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IABC reaches a turning point

BY mikeklein 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:

Global value

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.

Disciplined leadership

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.

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5 thoughts on “IABC reaches a turning point”

  1. Thank you very much Mike for mentioning IC Kollectif as an example of IABC global value. It makes us very proud but more importantly, it encourages us to continue to develop this project for the benefit of not only IABC members but also the entire profession. In light of this, a blog post as been published earlier today on Pulse at: http://bit.ly/1NF98q2 

  2. Many thanks, Lise. Bridging the local and the global is a big leap for IABC, and IC Kollectif has provided a great example of how to do this – essentially leveraging a local chapter to build a global “center of excellence.” It’s a model that can be applied well to other specialities and disciplines, and could accelerate IABC’s development while deepening its impact.

  3. Mike, thanks for recognising the importance of those tough decisions about changing the programmes and stopping resource-hemorrhaging. They were hard calls and often not very popular. I am proud to be an ABC, but I think the shift to certification was absolutely the right thing to do, both for the profession and for the organisation. I remember a phone conversation where I asked for your patience because I thought you would approve of where we where trying to go. I salute the chairs who led us through that period. As a member of the International Executive Board, I tried to make my contribution, but I was not as exposed as some of our colleagues were to the criticism and the sometimes vicious trolling. Turning to more recent developments, I was honoured to be included in the IC Kollectif list, and am currently mentoring someone 8 time zones away. That’s the global connection at work. It’s ironic, because with work being as crazy as it is, I’m sometimes (most of the time) more connected to my global IABC network than I am locally!

  4. Kristen, I remember that phone call well. And let me thank you for it again.

    In a way, it’s what precipitated this piece: a recognition that the patience, persistence and principle exhibited by IABC’s recent leadership has indeed delivered a shift. IABC is starting to provide a streak of leadership to the profession with a thrust of inclusivity and dynamism, globally and locally, that would have been hard to envision but a few years ago. It deserves to be recognized, and it should be encouraged to continue down this path..

  5. Thank you for recognizing and acknowledging IABC’s changes. I’ve been an IABC member for about 15 years. As our profession has evolved, so has IABC. It is no longer unusual to communicate with those in different countries. You are correct that networking has become a valuable benefit of belonging to IABC, and the conferences are key. Here’s my shameless plug: The Heritage Region Conference, which is one of the best of the regional conferences, is October 9-11 in Columbus, Ohio. While the keynoters and speakers are always excellent, the networking opportunities are tremendous. Here is the conference link to learn more: https://iabcheritageconference.com/

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