It’s ironic; are IABC members ‘being heard’?

Change is hard. IABC is finding this out in spades these days, ever since the staff firings late last year and the subsequent introduction of many other changes to the organization.

But it’s not just that IABC members are resistant to change. At some point, when huge numbers of smart, committed, long-standing members of the association have a problem with the changes, maybe it’s time to step back and make sure those changes really are for the best.

What really bothers me is that it appears all the changes introduced by chair Kerby Myers and executive director Chris Sorek have been made without fully understanding what was already there and the consequences of getting rid of much of it. They seem to be the result of a consultant’s report that details how to save money. And worse, since hearing from many members unhappy with the changes, Kerby and Chris have done little to make us believe they will take our concerns into account, while assuring members that they “hear” us.

Well, Kerby assures us that he hears us. We haven’t heard from Chris, apparently because he’s been asked to concentrate on being executive director. I guess the job does not include communicating with the members he serves.

Are members truly being heard?

What I’d like to know is this:

  • Were accredited business communicators asked how the ABC system worked for them, if the process was difficult, how it could be improved? Why is there only now a discussion going on (in a closed LinkedIn group) with ABC members, after the wheels are already in motion to make huge change to the process, which will now be called ‘certification’? Why aren’t non-ABCs able to be involved in the conversation?
  • Were member companies surveyed to find out what executives knew about accreditation and if they valued it? Was any thought given to better and broader communication about the value of accreditation?
  • Were any of the IABC Fellows asked for their perspective, thoughts, ideas, advice?
  • Local chapters play a key role in member satisfaction. Did IABC management consult with individual chapters on how best to support them?
  • Communication World had an international advisory committee, many of them seasoned communicators, ABCs, Fellows and other respected IABC members. Were any of them asked for their thoughts and ideas?
  • Why get rid of books completely? Why not keep valued resources while you add to the offering of digital resources?
  • If the future is digital, why is IABC’s executive director following just 25 people on Twitter, and the last time he tweeted was last June?

Maybe I’m just not aware of all the ways IABC consulted with its own members to determine the new strategy. I hope that’s the case.

But when I look at the most recent IABC Quarterly Strategy Update (download it here) – with details members would have welcomed last year, before the firings and the thin explanations of same – I don’t hear the voice of IABC members. I don’t even see anyone taking credit as author of the piece, taking ownership of the words, “We’ll be listening.”

I see generic, cliched “inspirational” quotes from the likes of Confucius and Stephen Covey and words written in the passive voice that don’t indicate who did what.

IABC members, if you want to be heard, apparently you can email Kerby at kmeyers @ commrefinery . com or Chis at csorek @ iabc . com.

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  1. Posted February 14, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    It’s always alarming when an organization doesn’t practice what it preaches. I’d also like to know if Toronto members were consulted on any of this. As the largest chapter in the world, we should have a say. Hey, Linda. why aren’t we hearing more from our chapter? Do we have a position? I’m probably not the only member who is reconsidering their involvement.

  2. Linda Andross
    Posted February 14, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Hi Sue & Barb:

    Suzanna Cohen on our boarda nd Lynn Barter have been really involved with IABC HQ re: all the changes to accreditation. There have been numerous focus groups that Suzanna has pulled together and looped HQ on to get our feedback to them. The reality is that the broader group might not be hearing much as we don’t have any answers sadly. I just came back from LI with hopes I had some something to say and update on and I don’t. That said, our own Toronto chapter is continuing to keep our own “culture” going and listen to our members in terms of what we can control in what we are giving them. But both you and Sue are right, we need to be more visible in talking about things even if we don’t have any answers for right now.

  3. Posted February 14, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for commenting, ladies! I am so glad to hear that there HAVE been focus groups and involvement by our chapter. But for heaven’s sake, why isn’t IABC saying so? It’s kind of a basic of communications in general and crisis communications in particular that you don’t wait to have something to report before saying you’re asking for comment or investigating. Again, it’s embarrassing that an organization of communicators is doing such a poor job of communicating. It’s distressing that we find out more from individual discussions like this or on LinkedIn than “official” communications from the board.

  4. Posted February 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post, Sue. Thanks for writing this.
    I too am glad to hear about the involvement of local chapters, but agree that this type of thing needs to be communicated better. Be heard, indeed.

  5. Posted February 14, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    This is a terrific post, that effectively lays out the concerns I suspect many IABC members have – it certainly reflects largely what I’ve been thinking since this fiasco began and then continued to snowball.

    I consider myself quite fortunate to happen to be a member of the largest local chapter of IABC. Because we ARE the largest in Toronto, we have an extremely healthy and well-run chapter, which offers substantive professional development, networking, and other benefits of being an IABC member.

    However, if I were a member in a smaller chapter, and had to depend more on the International IABC organization for the benefits of membership, I would be seriously considering whether to renew that membership based on the extremely badly handled situation with the international organization.

    In particular, as you note, Sue, the blazing irony of an organization designed to deliver, and train others to deliver, effective communication to organizations, so utterly mishandling change, and then adding insult to injury by continuing to ignore rather than address and fix the misstep by instituting appropriate communication to members, is a big hit to the reputation of IABC. They will have a big hill to climb in my opinion to fix this, and I have to date seen little indication they INTEND to fix this, which is a huge disappointment to someone like me who’s been a loyal and happy member for more than 10 years.

  6. Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Appreciate both the intent of your piece and the tone…particularly about the unattributive use of the first person!

    Have written a piece of my own on Ragan at

    It has a somewhat different flavor and tone than yours because I believe the real challenge with IABC is with its mission and business model rather than simply its leadership behaviors.

    Would be interested in your thoughts,



  7. Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

    Kristen, I agree being part of such a large chapter probably makes a difference in how we experience IABC. We get a lot of value that has little to do with headquarters.

    Mike, the new business model your article suggests certainly would be a radical change — and definitely one that would require input from members. I don’t think IABC is wrong to have a multifaceted role, nor do I consider that an inability to focus. But you are right that that the research piece is important, and something that should be available to and used by members. Whatever the organization does, there is a lot of work ahead.

  8. Lynn Barter
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Great comments from everyone. The Canada East Regional board of IABC has certainly expressed the concerns highlighted so well in this post. All members should be concerned and should be heard on the changes proposed to the accreditation process and more. I personally don’t feel that real consultation has occurred on the accreditation issue, but there is opportunity now for more meaningful engagement as the temperature rises on this and other issues. I know that my local chapter, IABC NL, will be keeping the conversation going and I intend to be heard at all levels of IABC. Thanks to everyone for their contributions to the discussion.

  9. Posted February 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for commenting, Lynn, and glad to hear your chapter is keeping the conversation going. Here’s a note Jennifer Wah, ABC, sent to me on the subject of accreditation:

    We had an excellent meeting of the Accreditation Committee, and came away passionate to have members know a few things.

    * We heard you! We had 50+ pages of single-spaced comments, all themed into common areas, and we methodically went through all themes, and discussed what we need to do better, and differently.)
    * The current program does need revisions and improvements. (Not scalable, with 17+ hours of volunteer time needed to process a single candidate, and that’s not even including staff and admin time. The program costs IABC (and its members) money, and has for many years. So anything we come up with, needs to, among other things, be based on a reasonable and scalable business model.)
    * Grandfathering is the number one priority for the Accreditation Committee (AC) (To be honest, we don’t yet know what that looks like, but it’s something we pledge to keep at the fore.)
    * The Accreditation Committee has formed two sub-committees:
    – one to deal with Current Candidates
    – the other tasked with New Program development

    * We are working on a list of key dates to get current candidates through the accreditation process and that outlines the launch of the development, piloting and launch of the new program.
    * From our committee, and to ensure our communication needs are being met, Ginger will be working with the CRM Change Management committee. (
    * I have committed to lead the charge to usher candidates through the existing process as quickly and efficiently as possible. I will be working with Gail Pickard and Dan Maceluch, also from the Accreditation Committee.
    * More formal communications to come through various channels:
    – update from AC Chair
    – presentations/webinars by AC members
    – social media
    – letters to existing candidates

    And, we will continue to keep members in the loop and test concepts and proposals. There are exciting opportunities to grow accreditation/certification (it’s a bit of the “new black” these days), especially outside North America, so we need to move swiftly and build on more than two years of research and member consultation (two all-ABC surveys + all-member surveys + think tanks + consultation with outside experts and academia), while still – and urgently – be having these conversations with leaders like both of you.

    Does that help? I hope so!

  10. Jennifer Wah, ABC
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Oh, heavens, Sue – thanks so much for getting to my homework before me! :-)

    I’ve been meaning all week to come and post what I sent you, myself, and my IABC to-do list just kept pulling me elsewhere. Anyway, thanks – as always – for your voice, your ears, your heart and your passion for all of this.

    I am happy to answer any other questions any of you have!

  11. Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Oops, was I too impatient? :) I saw that your words made it to the IABC/Toronto blog, and it seemed to duplicate your effort to make you post it here too. Thanks for the details, and I am glad to know that whatever happens with accreditation, it will be with your wise counsel.

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