The Profession

IABC turnaround turns outward – members now hold the key to visibility and impact

“We’ve righted our ship and gotten our house in order, and now we’re ready to help drive the larger conversation about what our profession can offer.”

That was the overriding message following interviews with IABC Chair Ginger Homan and Executive Director Stephanie Doute.

In a conversation following the 2019 IABC Leadership Institute, and marking the halfway point in IABC’s 2017-2020 strategy, Ginger declared the Association’s restructuring and stabilization efforts a success. She said that they place IABC in a position to carry its message outward, and that it will do so in a much different way than IABC has done in the past:

“It’s time for our members to own our agenda”

“The key will be for members to take ownership –not only to be advocates for IABC membership, but to be active and visible as IABC members on the issues we care about in our industry. We need members to step out front to promote professional standards and champion the value communicators offer to our enterprises and communities.”

Ginger noted that this approach represented a break from its historical approach to outreach.

“Rather than IABC wanting to be the leader and for staff to own the agenda, as we have done in the past, we want to provide the platform to help our members be thought leaders. We in turn will help amplify those members who want to take stands and be visible in the conversations around the agenda we are promoting together.”

Accelerating the Global Standard

One front which IABC wants its members to take the advocacy lead is in the promotion of the Global Standard – which, while developed under IABC’s leadership, is intended to provide a common framework for promoting professionalism in communication, and for enabling the spread of a world-wide certification program for senior and mid-level communication professionals.

“There’s a lot we need to be saying about the Global Standard, and IABC can’t do this on its own. We need members and particularly those who have already been certified to tell the story of the Global Standard and make the case. We need to explain what it is, how we arrived at it, and why it is of relevance to a much broader constituency than just IABC members.”

Stephanie added: “There is a real demand for standards in the world of professional communication and the Global Standard is a great platform for embedding consistent standards into our day-to-day practices and even the software we use. Indeed, as the Global Standard provides the context and content for Certification and the rubric for our Gold Quill awards program, a broader conversation about the Global Standard will make our CMP and SCMP certifications more relevant and drive acceptance beyond IABC’s membership.”

The interviews followed the 2019 Leadership Institute in Long Beach, California, which combined the event’s traditional focus on chapter growth and cohesion with added emphasis on encouraging IABC activists to mobilize members as thought leaders and peer influencers to promote the value of professional communication, above and beyond the promotion of IABC membership.

Transforming IABC’s Infrastructure

The moves follow intense effort to stabilize IABC’s finances, update its infrastructure, and develop more robust offerings for members and the broader communication professions.

Stephanie added: “We’ve been modernizing what we do and the way we do it. We are in the midst of a digital transformation that will allow us both to better engage members and to make IABC more inviting and relevant to non-members. We have a new and expanded content program coming to life this year. We launched The Hub as a private social network to give our members a safe and vibrant space to share their needs, problems and ideas with the broader IABC community. These programs add to the continuing strength of World Conference as a truly best-in-class conference, where top-tier speakers, forward-thinking breakouts, launches of new research deliver special experiences delegates are unlikely to forget.”

Getting ahead of the trends

One criticism of IABC that has resonated with its leadership has been that the Association is slow to acknowledge, much less shape, trends in the industry – trends such as internal-external convergence and employee experience – which are well within the interests of its membership.

“We’re launching two exciting task forces to get ahead of the trends,” said Stephanie, “looking at the big ideas shaping the profession on the one hand, creating tangible tools and templates for delivery and execution for members on the other. We want members to be aware, awake and confident as we move into a time of even faster change and instability in the business world. These will be in addition to the research studies we have partnered on and the Business Acumen module in the IABC Academy. The latter was developed by a firm comprised of Wharton Business School alumni that will give our members a tangible command of business basics and prepare them for more effective conversations with their business peers.”

Creating Connection

In 2017-2020, IABC has been pursuing a three-pronged strategy: to develop strategic communicators, advance the profession and “create connection.” Midway through the strategy period, the bulk of the association’s global efforts have been devoted to getting the platform and infrastructure set for growth and accelerating member influence in the profession. “Create Connection,” the third pillar, builds on IABC’s historic strengths as a community and support network for its active members.

“Sometimes, people don’t realize how fun it can be to be in IABC,” Ginger explains. “IABC is ultimately about inclusion, fun and giving back – which is what we mean by ‘create connection’. It’s not about telling people to ‘join IABC because it’s fun’ but to create experiences that are enlivening and enriching, especially at the local level where it’s easiest for people to connect face-to-face. We are seeing newer and younger members coming in at the local level, generationally transforming IABC from the outside in.”

Why it’s time to join – or re-join

As the only global membership association covering the full scope of business communication, IABC occupies a unique space alongside national communication associations, specialist associations and more informal on-line groups which have absorbed many lapsed IABC members over the last decade. IABC intends to combine its improved infrastructure and an increasingly visible membership to drive growth and, importantly, regain the trust and activism of former members.

Concludes Ginger, “It’s about being more relevant, and about being more collaborative, cooperative and inspiring. Combine that with the connections we create, and we are set to deliver a compelling proposition.  We’re at an inflection point. The sky is the limit and we’d like you to join us.”