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A history of IABC communicators: forty-six years of shaping the corporate word.

Anybody remember the "house organ?"

"Operation Tapemeasure," carried out in 1956, was one of the first surveys of members. IABC then was called the International Council of Industrial Editors (ICIE) and focused primarily on company publications. The word "communication" was a term with somewhat limited use. Most members had journalism backgrounds with only 22 percent from public relations, and none listing a communication background. Editors' salaries were around $600-$800 per month and average age was between 34 and 40 years. Men's salaries topped those of women, with 60 percent of the women editors earning less than $400 per month and 89 percent of their male counterparts earning more than that figure. Seventy-six percent of members were men. Subsequent "Operation Tapemeasures" were conducted in 1963 and 1967, showing a gradual increase in salaries, but still large gaps between male and female salaries, with male members in the majority.


By 1972, the organization had become the International Association of Business Communicators. Salaries had risen. According to that year's survey, nearly 64 percent of communicators (a term now used widely) earned between $10,000 and $20,000 annually; two thirds earned $15,000 or more. The gender gap was shrinking, with 59.4 percent male and 40.6 percent female reporting in. Average age was 25 to 39 years. Budgets ranged from $25,000 to $49,999 a year and duties were 95.9 percent writing and editing. However, 70.2 percent of responders listed their main experience as "business communication" with newspaper and magazine editorial at 44.5 percent. PR came in third, with 28.9 percent.


In "Profile/75," the communicator (now the most frequently used term for members) was a married male, age 35, with a bachelor's degree in journalism and called editor (still!). His department was public relations, and he reported to a VP, director of PR or to a general manager. Sixty-five percent majored in journalism or English. Salaries averaged $15,647, which was estimated to be roughly $2,000 more than was earned in 1972. Salaries for women were around $12,700, with mean salaries for men at $18,088. However, Profile/75 qualified this: "In fairness to the profession, any analysis of the treatment of the two sexes must be prefaced by the fact that Profile/75 shows a dramatic increase in the number of women in business communication since 1972." A whopping 46 percent of IABC members were women.



By 1977 the gender balance shifted, with 50.8 percent of members female and 46 percent male. Salaries were up 34 percent overall, but still a wide margin between men's and women's was reported. Titles were shifting from editor to manager or director with added responsibilities, and some reporting at a higher level in the organization.

In 1979 the average salary passed $20,000, and females made up 54.4 percent of membership. Communication departments were coming into their own and gaining recognition as something other than a print shop. The department focus was primarily internal, but beginning to take on more external communication responsibilities.

By 1981, the typical communicator was a female, age 32, with hefty budgets and more support from top management. Salary average was close to $25,000. A significant differential remained between what men and women earned--with men making between $24,476 to $30,000, and women making $17,000 to $20,900.

Profile/81 was the first to include data outside North America, and as an example indicated that communicators in the U.K. were earning nearly $3,000 a year more than their U.S. counterparts; Canadians were earning about $3,000 less.


In 1987, for the first time, findings indicated a declining number of communicators on corporate staffs. Communicators responding as "self-employed" had a 44 percent gain, although those remaining on corporate staffs saw their titles shifting to indicate their broader, and better recognized, responsibilities. Average salaries were up--$36,000, with accredited members (ABCs) making considerably more at $47,900. Another first was data on member race: 93.5 percent were Caucasian; 1.5 percent African American; 1.5 percent Asian and 1 percent each Hispanic and Native American.

By 1989 the corporate merger, restructuring, downsizing, capsizing mania started to subside, and communicators were being brought back to help pick up the pieces. The number of self-employed communicators was down significantly. Salaries broke the $40,000 barrier; male/female member mix was at a 60 (female)/40 ratio. Communication was also finally being recognized as a strategic practice rather than simply a tactical one (although tactical skills were still vital). ABCs were making $10,000 more than non-accredited members. The increasing use of technology was listed as one of the top communication issues.

In 1995 IABC membership was 70 percent female, and salaries broke the $50,000 mark. Communicators' roles were becoming even more significant and were being recognized as a force that could affect the bottom line. Technology was an increasing phenomenon, and the struggle was in controlling and using it as an additional and effective communication tool.


By 1997, communicators had a burning question, "Who's in charge of electronic communication?" The dot-com generation had arrived, and techies were moving into the communication arena. Communication budgets increased, with some shifting to technical investments. Many organizations jumped on the dot-com bandwagon and began to focus on this new electronic tool to deliver information without using paper--and to spend whatever it took to do it.

Communicators' salaries hadn't changed much since '95, even though responsibilities were shifted toward technology issues. The reorganize/restructure fervor had subsided in the U.S., but organizations outside North America were beginning to feel it moving into their regions. Fifty percent reported they had experienced a re-engineering or reorganization over the past two years. In those areas communicators were still making significantly more than their U.S./Canadian counterparts, averaging $52,000 a year. The Profile survey reflects that communicators outside North America held higher titles and reported at higher levels in their organizations than those in North America. Communication budgets outside North America also were 50 percent higher, with U.S./Canada averaging just under $300,000 compared to $500,000 outside North America.

Overall, the gender gap continued with females outnumbering male IABC members with 82.7 percent women in the U.S.; 86.9 percent in Canada and 87.5 percent outside North America. The salary gap continued, however, with the median salary for women at 87.7 percent of the median salary for men. Data from the survey indicated that 28 percent of IABC members were employed by Fortune 500 organizations.

Profile 2000 was a joint study of IABC and PRSA (Public Relations Society of America), and was probably the most comprehensive survey of the profession ever conducted. The study reported that communication budgets increased to $635,000 - 10 percent larger than '97. Salaries increased to an average of $69,000. Consultants' salaries were considerably higher than those with a corporate position ($110,000 vs. $63,000). Consultants' cash bonuses were higher, too ($20,000 vs. $9,000). Most communicators said they were responsible for both internal and external communication, (69 percent), and this percentage had increased since 1997. Job titles had changed little since 1997, except outside North America where a decrease in communicators with title of manager or assistant was evident. Overall, titles started reflecting somewhat higher levels of responsibilities and recognition within organizations.

The most significant development noted in 1997 was the increased use of computer technology. Communicators also believed that they had a more significant role in the organization and more support from top management.

The most common form of internal communication was electronic mail, followed by a WWW home page. For external communication, the reverse was true: a WWW home page was most often used, with electronic mail second.


Several factors seem to have remained fairly consistent in the survey findings throughout the years. Women have never achieved salary levels equal to men in the profession. Job titles have remained pretty much the same since the late 1970s--the only significant change was from "editor" to "communicator" back when ICIE became IABC. Reporting relationships also have been consistent; most IABC members still remain part of middle management even though more recently they have gained more strategic responsibilities, and certainly many more have stepped up to the management table as advisers and counsel.

Age and education of the average communicator also has remained fairly consistent. Most practitioners have been in the profession from 5 to 15 years, and most have bachelor's degrees; a little less that a third have master's or above. Another significant finding is that accredited business communicators throughout the years have made more money than non-accredited members and hold higher positions in their organizations. IABC members still seem more focused on internal rather than external communication--and most are, and have been, employed by the communication department of an organization. The only decline in this was during the late 1980s when downsizings, mergers and reorganizations were rampant. In fact, internal budgets shrank during this period and any increase did not even match inflation.

It seems that communicators like to change jobs--nearly all respondents averaged only three to five years with. the same organization.

Even though most respondents to the surveys said they had frequent contact with senior management, they still felt left out of the decision-making loop. "The need to educate top management on the importance of communication was listed as a major challenge back in the 1970s, and remains a steady lament through the 2000s.

Outside North America members (right now they number about 1,200) report higher salaries, titles and reporting relationships than their counterparts in the U.S. and Canada, with Asia/Pacific and Europe/Africa leading in both. Even though outside North America member growth is expected to increase, many U.S. communicators still do not see globalization as an important issue facing them, another issue that has remained fairly constant through the years (though increasing in importance in recent surveys).

EDITOR'S NOTE: All figures are in U.S. dollars.

Gloria Gordon is editor of CW.
COPYRIGHT 2002 International Association of Business Communicators
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Article Details
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Author:Gordon, Gloria
Publication:Communication World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
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