Staying Inside the Tent: Supporting My Associations

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 (, 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: 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.

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  1. Brad Bellaver

     /  15/05/2011

    OK Mike, I’ll go along with this for a while – however…

    I have a test for you to give your new friends in SFO. Ask them this question:

    If you were to be “at the table” with leadership and they made it clear the corporate directive for 2011 was to increase customer retention by 4%, which answer would IABC choose:

    A. Our responsibility is ensure we clearly communicate the 4% goal to our TEAM (Team members, Employees, Associates, Minions.) We will do this through newsletters, a really expensive video and an even MORE expensive event.

    B. Our responsibility is to use our expertise in organizational communication to work on how WE can contribute to a 4% increase by offering both upward and downward channels to employees and act as a essential business support function – Or…

    C. Our job is to do what we are told and we measure ourselves on output and not outcomes. And, by the way, the dude that wrote this has NUMEROUS grammatical errors and I would need to heavily edit this before I “communicated it.”

    Ask them that question my fine Badger friend and see how many choose A.

    Brad Bellaver – Number one supporter of IABC 🙂

    • Mike, I agree with you in principle. In practice, however, many of the professional associations I belong to–including the newly allegedly rebadged Communication Leadership Exchange (formerly CCM:–fall short of their commitments to their members and to professional excellence.

      For example, CCM did not follow sound change management practices when changing its name. I also wonder if the name change is totally legal yet since the membership has not voted on either the name change or a bylaws change authorizing a new name.

      And as for IABC, of which I’m also a member, don’t get me started on how the organization talks about the importance of accreditation, yet its actions don’t protect its ethical standards. Good for you for being on the committee to review content proposals, as the organization needs more critical thinkers and doers like you. I hope you and your committee members won’t approve proposals from prospective speakers who borrow others’ intellectual capital without proper attribution.

      As a 500 club member of IABC, I’m staying a member. With CCM, I’m reevaluating whether I stay.

      • Hi Liz…

        Thanks for your note… I hold no illusions about the associations I mention, and shared your umbrage at the CCM name change, which seemed to reflect neither serious strategic thought or anything resembling due process. But with CCM/CLE, you can make a case that there is no other rose in the association piece that smells as sweet. You would be a huge loss to CCM, whose main attraction is the banter that takes place across the membership when issues get floated across the ListServ.

        As for IABC, I’ve raised a number of issues and will continue to do so. I will, as best as possible, check on the origins of content that I’m involved with vetting.

        Nevertheless, there are few places in the world where people care more about organisational communication than in our professional associations. They deserve our loyalty for what they genuinely do…as well as our criticism when they fall short.

        Mike Klein

  2. I’m liking you even more, Brad. And kudos Mike – I think you’ll help make the conferences better for being a voice.

  3. By the way, Mike, can I speak ? 🙂

  4. Libby

     /  09/06/2011

    Hello, Mike. I’m a longtime member, and I joined IABC this year for the first time. Whoa, what a difference in the two organizations. I agree with you – IABC is much more conservative. However, I did find your blog through them, and I have really enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Also, congrats on being one of the few U.S. Employee/Internal Communications resource listed on the IABC exchange with a 2011 post! Ok, that was naughty. (But true.)

    • Alas, I’m not US based. I’m a Copenhagen-based American working for Maersk Oil here… 🙂

      Mike Klein


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