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It’s time to join: why association membership has never been more important

BY mikeklein For communication professionals, the matter of whether to pay one’s annual dues in a communications association is often a big question mark. Often the choice comes down to a me-centred choice: “what do I get for my money?”

Yes, as I submitted my annual dues payment for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), I let that thought flash for 72 nanoseconds. Quickly, though, the thought gave way to a bigger question: “What can we do to support our associations in addressing the big issues facing our profession?”

Love them or not, communication associations are on the front line as our profession faces tough questions and existential challenges.

At the moment, professionalism in communication faces ongoing questions about the value it adds, questions that manifest themselves in low pay rates in some markets, and egregiously demanding job specifications in those markets and others.

And, if we don’t get our act together, we won’t just be competing with mythical unicorns, novices with Snapchat accounts, or defenestrated middle managers, but with a belief that what we do and add is so simple and basic that it can be fully automated.

Why associations are key

Of all the players in our sector, only our associations have the potential resources to make a more compelling case for communication professionals, and contribute to a more positive working environment for all of us.

This is not to say that any of them have this nailed.  IABC has only recently started shifting its focus back outward after overcoming some major internal challenges. Other regional, national and local associations have also just recently started perking up since the end of the global economic crisis.

But this is also a chicken and egg question – if more people become members, and more members ask for less focus on individual benefits and more focus on creating a better industry for us to share and grow in, the difference could be substantial.

Two areas are indicative:

Associations are in a unique position not only to conduct research about the impact we make for our clients and communities; they are also in a position to aggregate existing research and to arm their members with it, so that when questions come up with clients, we can cite numbers and facts instead of having to challenge them with our verbalized intuitions.

Communication associations are also in a position to work with multiple vendors in new sectors to help make the case for technologies that offer breakthrough improvements, such as Organizational Network Analysis and integrated online communication: fields with multiple vendors beating each other over the heads for tiny slivers of market share, and who would not otherwise cooperate for the greater good.

Indeed, the only players right now who are consistently standing for the greater good of our profession are the associations. But they need our support now.

Even though I am a regional chair of IABC, it doesn’t matter to me which association you join. Learn about what we all stand for, and what all of us have to offer, and choose the one which reflects the profession you want to be working in.

Nevertheless, it’s time to join. For a strong profession, we need strong voices to make the case for the difference we make and the tangible value we provide. By lending your voice – and giving your dues – to the association of your choice - you will help move things forward.

About Changing The Terms

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a communication practice focused on writing, strategy, content, change consulting and coaching, with an emphasis on tapping into the value of the social dynamics occurring in every organization.

Changing The Terms is based in Delft in the Netherlands, and works with large corporates and startups in Europe and North America. Mike is an MBA graduate of London Business School, is Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators in Europe – Middle East – North Africa, and is the author of “From Lincoln to LinkedIn”, a book on the role of social dynamics in organizational communication. To download your free copy, click here.

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