IABC members waiting to hear more on strategy

On Dec. 19, IABC held two webinar-type Q&A sessions for members to ask questions about the association’s new strategy. You know, the one that resulted in a “restructuring” that laid off half of its 32 staff members on a Friday afternoon.

I’ve seen words of support from some members saying the restructuring was “about time,” and that may be so. And let me say that I just renewed my membership for another year. IABC is the first place I turn for networking and professional development. I am active in my local chapter.

However, many of us are critical of the way the whole process was handled. As several people on a LinkedIn discussion group agreed, if this was an accreditation portfolio project or a Gold Quill entry, it would get a zero.

So the 70 or so members who were on the first call listened politely as IABC’s executive director Christopher Sorek and board chair Kerby Meyers fielded questions. Here are some of the points I took from the call:

Accreditation: Several of us asked for specifics on why the existing program was called “unsustainable.” The answer was that each candidate required 17 hours of volunteer time to process from application to accreditation, and it was a money-losing proposition. Work is underway to make the process more efficient, with the help of a consultant (Michael Hamm). There have been “preliminary discussions” with PRSA about possibly coordinating accreditation, or “certification” as seemed to be the preferred term.

Current ABCs: Asked “What happens to currently accredited members?”, Kerby (I think) skated around a bit, saying it was a question to be discussed within the accreditation committee and they haven’t gotten to that point yet. There was some reassurance later that “the ABC does not go away,” but still, that first answer was odd.

Going digital: A consultant is being used for the move to greater digital content, a San Francisco-based outfit called Extractable. Substantial changes are planned for the website, both in how information is presented and in how members will access it.

I was glad to hear:

  • The strategy is based on attracting and keeping members.
  • There will be more support to chapters in some yet-to-be-determined fashion.
  • There will be renewed focus on tapping into the knowledge of IABC Fellows.
  • There is some interest in hosting discussions (like the ones taking place on LinkedIn) and developing communities on the new IABC platform.
  • Full member access to the Discovery search tool will be free.
  • IABC is in good financial shape.
  • Chris and Kerby say they have learned lessons from the outcry from members about the way communication of this “restructuring” was handled. Good, because many of us found it embarrassing how a communications association could do such a poor job of communicating. (It was also funny that in my mail on Friday was notice of a new workshop on well-managed change. Maybe the board will sit in on it.)

I wasn’t so glad to hear:

  • It sounds like we can expect small annual increases, or did I misunderstand that comment?
  • No printed books, although there was some assurance that the handbook will be updated, likely in digital format. I realize there are fewer and fewer of us who like to hold an actual book in our hands, but I wonder if print on demand could be an option?
  • A lot of corporatespeak and buzzwords, including “win/win” and “competencies” and “skillsets” and “going forward.”

A recording of the morning and afternoon calls has now been posted, in case you missed it, and IABC just posted a summary. And you can also see what IABC members (or former members) Robert Holland, David Murray and Russell Working think about the situation. This just in: IABC Edmonton chapter president Justin Archer addresses the issue too. Smart!

What do you think?

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8 Comments

  1. Posted December 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent write-up, Sue. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Leslie Hetherington
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the sound summary Sue. I think many of us agree that organizations need to change to stay relevant, are enthusiastic about many of IABC’s changes but share your concerns about the strategies used to roll them out. You raise a good point re IABC’s upcoming change workshop. I submitted a similar question during the second conference call. Specifically, I asked: why couldn’t IABC’s professional development initiatives have been used to re-tool some of the laid-off staff members’ skills? I believe this question was not answered due to legal sensitivities but hope IABC will take more advantage of its own PD assets in the future.

  3. Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Leslie, I asked about the skills too, in a slightly different way. I got the impression they thought I was asking about what specific people were lacking, whereas what I really wanted to know was what were the missing “skillsets” as presumably spelled out in the job postings. As you say, maybe we can blame legal sensitivities for the non answers. I agree that IABC’s own professional development should have been able to play some kind of role.

  4. Leslie Hetherington
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Sue. Yes, I remember the needed skill sets question. They addressed it in a high level example re the stakeholder relations lead role but there are many gaps and lingering questions. In scenarios like this, HR and communications need to be aligned and if we were in IABC’s exec’s shoes, most of us would want answers to these questions and proof points to position it in the best light. As members and potential ambassadors, I think we’re grappling for the same, respecting of course confidential and other sensitive and understandably off-limit details. Hopefully, it will all be clearer in time….

  5. Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your thoughtful summary, Sue. I was traveling and had to miss the call. I have found all of this to be quite disconcerting, so I have welcomed thoughtful summaries and responses from IABC colleagues like you and Leslie and others. I understand the need for change and hope we can sort this out and emerge in better shape. However, I think this is going to take some time,more actual transparency and less corporatespeak.

  6. Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Molly, thanks for commenting. I think you’ve nailed it — more actual transparency and less corporatespeak! Fingers crossed.

  7. Posted December 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sue: Thanks for discussing these critical issues. Many of us champion professional membership, and the importance of being ‘engaged’ in our association. Here are a few of my thoughts.

    I am not opposed to change at the IABC Head Office. I welcome it. For a long time now, I have felt that the folks in San Francisco are quite out of touch with many of their members in North America. I wonder if others feel that way.

    I grimace however, at how the Association continues to manage and communicate change.

    As a member of IABC, a former long-serving local IABC chapter Board-member and a PR professor at Humber College and McMaster University, IABC has just offered up a painful example of how NOT to communicate with internal stakeholders.

    It is ironic that I learned of the restructuring and the resulting communications schmozzle from a leader at CPRS National.

    Reading recently through a very long and passionately expressed discussion thread begun by Allan Jenkins, Roger D’Apris, Shel Holtz, Angela Sinickas and many other thought leaders and regular IABC members…it’s clear, they get it too. What a mess. But more important, the social media chatter revealed a strongly-held passion for the precision of our craft, and many suggestions for improvement, and progress.

    Looking ahead, there is much to be gleaned from these posts and from other social media chatter on issues surrounding recent IABC communications and change. It is too bad IABC Chair Kerby Myer’s last post in the aforementioned LinkedIn IABC Forum was 3 weeks ago. He and new IABC CEO, Chris Sorek have chosen not to be part of a valuable conversation. Let’s hope they are reading, listening and learning from their community.

    Fees are a hot button issue for me. I am concerned about the suggestion we must pay more to be a member of IABC. I was opposed to the 2012 fee increase. As a consultant and educator, I pay my own dues. I am also a member of CPRS. At an era of restraint, when everyone is tightening their belt, I will challenge further increases. I don’t think trying to squeeze members like me for more, at this time, is frankly a very strategic move.

    I am proud of what the IABC Golden Horseshoe Chapter has accomplished, and continues to do. I welcome IABC GH into my class and I promote membership to my students. I support our local leaders like Rob Plant, who works tirelessly to help us build a stronger industry and grow as pros.

    But, as a leading communications professional association, IABC can, and must do better.

    I just missed a phone call from Kerby Myers, so I am hoping to share some of my views with him directly. I am encouraged he connected.

    Happy New Year to all.

  8. Posted January 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Mark, thanks so much for your thoughtful response, and apologies for my delay in replying. I, too, have been following the impassioned discussion on LinkedIn. Let’s hope IABC’s fearless leaders have been as well. I’d love to hear if you got a chance to talk with Kerby.

    You and Rob and your team are doing a great job with the Golden Horseshoe chapter. Keep up the good work! Really, no matter what goes on at the head office, the local chapter plays a key role in member satisfaction.

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