The fourth IABC Leadership Forum was pulled together from across three continents: Carlos was in Montréal, Dianne in Clinton, Ginger in Tulsa and Priya in Toronto. I was in London – and Melissa helped with the Q&A from Melbourne.
On this edition we were joined by IABC Treasurer, Ginger Homan, ABC.
Ginger has been working closely with Carlos Fulcher to create a balanced 2016 budget for IABC – including essential strategic technology investments including:
Additional strategic investment is going into better serving our Corporate Members – and short-term improvements are also being made to the current member management system (MMA).
Our association is still working through the aftermath of ten years of underinvestment in this area. Progress is being made.
One further major financial item to note is the $300K+ cost reduction we will be realising through moving our offices. Carlos briefly spoke to this at the end of the call.
Past Chair of the IABC Brand Task Force, Priya Bates, ABC, MC, joined for a Q&A on the brand roll-out.
Priya’s key messages:
A practical, actionable element of the latter which you can RT:
— Michael Ambjorn (@michaelambjorn) December 16, 2015
…and, also topical – a reminder from the Past Chair:
Question from Sheila Carruthers from Calgary: In addition to IABC working on corporate discount offerings, will there be consideration to offer discounts at LI and conferences for independent consultant members and individuals who pay their own membership fees?
Answer: Check out the scholarships for LI in the first instance – Ginger also offered to connect offline to talk more.
Question from Maliha Aqeel from Toronto: Are there any plans for HQ to conduct a brand compliance audit?
Answer: The recent Leader Survey had a set of questions around brand adoption – we will share more on that early next year.
Question from Gay Flashman from London: Is there any way in which we can share our original blog & social content between chapters for use on local IABC channels?
Answer: The Editorial Committee has been charged with creating a global conversation calendar that can help facilitate this. Watch this space.
— Michael Ambjorn (@michaelambjorn) December 6, 2015
Thanks to all who connected – and you don’t have to wait until next month to get a question answered. Just head over to the IABC Chapter Leaders Group on LinkedIn and pitch in.
Let’s #createconnection – like never before.
Guest post from Past Chair Russell Grossman ABC:
As Chair of the IABC International ‘Nominations Committee’ one of my responsibilities is to ensure we have a good ‘pipeline of talent’ of leaders coming through our organisation.
I’m also keen to ensure that when people finish their terms of office we don’t just dump them, but ensure we value their talent and experience for as long as they want to offer it.
IABC has lots of committees and task forces within the organisation. Having good people on them is what makes us tick.
So we’re now looking for people to put their hand up to join five of these key bodies at the international level.
This is necessarily a competition, but based on objective assessment of competencies against defined criteria for the job. It’s not a case of “if your face fits”.
As the Association’s most senior international leader last year, it struck me (and has subsequently struck this year’s Chair, Michael Ambjorn) that the best people didn’t always put themselves forward for the key leadership positions J.
It follows that the reverse is also sometimes true.
So this year we’re trying something new, which is to hold what we’re calling an ‘open call’ for people to join these five IABC committees:
More detail about all of these committees is linked on the IABC website.
By putting your hat in the ring for these committees you’ll not only be exposed to the communications profession at the international level, you’ll make invaluable connections around the world. And it could add importantly to your cv.
Yes, you do need to have an aptitude for the subject and yes, you should also be prepared to put in some time, creativity – and obviously – effort.
But the rewards can be huge in terms of meeting new people, gaining new skills…..and then there’s that point about looking good on your cv and on your LinkedIn profile.
You can both nominate someone you think would be great at this (they may not have thought about this themselves) and/or you can nominate yourself.
Deadline for pitching in is Monday, September 14 at 11:59p.m. Pacific Time.
All nominations will be treated confidentially by my Nominating Committee. You do have to be a member of IABC to apply.
The committee will review all submissions and then submit a list of recommendations to the IABC International Executive Board for approval.
How to apply at https://www.iabc.com/about-us/governance/iabc-committees/
And some of you may find I have nominated you!
Russell Grossman ABC is Past Chair of IABC
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org – 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.