An opportunity for IABC to care


Last November, I ended a 23-year relationship with IABC, the International Association of Business Communicators, when I let my membership lapse.

I wrote about it in February and outlined some thinking about why I hadn’t renewed it.

Six months later, I’m still a lapsed IABC member. I deliberately describe myself thus as I believe that my self-imposed exile from active IABC participation isn’t a permanent thing. How can I throw away so many years of commitment to an organization that I believed in and supported so fervently for so long? The many people I connected to and engaged with over the years? The contribution I made to shaping IABC in Europe? The professional development opportunities that have been available to me? And the fun things such as co-presenting the Cafe2Go podcasts?

Some of my professional friends wondered why I’d taken such a conclusive step rather than remain part of the association in order to influence change. Or why I’d done something that meant I could no longer use the accreditation designation.

In reality, I just didn’t care enough any more.

I’m not sure what will change my position into one where I care sufficiently to want to come in from the cold, as it were, and cough up the membership dues plus the lapsed-member penalty.

On May 7, Ragan Communications published the results of a survey they conducted in March that asked IABC members – active and lapsed – for their opinions on “the current state of IABC”:

[…] The Ragan survey questioned readers about the controversy that began with the layoff of half of its 32 staffers last fall, shortly after [current IABC executive director Chris] Sorek took the helm.

[…] In the survey, 55 percent of respondents, or 418 individuals, identified themselves as current IABC members, with another 24 percent saying they had let their membership lapse.

Along with the criticism, the poll revealed that IABC has a reservoir of good will as it reboots its Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) credential and undertakes other reforms. Three quarters of members expressed at least some degree of satisfaction about the services that IABC provides.

Ragan’s report makes for interesting reading, taken of course with the pinches of salt you would apply in an online survey that is as informal and open as this was, and didn’t require people to identify themselves. Those qualifiers by no means make the survey or its results invalid in any way: it’s simply saying that this isn’t some kind of scientific research project, but purely a snapshot from which you can glean insights into what people thought when they took it.

I took the survey as one of the 24 percent who Ragan said are lapsed members. My maths suggest that the actual number of lapsed members who took the survey is about 182. That’s a lot of people who care (enough) to share their opinions.

What adds to the credibility of the report are the comments that Ragan has also published – the unvarnished and unfiltered opinions people actually made – including those that are critical of Ragan and the few that questioned its motives in even doing the survey.

Enlightening, many of them.

What will happen now?

What I’d like to see is some clear and public acknowledgment by current IABC leadership of Ragan’s report. Some public communication – not something posted only in a LinkedIn group or in the member area of the IABC website, or as a member-only email – that shows they are listening genuinely and actually care about such opinion, especially from active members but also of the lapsers who shared their views.

Maybe something might happen at the international conference in New York next month. Something that would demonstrate caring leadership and recognition  of that groundswell of goodwill Ragan mentioned.

Here’s one lapsed member who’d care about that!

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Robert Holland

    An excellent summation, Neville, that also reflects how I feel. Being self-employed, it was a bit of a no-brainer for me since the local PRSA chapter is far more alive, engaging and beneficial than the local IABC chapter, which I served twice as president. I hope IABC does demonstrate that it cares about what current and lapsed members are saying.

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