One of the most exciting developments on the global internal communications scene in the last couple of years has been the remarkable resurgence – and profound organizational and ideological changes – we have seen with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
From my view as a long-time member and former critic, the IABC World Conference in New Orleans can be seen as a turning point, marking IABC’s transformation from an ambitiously managed collection of disparate local chapters to an active global community with reach far beyond its 10,000-strong membership.
I attribute IABC’s strong recent performance to four factors:
Consciously or not, IABC’s recent success results from a shift from providing value only to members to serving the entire profession. It also represents a shift from a multi-local mind-set to one that is truly global.
Indeed, 2016 may well go down as the year when any communicator in the world could get sufficient value from an IABC membership regardless of whether he or she lives or works near a functioning IABC chapter.
In some part, this is because of IABC-led initiatives like the Global Communication Certification Council and IABC Academy have been able to deliver scalable, accessible professional-development programs to IABC members and others around the world.
More excitingly, it’s because IABC members are taking advantage of the connectivity that emerges when a group of connected people (connected by virtue of their IABC affiliation) to create their own initiatives and share them through public platforms and their own networks.
One potent example is IC Kollectif, an initiative of IABC members in Montreal, to create a global internal communication resource connecting practitioners and thought leaders which started earlier this year. Building on its IABC connections, IC Kollectif has now built up a following of over 1,000, a mix of members and non-members. IC Kollectif’s growth accelerated significantly upon its posting of a list of top Internal Communication opinion leaders, and regularly receives requests for additions to the list.
IABC’s shift in culture and its move towards a more inclusive and expansive value proposition was not achieved without pain, mainly resulting from tough decisions to end high-maintenance and high-cost initiatives like ABC accreditation which had deep and committed followings.
But for the last six years, IABC’s Chairs and Boards tackled a combination of unsustainable costs, unscalable programs, and an inward orientation. Stabilizing its organizational structure and finances and shifting towards a virtual management team, IABC also rebranded in a way which devolved ownership of its brand to members to a large extent.
Balancing inclusion and exclusivity
Additionally, and crucially, it planted the IABC flag in areas of social media that would make its offerings available to non-members, including the growth of its LinkedIn group to non members. The IABC LinkedIn group now has about 45,000 members while the Association itself has about 10,000.
Still, IABC’s flagship activities remain the World Conference and its collection of regional conferences, which are accessible mainly to members or those who pay membership fees included in the event price. For it is at these activities where the crucial connections between members occur, and where members gain access to the extended networks of other members. Where once the main purpose of these events was to educate individual participants about current practices and future trends, there is now a recognition that each of the 1,000 participants expected in New Orleans actually represents at least 100-200 fellow communicators in their core networks. Connections made in New Orleans, by this reckoning, will make the event accessible to nearly everyone in the profession, IABC members or not.
IABC’s current theme, #createconnection, focuses on the benefit this professional connectivity delivers to individual members. But in reality, #createconnection is what has allowed IABC to begin to achieve the prominence it has always sought—to connect and convene the communication profession globally. IABC cannot yet claim victory, but it is clearly moving in that direction.