, but back office, stuff to make sure our governance and policies are up to date.
I also explained that we now have a very clear business plan for 2015 with clear priorities, which focuses principally on retaining members, on building IABC reputation (for example, though work of the new International Communications Committee which will be headed by Shannon Frederick ABC) and of raising revenue from new sources – all of it designed ultimately to flow back to a better experience for members at the chapter level.
I have encouraged everyone who attended ILI to go back to chapters and regions and to explain : not simply what they learned, not simply what they discovered, but especially what they now feel about the Association and our direction of growth in so many directions.
We’re well into delivery now for the signature event on IABC’s calendar – our World Conference, which this year is in San Francisco from June 14th to 17th.
As a two-time past World Conference Chair I’ve taken a special interest in this year’s event, whose theme is Changing the Landscape: Informing the Future.
…But I didn’t want that to be just a fancy PR slogan. So I asked this year’s Conference Chair, Preston Lewis, and his Committee to give us something properly different.
Which they have. And so this year we have an unparalleled set of speakers and uprated content, providing innovative thinking and significant professional development at all levels. More at wc.iabc.com.
…But I didn’t want this year’s changes to be just about the content. I also want the 2015 World Conference to be an outstanding commercial success.
Why? Because the money we generate from Conference each year generates funding to plough back into IABC, including subsidising member programmes and learning opportunities.
Such as? The free member webinars we run through the year; the creation of our new Certification Programme (to be launched at Conference); and the investment of some US$70,000 we’ve put into training for chapter leaders at February’s International Leadership Institute.
So this is where you could come in. As an Association, IABC has always been greater than the sum of its parts. And given many of our ‘day jobs’ in the profession, I want to know if YOU have contacts which will help US make this year’s conference the one with the most sponsors, exhibitors and financial supporters.
We’re on the lookout for all sorts of companies and other for-profit organisations who can realise the synergies between THEIR products and OUR Association
Here are some resources to get you going:
All About World Conference – A description of the event, and what is special and unique this year.
News and Previews – Interviews with speakers, newest additions to the programme and all the latest happenings.
Sponsorship overview –A high-level outline about IABC and the programme.
Be a sponsor! – The options available to sponsors. We will customize packages for them.
Be an exhibitor! – Why being an exhibitor will be better than ever this year.
We have made lots of sponsorship spots available! I want every one filled in the next three months. But IABC can’t do that without a worldwide leader effort.
So please, get you great creative brains going. Open up your App marked “contacts” and match up the possibilities of being a business partner with IABC.
Feed thoughts, leads, ideas and contacts (however mad – sometimes those are the best ones!) to Marie Coppola (firstname.lastname@example.org). Marie will sort all your queries as well.
Thank you for your support. I know that together we’ll produce outstanding commercial results to match the great programming one!
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).
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!