Creating connections – 2015/2016 IABC report

Last week, we celebrated our Annual General Meeting at the UK chapter at Madano’s beautiful roof terrace. It was a lovely informal gathering to celebrate what has been a year of growth and consolidation for the association.

As I prepared for the AGM, reflecting on my role as president of the UK chapter, I was stunned by two things: how fast a year can go by and how much can be accomplished when you have the right team in place.

This year-long adventure exceeded my expectations and gave me back more than I ever imagined. If my theory is right and IABC is like a savings account, leading a chapter makes is a high-yielding bond. Unparalleled the interest rates!

A year ago, in a lovely pub in Holborn, I took up the baton from Tessa O’Neill and pledged to focus on three things. As a board, we agreed that in every aspect of our work we would:

Demonstrate that we are an outward looking association and cover the full spectrum of communication

  • have and use our global network
  • effectively engage our members

I also made a request that the title of Chapter President be changed to facilitator in chief, because it is the work and effort of our volunteers that make the chapter work. While my request was ignored, the ambitions set out the three objectives were met and, in some cases, exceeded. This is my chance to say thank you and recognize the passion, professionalism and talent that each of our board members have put into managing their portfolio.

This year we have held eight events covering global communications, crisis, measurement and the future of the profession. We held a joint event with the Montreal Chapter, strengthened the links with the Global IABC, and contributed to the Regional board through the Leadership Institute and Eurocomm. We also launched the global #myiabc video competition spearheaded by the incoming president Kira Scharwey.

I’d like to recognize Kirsty Brown for having taken our chapter’s events to the next level and, as we prepare to host Eurocomm 2017, we are incredibly lucky to have her on board.

In addition to events, our thought-leadership blog has become a space for UK and international experts to share stories and opinions that provoke, inspire and build stronger connections. Under Gay Flashman’ s direction we covered the evolution of the Italian PR industry, the TalkTalk and Volkswagen scandals, the misadventures of Alan Sugar and The Apprentice; we also shared insights into how to manage brands, crisis, corporate websites, social media campaigns, and international communication. Communicating for the communicators must be one of the biggest challenges in the business and Gay has done an excellent job with our website and social channels. Thanks as well to Leslie Crook for shepherding our LinkedIn group into their 1000 members.

We are also looking at the future of the profession and the association: our student members. Our continued relationships with Bournemouth University and the London College of Communication remain strong. This year we welcomed an agreement with Leeds University. The latter gave us 80 new members thanks to the resolve of two people: Daniel Schraibman and Dr Kendi Kinuthia’s, who joins the board this year. This agreement also strengthened our mentoring program. This holistic and long-term approach to student membership won us a global recognition at the last Leadership Institute.

In a time when membership in associations is struggling, we are thriving and that is down the work done by the membership team: Lauren Brown, Kira Scharwey and Marcie Shaoul.

As the well-known African saying goes, if you want to go fast go alone but if you want to far go together. We want to go far, and so this year increased our relationships and partnerships to deliver content, events and opportunities for our members. Thank you to our event partners Anglo American, Simply Communicate, VMA, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, Regester Larkin and our hosts tonight, Madano. Thank you as well also to all the support of our event sponsors: Pitch Pack, Scarlett Abbott and Communicate Magazine

Thank you to each and every one of the national, regional and global volunteers that help us create connection like never before.

Metaphor-jams or why IABC is like a savings account


Last night, I had the pleasure of taking part in a #Rapido Networking event to kick off a relationship between IABC and Leeds University Business School. It was my honour to share what IABC had to offer our 80 new members from Leeds. Here are some thoughts about IABC, hoping we can kick off a metaphor jam…

To me, IABC is like a career savings account. Let me explain:

  • The earlier you start putting into it, the better.– I wish I had been a member when I was doing my BA in Mexico, or my MA in Bournemouth Media School or even when I first moved to London to start a second career.
  • It would have made my path into the UK industry much smoother. It has given me something I didn’t have then: a global network of contacts that are more than happy to provide guidance on anything from good recruiters and career choices to favourite local coffee bars or suppliers.
  • You only get out as much as you put in – As an IABC member you can choose: stay on the side-lines and you’ll receive tons of useful information. Dare to become a volunteer – like many of us – and the sky is the limit on what you can achieve. IABC is a safe space to try out new skills, experiment and innovate.
  • You should be putting more in as you get older – As a student, a savings account is a luxury. So that’s the time when you should be squeezing as much as you can from those who are further along and have started to give back. Enrol in the mentoring scheme and push your mentor to give you more.

There is one way in which an IABC membership beats the saving account. It is portable and global. Many of our student members will move to other countries once they complete their studies. They will be taking IABC with them. From Manila to Paris, Los Angeles to Johannesburg, the local chapter is always there to welcome you.

Last night I walked away energized, inspired and in impressed at the quality and professionalism of the student-run event. It took both parties 18 months to turn an initial conversation into a real tangible, mutually beneficial partnership. So thank you to Daniel Schraibman and Dr. Kendi Kinuthia, among many others, for making it happen.

IABC is the largest network of professional business communicators in the world, and a source of peer-to-peer best practice sharing. This circle of learning wouldn’t be complete without those starting out their careers and we are delighted to welcome those students into our growing community.


Communications that change the world: the Sustainable Development Goals

  • 1.25 is the magic number.
  • $1.25 is equivalent to 80p a day
  • That’s less than your average cappuccino
  • Yet more than 800 million people live on this, or less, every day.

Living on $1.25 a day is living in extreme poverty; 800 million people in this state is unacceptable. What can we do change this?

IABCUKGlobalGoalsIn 2000, the UN came up with a plan to half extreme poverty by 2015 and called it the Millennium Development Goals. Did they succeed? Yes, two years ahead of target, but much was left to be done. Three years ago they came together again, this time with the input of the private sector and NGOs, and agreed to take it further. Last Friday, all 193 countries members of the United Nations endorsed a plan to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change: the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 goals have been called too ambitious, too many, too complex and too expensive to be met by 2030. However, even the cynics agree that these public statements have galvanised ambition, raised unprecedented amount of aid-money and, ultimately, changed global behaviour.

Isn’t that what we, as business communicators, try to achieve through our work? That’s the question behind this blog. In my opinion, the launch of the global goals are a great example of how our profession -at its best- can change the world. Here’s why:

1. Engagement led to defining outcomes

As opposed to the MDGs, which were famously concocted by an isolated group of gurus, the SDGs came to life after three years of dialogue. The result, albeit imperfect, is now owned by everyone. Shared results always have a better chance of being successful. The listening exercise transformed the goals, and enriched all of those participating.

2. They’ve made it matter to everyone, so everyone is involved.

The spirit of the goals is to leave no-one behind: youth, women, minorities, and even big corporate businesses. But how to get them involved?

“A key challenge was to make the goals accessible outside the development community” says Katja Iversen (@Katja_Iversen), CEO of the global advocacy organization Women Deliver. Before running Women Deliver, Katja led strategic communications at UNICEF and knows first-hand the value of meaningful communications. “If we want to drive progress, we need broad engagement, including by the business community. And it has to business as unusual. Stories about real people, showing that success is possible – that it is not all war, doom and gloom- are key. That is where the identification blossoms, the collaboration starts and action accelerates”.

The role of the UN Foundation in translating a policy-heavy text into a meaningful campaign was crucial. Take a look at their Employer toolkit or let the stories of the Tell Everyone campaign move you to action.

If you are in-house communicator, this is your chance to map your business outcomes against a global movement and motivate your people.

The responsibility of meeting the UN goals might lie with the governments, but the role of business can’t be ignored: we are employers and generate the income needed. We bring expertise, investment and can catalyze development. Cutting-edge companies are making their commitments public – you and your company however large or small can do the same. Join Richard Branson, Paul Polman from Unilever or, my employer, Mark Cutifani of Anglo American, in publicly stating how your company will support government in achieving the goals. As Mark put it supporting the achieving of the SDGs “means doing our work with excellence and ensuring our presence in host countries leaves a positive lasting legacy.”

Now what? In the worlds of Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, (and Elvis!) “A little less conversation, a little more action -please”. The work begins after launch, and the true test of this global movement will come with implementation. Just as any communications campaign. You can start by telling everyone the story of how you – as a communicator – can change the world. 


The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a global membership association with a network of 12,000 members in more than 80 countries. We deliver on the Global Standard in communication through educational offerings, certification, awards programs and annual World ConferenceFollow us on Twitter @iabcuk

The future is now


This is a recap of Communication Futures event hosted by IABC UK

The future does not yet exist. But we still have to plan for it. That was the theme of last week’s IABC’s excellent seminar on the future of communications hosted and designed by Susan Walker (@suseew) where we tried to answer these questions:

  • Will communicators have to rethink their role?
  • How is the world of work likely to change?
  • Can we use new techniques to understand how people think?
  • Do we need to extend telling important stories across multiple platforms and formats?
  • What developments can we expect from social media and technology?

From the not-so-new magic of transmedia campaigns to operating in a volatile environment, Susan and her A-list speakers led us in a journey towards what our profession can and should be doing to help the organizations we work for.

Who said what…
Lucy Adams (@lucyatfirehouse) is a strong believer in the potential of communication if it is focused for the individual and that HR and communication functions need to work together more closely.

Adrian Wooldridge (@adwooldridge) management editor of the Economist challenged us as communicators with a hard look at the future based on his book “The Great Disruption” which included facts and figures like the research which revealed employee loyalty had halved. In this volatile world, the employee’s first loyalty is to themselves.

Read Silvia Cambie’s interesting reflection on his talk – Communicating in disruptive times.

Hillary Scarlet (@Hilary Scarlett) explained the power of neuroscience and why we react most strongly to threats based on our brains inherited from early man escaping tigers on the savannah.

Steve Spence from Transmedia Storytelling empathised why we need to think of a range of media to tell the story effectively and cannot depend on just one channel.

Silvia Cambie (@silviacambie) and Leslie Crook (@LAC999) gave us their views and predictions of what social media might be in the future. Leslie also shared her social media framework and gave us a preview of John Stepper’s (@johnstepper) working out loud concept. His book is coming out in the fall so keep en eye out!
Read more