Communications associations, and indeed much of the internal communication industry, have been in for some heat lately. No hotter source is that of one of my publishers, Kevin Keohane (http://kevinkeohane.wordpress.com/), whose latest broadside claims a desire to bin every piece received from communication associations or anyone remotely mainstream in the comms industry.
Now, I share Kevin’s boredom with ten-year old debates on things like preferred powerpoint formats for line manager cascades, and his disgust with the increasing prevalance of tactics like “pay to play” on the conference circuit, where consultants pay for access to conference audiences. Injecting new ideas into the communication discussion is not easy.
But communication associations have a mixed record, not a record of total recalcitrance. The newly rebadged Communication Leadership Exchange (formerly CCM: www.cccmconnection.com) remains a beacon for new ideas and spirited debate in a membership well divided by age and consultant/in-house status. I have also personally found the European Association of Communication Directors and its sister institution, Quadriga University, to be highly open to my ideas and input, and to bringing in talent from new and unexpected sources.
As for the International Association of Business Communicators, the major global association in the field: there is no question IABC is conservative and holds a lot of the old conversations in place. But I was recently offered a position on the committee which reviews content proposals for the 2012 IABC Conference. After some deliberation, namely about whether I thought I could have enough impact, I agreed to join. So in this case, I’m fully inside the tent.
Communication associations need member help and support to remain topical, and to remain open to newer and more distinctive voices. Some of that help will come from losing members and from external pressure, but I think at least as much will come from those who stay and stand for something better. Ultimately, no groups of people care more about organisational communication than these associations. Therefore, they warrant the investment of time, and even of aggravation, that moving them forward sometimes requires.