A couple of people have asked for a copy of the text of my remarks at the AGM, where I introduced my Four I’s (by the way, I know that an apostrophe isn’t correct there, I just don’t know how to write it without it looking like the word “is”). Anyway, here it is…
I’d like to share my thoughts with you today about what IABC means to me, and what I believe IABC should mean to the profession and the world. My theme today, and my focus for the coming year, can be summed up in four letters – better than that, in one letter, used four ways. Because I want to talk about the I in IABC – or more accurately, the 4 I’s in IABC.
The first, and most obvious, is for International. I say obvious, because it’s actually the first letter of our proper name. And yet, while our global membership base is one of our strongest competitive differentiators, IABC is still far from being truly global. Our membership distribution is still about 89% in North America. And while we have chapters in 26 countries and members in 46 more, we’ve barely begun to reach the total audience of communication professionals worldwide.
We’ve made great strides in the past few years, for which I’d like to recognize both staff and board. This year’s incoming board is the most internationally diverse we’ve had, and the same can be said of the Research Foundation trustees. We also have strong global representation at the committee level, as anyone who has participated in a committee conference call in the wee hours of the night can attest. But we have so much more to do before we can honestly say we are truly international.
My vision for strengthening the International I in IABC includes not only communicating a North-America-centric message to the world, but bringing a world of communication best practises home – wherever home is. It includes linking people and ideas worldwide. I dream of an IABC international conference being held in Hong Kong or Sydney or Singapore or Mexico City. I dream of 150,000 members worldwide, not 15,000. I yearn for a day when “international” isn’t just a catch-all for everything outside North America. When IABC is well known among all communication professionals worldwide. Because only then can we realize the second I on my list… Influence.
I believe that IABC should influence…we should influence the profession, the media, the business world, governments, and the public. Over the past few years, we’ve discussed internally the need for advocacy, yet we’ve struggled to define what that means or how to have an impact – perhaps because we have seen advocacy as primarily about words, about taking a position. But influence is about far more than just words. It’s about harnessing the full power of our membership base, and all the tools at our disposal, to make positive changes in the world. We should be helping set standards for things like ethical communication, not just for our members, for business and governments worldwide. We don’t have to have all the answers, our role can be to raise the questions, spark the debates, spotlight the grey areas, highlight the gaps.
And I’m not only speaking of the association here, because I don’t believe this kind of influence can be achieved solely by staff or a board or a committee. I think the way we make a real impact is by motivating every one of our 15,800 members to influence their own companies, colleagues, CEOs, and communities. Rather than struggling to take one position on behalf of our diverse membership base, we should be mobilizing all 15,800 voices to speak up. We should be scanning for issues and utilizing this amazing network to gather and disseminate information, lobby for change, influence decisions and behaviour.
Perhaps our greatest opportunity for achieving influence lies in the standards exemplified by the Accreditation program. It has the potential to serve as the gold standard of our industry worldwide, but with only 810 communicators currently holding the ABC, it has to be acknowledged that we have so far failed to achieve real influence. That has to change, and again, it won’t happen through just the efforts of IABC staff or the Accreditation Council. If we want to make an impact on our profession, the responsibility starts with each of us as individuals, and I think it’s time to step up. If you’re a senior communicator and you’re not accredited, shame on you. I don’t accept the arguments I’ve heard from many, that they don’t see any personal benefit to becoming accredited, or that the ABC is not widely enough known, that it won’t make a difference to my employer or my clients. That’s abdicating your responsibility.
Accreditation will only become a must-have when the majority of senior communicators – those who have already succeeded in their careers – are accredited. Then, and only then, will we be able to influence employers to require professional accreditation. Then and only then will it become an obvious goal for every young communicator. Then and only then will we be truly influencing standards of professional communication worldwide. So each of us owns a big part of this I. If you’re already accredited, consider how you can influence colleagues, employees and fellow members to go for it. If you’re not – and you know you should be – make this your year.
My next I is actually one that I think IABC does very well, and for which I’m eternally grateful. The third I stands for Inspiration. And again, it’s each of us that has the power to inspire. I want to take this opportunity to thank a few of the people who inspired me throughout my career.
As a young communicator, I was inspired by many of what are today the gurus of IABC. People like Les Potter, who first inspired me – speaking at the first international conference I ever attended – to move beyond tactical communication to strategic communication.
When I landed my first management level job, only to realize I was in over my head and didn’t know what the heck I was doing on a fairly regular basis, I had IABC mentors like Bette Jore in my Central Florida chapter to turn to. I owe an enormous debt to Bette, who was a longtime member and chapter and district leader. She was always willing to talk me through a new challenge, to lend advice. She encouraged me to take on leadership roles, and she’s the one who inspired me to earn my ABC. She led by example, and was generous with her knowledge. Thank you Bette.
More recently, I’ve been inspired and learned a great deal from our outgoing Past Chair Glenda Holmes, whom I’ve had the privilege of serving under for the past three years. I’ve learned more about leadership and strength from Glenda than I ever imagined, and I want to express my appreciation, Glenda, for all you’ve taught me, and for your friendship.
With that, I come to the fourth I in IABC, and some of you may have guessed it by now, because it’s the common theme that runs throughout them all. It’s the Individual members of IABC. I am the I in IABC. And you are, and you, and you and you.
The true essence of IABC is not the programs and services, it’s not the staff, it’s not the board, or the chapters or regions. It’s the individual. It’s the 15,800 individuals, around the globe, connecting, influencing, sharing, inspiring. You, we, are what makes IABC what it is. So I’ll close with a final challenge. If this association, or this profession, or this world, is not yet everything you want it to me, get involved and change it. Be the most important I in IABC.