New research finds that organisations still undervalue listening as a leadership capability and often pay lip service to it.

This is especially important during the current COVID-19 pandemic when the need for organisations to listen to employee concerns is greater than ever.

Carried out by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC UK), PR Academy and Couravel, with the support of the IABC Foundation, the research explored the state of organisational listening through interviews with winners of IABC Gold Quill Awards.

Howard Krais of IABC UK explained the reason for the study: “We wanted to find out the best ways for organisations to listen and how listening needs to become business as usual.”

The report builds on research carried out in 2019: “Our earlier research found that organisations have lost the balance between ‘receive’ and ‘transmit’.  With the growing use of video, social media and an explosion of channels the danger is that organisations forget that good communication starts with the ability to listen,” says Dr Kevin Ruck of PR Academy. “In fact, listening is now more important than ever.  Leaders will be judged by how they listen to and care for their people.”

The report contains case studies and examples of good practice in listening plus a range of tools that leaders and communicators can use to improve the way they listen to employees.

Through the research, five principles for good listening were identified:

  1. Openness: good listening requires an open mind
  2. Planning: thorough planning across the organisation
  3. Distributed leadership: listening needs to be led at multiple levels in the organisation
  4. Empathic and creative: creating impactful and emotive feedback approaches
  5. Human: understanding how people think and feel

“We hope that anyone wanting to devise new and innovative ways to listen to employees will find inspiration here, as well as advice on the tools that can be used,” says Mike Pounsford of Couravel. “Although the case studies were gathered pre-COVID, many can be adapted for an online environment and the principles we identified apply whatever the method being used.”

The report also sets out how organisations can assess their maturity in listening against a spectrum of approaches:

  • Passive: more opportunities for passive listening to check what people are thinking and feeling
  • Active: leaders showing that they are aware and responsive to needs of employees 
  • Sensitive: opportunities for people to talk about how they are feeling
  • Deep: listening exercises that can result in a change in the way that the organisation does things

“Organisations that have processes in place to listen to employees right across the spectrum are going to experience better levels of engagement, advocacy, trust, innovation, resilience, learning and wellbeing,” says Ruck.

Download the report here:

The original report, published in December 2019 can also be downloaded below:

Social Justice: Resources for Communications Professionals

Our members are facing new challenges every week, including addressing the issues of social justice in the world and the workplace. 

There have been some excellent articles written and generously shared, as well as podcasts and events. Here’s a selection worth checking out:




Why not share your own suggestions and recommendations on our social media channels? Find us on Linkedin IABC UK&I and Twitter @IABCUK

IABC UK & Ireland newsletter March 2020

Hello everyone. What a crazy few days it’s been since my last newsletter.
I guess that most of us are now working from home, and whether it is with children out of school or partners similarly working at home, we’re all trying to learn how to coexist in new ways than ever before.

Of course we are all concerned for the health and well-being of loved ones and I’m sending my thoughts and best wishes to all of you and hope you stay well.

Resources to help Communicators respond to COVID-19

Now more than ever it’s important to be part of supportive communities.  The COVID-19 pandemic presents huge and unprecedented challenges for communicators. There is still much that is unknown, but whatever happens we know that effective communication is more critical than ever. In fact in many companies the internal communicator is now more in demand than ever and the challenge is more about trying to keep order and help our audiences navigate through the likely mass of Coronavirus related comms. 

Consultants, agencies and membership organisations including IABC are all offering a range of resources to support communicators; a quick look at social media in recent days proves that.  My advice is make sure that what you use gives you what you need. I’d certainly recommend the IABC resource page, which has some really helpful links, webinars and other useful materials; and more is being added regularly. 

Keep an eye on both the global IABC and our IABC UK Twitter and LinkedIn feeds as we’ll share additional useful resources as they become available.

Whilst COVID-19 dominates our thoughts at present, we have to adapt and for IABC UK we are thinking about what we can continue to do to support communicators. 

Going digital

Clearly we have had to pause our in person events for now but the importance of networking, supporting each other and learning is as important as ever, perhaps more so. 

So I’m delighted that our popular monthly networking drinks will be held virtually. Join us this Thursday 26 March at 6.30pm for networking, learning and conversation. Just bring your own drink. 

This month’s theme will explore how we can build meaningful connections that can add real value when we’re all working remotely. Places are limited and going fast so please sign up here. We intend that these networking events will continue to run monthly. The good news is you don’t need to be in London to join this time. I look forward to seeing you. 

IABC UK & Ireland is delighted to be working with our sponsors LumApps this year. On 7 April we are looking to support a case study based webinar where LumApps will feature one or more of the great brands that they work with. For details about LumApps’s Employee Communication Platform please see their website here.  

We were disappointed to postpone our Women in Communications event, due to take place last week, as we had a near record number of people signed up. We’re looking at how we can bring this to you virtually, on 22 April, so more on this soon, through IABC UK & Ireland on social media and our website. 

I hope you are able to join one of these, or other online events in the coming weeks. Do let me, or anyone on the Board know if there are any other topics you would like us to cover.  

How the world used to be

With everything that’s been going on February feels like a lifetime ago.  We had a great turnout at our second monthly networking drinks. It was good to spend time connecting with members old and new. Thanks to everyone who came, and to our sponsors Lumapps for their support.

February Leap Day saw me join 18 other volunteers at the Gold Quill Blue Ribbon panel day.  Ours was one of the largest panels globally.  It was a great day working with fellow evaluators who travelled from far and wide including US, Italy and Ireland – a great demonstration of the I in IABC.

I’ve said it before, Gold Quill is the best definition of excellence in communications that I know. The three years I’ve been judging are amongst the most inspiring experiences I’ve had in communications. 

Last month also saw Sarah Harrison, our chapter President-Elect, getting to experience the international nature of our organisation with two insightful days at IABC Leadership Institute in Texas. Sarah blogged about her experiences here.

Looking ahead 

Obviously our plans will evolve but as things stand June remains a big month in IABC land.

The IABC World Conference is due to take place in Chicago between 14-17 June. World Conference is the best event of its type globally. I know that IABC are looking at all options at the moment for what they might do.

30 June – a big day! 

At the end of June we are planning for a packed day of IABC activity in Central London. 

In the morning we will host the certification exams currently offered through the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC). This is the first time that we have offered the chance to sit for this prestigious qualification in the UK. 

You do not need to be a member of IABC to take the exam so please feel free to share with your networks. We’re also looking for Proctors to invigilate on the day so if you’re interested please get in touch and you can register for the exam here.  

The exam will take place prior to the start of our sixth annual Future Fit event, which is shaping up to be another great afternoon or learning and networking; and then in the evening we will hold our AGM, and hope the sun shines so we can enjoy a drink on a terrace overlooking many City landmarks. 

We obviously closely monitor the situation and will let you know should plans need to change.

Congratulations to new IABC Fellows

IABC has recently announced five new Fellows. A fellowship is the highest honour bestowed upon an IABC member and recognises significant contribution to the profession. I was delighted to see former UK President, Barbara Gibson on the list and I’m sure you’ll join me in sending her our congratulations.

Finally, with us all likely to be spending most of our time at home in the coming weeks (possibly months), it is more important than ever that we take time to look out for each other.  At IABC UK & Ireland we pride ourselves on being a supportive network and so please get in touch with me or any of the Board if there is anything we can do to help during this time of uncertainty. You can also talk to us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Stay safe everyone and hope to see you virtually very soon.

Howard Krais, President 

IABC Certification Exams – June 2020

We’re delighted to confirm that IABC UK & Ireland Chapter has been selected to host certification exams currently offered through the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC). This is the first time that the exams have been offered in the UK.

The three-hour online multiple choice exam will be held in the morning of 30 June 2020 in Central London prior to the start of our sixth annual Future Fit event.

The two GCCC exams are the Communication Management Professional Certification (CMP) and the Senior Communication Management Professional Certification (SCMP). 

  • Communication Management Professional (CMP® ) — For generalist, specialist and other business communicators established in their careers as managers and looking to demonstrate their competence.
  • Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP® ) —For highly skilled business communicators practiced in providing strategic communication advice and counselling to an organization’s leadership.

Certification Exam Qualifications

GCCC certification is open to any communication professional who qualifies as determined by the information provided on the application form. You do not have to be member of IABC or any other professional organisation.

For Communication Management Professional (CMP) certification, candidates must demonstrate:

  • Eight years of experience and 40 hours of training OR
  • Six years of experience, two years of education, and 40 hours of training

For Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP) certification, candidates must also demonstrate:

  • Eleven years of experience and 20 hours of training AND
  • Provide a letter of recommendation from mentees or an organization for which the candidate has done pro bono work addressing senior level contributions to communications

It is not necessary to hold the CMP credential in order to take the SCMP exam.

Interested and have questions?

You can find out more about Certification and register here

There’s also a pre-recorded webinar here

Lessons from the Leadership Institute and Top Tips to Comms Professionals

By Sarah Harrison, President-Elect at IABC UK&I

In February 2020 I attended the IABC Leadership Institute (LI) in Austin, Texas. I was in the company of 120 other IABC President-Elects, Presidents and Past-Presidents for three days of discussion, brain-storming and celebration. 

IABC has reached an important moment having recently appointed management company, SmithBucklin, who are taking over the operational running of the organisation. They see tremendous potential in the IABC. As their Chief Executive, James McNeil, explained to us in Friday’s Town Hall, “We don’t partner with just any organisation, we have done our due diligence on the IABC. We find your spirit, culture and commitment very impressive.”

As part of their role, SmithBucklin plan to work on packaging IABC’s value proposition to fully leverage the quality of the programmes and member benefits such as the Academy, certification, the Hub, mentoring and the career roadmap. 

On Saturday morning we had a chance to ‘brain-stomp’ the IABC’s Vision. (Brainstomping is coming up with ideas while enjoying joyful movement to music. It is surprisingly effective.) We explored how to prioritise the pillars:

  • Advance the Profession
  • Create Connection
  • Develop Strategic Communicators

We agreed that if we develop strategic communicators, we will succeed in advancing the profession. Creating connections happens continuously through our events.

Later on Coach and author, Sara Canaday, started her session on leadership branding by reminding us we never get a second chance at a first impression: The halo or horn effect assumes people have positive or negative traits based on the first moment we encounter them. Her session included great tips for busy communicators such as:

  • Schedule time in your week for quality thinking, because this is how we progress
  • To develop as a strategic communicator, sign off your emails with a note about how your work specifically fits in with the business strategy
  • Ask for feedback on your performance. Be specific about what you want people to think of you and ask your peers where they see gaps in your style and performance

IABC’s LI was a unique opportunity for me to connect with leaders from all over the world, learn that we all face similar challenges and explore just how we might overcome them together. I was reminded why I chose to join the IABC UK&I Board and the breadth of professional experience if offers. It was also great to visit a BBQ Pit and hear live music wherever we went. “Keep Austin Weird”, as they say.     

Sarah Harrison
President-Elect IABC UK&I

Sarah Harrison (left) at the IABC Leadership Institute with Jo Johnston from IABC Canada East