Leadership insights and lightbulb moments

IABC leaders exhibit all the traits of “trusted strategic advisers”, says Nikki Edwards, who joined more than 140 of them at the International Leadership Institute in Long Beach, California earlier this month.

I’ve recently noticed increasing reference to corporate communications practitioners needing to be trusted or strategic advisors to their business leaders. In fact, in a recent “State of the Sector” report by Gatehouse, three out of four comms people said they are viewed as such.

So what are the hallmarks of a strategic adviser? If we look at the traits listed in IABC’s Global Standard definitions of steps in the communications career path (Foundation, Generalist/Specialist, Strategic Adviser, and Business Leader) then by definition an adviser:

“Takes responsibility for work other than their own and develops others within the organisation. To accommodate their personal development needs, they seek to build additional areas of expertise. They have strong interpersonal skills, broad business perspectives, stimulate others through ideas and knowledge, and effectively represent the organisation’s clients and external groups. They have expanded their expertise in niche disciplines and explored innovations within these disciplines. They are highly skilled and confident, providing strategic communication advice and counsel to the organisation’s leadership.”

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About 140 IABC chapter and region leaders gathered in Long Beach, California, for the 2016 Leadership Institute.


I recently had the privilege of attending the IABC’s annual global leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA. Surrounded by a room-full of communication professionals from around the world, I realised that, in one way or another – regardless of seniority or number of years of experience – just by being there and actively participating, we were all exhibiting the hallmarks of a strategic adviser.

I was also struck by just how important it is to be connected with others in your chosen industry. Not just for the networking and professional connections, but to share experiences, best practice, ideas and challenges.

After all, why wouldn’t you be a member of your professional organisation?

It’s a ridiculously small investment for what amounts to a career goldmine. Never mind the access IABC members have to research, trends, opinions, case studies and more – we instantly have a direct line to more than 10,000 other communicators who, believe me, are very generous and quick to offer their personal insights.

Stepping up as leaders

Over the course of the two-day conference, I kept having to remind myself that everyone who serves as an IABC chapter board member does so in a purely voluntary capacity. Because from the energy, commitment and enthusiasm in the room you’d swear we were being paid to be there.

IABC leaders are willing to donate their time (sometimes many, many hours a week), share resources and even give their intellectual property for the betterment of the profession. You just have to look at the myriad insights and a-ha moments shared via Twitter to see what I mean. That’s clear affirmation for me that we all have two things in common: a passion for what we do, and a driving ambition to do it well. And it’s these kinds of people who become trusted, valued and strategic advisers – and leaders in their own right.

Look at #iabcli to get great insights into what was experienced, shared and learned at LI 2016

View the official LI photo album, which captures the event beautifully


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Nikki Edwards

About Nikki Edwards

Nikki  is the current Vice Chair of the IABC EMENA Region board and an independent consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the communications industry. She worked in publishing and ran a full-service comms agency for 10 years before moving into corporate roles, where she led a number of global, award-winning internal communications teams. She’s since returned to her indie roots and now runs two small businesses, Hot Chilli Box and Rent Our Home.
Follow Nikki on Twitter: @NikkiCE


 What could you do to up your game?
  • Attend the IABC EuroComm 2016 conference in Rotterdam in April, where the content will be related to the theme “Driving Business with Communications”
  • Attend the Indispensable Strategic Communication Adviser online workshop from 25 February
  • Read “The Indispensable Strategic Communication Adviser” in Communication World magazine
  • Attend the IABC World Conference in New Orleans in June, where an entire day will be dedicated to the strategic adviser

Plus you could …

  • Step up to a leadership role within IABC and apply to serve on your local chapter board or the EMENA Region board – we’ll be calling for nominations shortly!
  • Serve on one of the many IABC global committees and task forces
  • Stay abreast of the industry through IABC’s resources for members
  • Apply to take an IABC Communication Management Professional (CMP) certification exam
  • Start planning your 2017 Gold Quill award entries
  • Join #CommChat on Wednesdays at 9am PT (5pm GMT) for more insights
  • P.S. Look out for the new learning management system coming soon to iabc.com, which will focus on the strategic adviser level
Posted in Board blog, EMENA Regional news, IABC Global news, Leadership development.