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Meet IABC's 2003-2004 board members share in sights into communication challenges and predictions for the profession.

To help ABC members get to know the association's 2003-2004 Executive Board and ABC Research Foundation Board of Trustees better, CW asked these leaders to answer a series of questions about the communicator's role in today's business environment, the best tools for getting the job done and the future direction of ABC. Their answers, starting on page 44, provide an insightful and diverse snapshot of issues facing communicators, and reveal some of their personal thoughts about the profession.

DEFINE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION.

Effective communication meets its objectives without exceeding the limits of the human and financial resources allocated. It is layered and serves multiple purposes--awareness at first, then understanding and action.

--David Kistle, ABC, Minneapolis, Minn., USA

Effective communication promotes understanding and helps people make decisions or take action based on the information presented. At its best, it puts information into relevant context for each party and creates an ongoing exchange of dialog.

--Jill Sackett, Des Moines, Iowa, USA

The result of effective communication is shared understanding between the sender and receiver, between the team leader and the team, and between the organisation and its constituencies.

--Paul Sanchez, ABC, London, England

Effective communication begins when one person experiences a glimmer from the mind of another. It can begin with a look, body posture, gesture, or spoken or written words. It continues only when the recipient of that initial glimmer launches a response signal--a look or a word that says, "I agree" or "Give me more information."

--Donna StClair, ABC, Lynchburg, Va., USA

DEFINE INEFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION.

Ambiguous, misleading or unclear communication that will not accomplish the objective of changing people's behavior. Always take a second and third look at your communication and ask if it can be interpreted another way, if it's clear and if it makes sense for the intended audience. If you're unclear, your audience will be too.

--Julie Piper Finley, ABC, Portland, Ore., USA

Communication that does not speak to recipients in their language or at their level; communication that is irrelevant to recipients; or communication that alienates recipients versus motivating them to behave in the manner the sender intended.

--Patricia Jackson, Columbia, S.C., USA

Ineffective communication gives wrong or incomplete information and has no appeal emotionally for the intended audience. In addition, I've seen many examples of otherwise effective communication diminished by poor style and usage, graphics that interfere rather than reinforce and length substituting for quality.

--Larry Kerpelman, Ph.D., Acton, Mass., USA

Ineffective communication is the absence of defined message, with no identified audience, and often results in frustration, cynicism and defection on the part of the recipient.

--Beth Miller, Missouri City, Texas, USA

WHAT'S THE FIRST QUESTION YOU ASK WHEN TAKING ON A NEW ASSIGNMENT, AND WHY?

What is the goal here? Is it in line with my values and can I make a difference?

--Mark Drewell, Johannesburg, South Africa

How can I help you? The way this question is answered enlightens me on how the client views me and my services, illustrates the client's assessment of the situation and moves us to a strategic discussion. They say that a problem well defined is a problem half-solved. We are business people with outstanding communication skills and experience, and it's our job to get down to the problem at hand quickly and determine whether the issue was well defined to its root cause. All too often a solution has been identified to treat a symptom and not the cause.

--Shelley Griewahn, ABC, Arlington, Va., USA

Can I get a hot coffee? Seriously, I think anyone would want to know what the purpose of the communication is, who the audience is and what the message is. But as a consultant, I also want to know why clients feel they need outside advice. Why is there a disconnect between my client and the audience (who may be a part of the client, of course)? The answer often unmasks deeper problems, and it can unmask a relatively simple solution. The second thing I want to know is how the communication program aligns with the client's business goals. Sometimes this is obvious. Sometimes it's obvious to them but no one else. Sometimes it's obvious to no one, in which case we are trying to solve the wrong problem.

--Allan Jenkins, Frederiksberg, Denmark

What would success look like? That helps the client focus on the results of the communication rather than on the deliverables. The question helps me assess how the communication fits into the larger organizational initiatives and strategies. It also leads to the conversation about how we will measure success. I have found that "What are the goals of the communication?" can be too difficult a question to answer at the outset of the conversation. Asking about success and its overt characteristics elicits a more concrete response, and from there we can identify the goals, profile the various audience needs and ultimately define the tactical approaches.

--Jan Thibodeau, Cumberland, RI., USA

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT TOOL(S) AS A COMMUNICATOR?

My most important communication tool is a level of comfort with asking the stupid or obvious questions. We've been able to uncover more missed information and keep communication simple and clear with this one learned skill.

--Tracy Metzger, Bismarck, N.D., USA

The ability to listen. As I listen to people I'm already crafting answers to their problems before they've finished describing them. Over the years, though, I've taught myself to shut up and listen to them describe their issues and watch their nonverbal language punctuate the pain points. Sometimes what they think they want isn't what they really want, and if you don't actively listen, you miss the critical issue.

--Beth Miller, Missouri City, Texas, USA

People--those who have the skill, knowledge, ability and willingness to be an integral, active and effective part of a communication process. Often the most willing contributors to a successful communication process are not communicators--that is, those whose jobs or professions are anything except communication, but who can imagine and believe in the desired outcome of a communication process and want to be part of that.

--Neville Hobson, ABC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I don't think of myself as a photographer, I think of myself as a visual communicator. In a global marketplace, visuals are the purest form of communication. Pictures are understood by virtually everyone on the planet--instantly--with no translation needed. There is little or no chance of your message being misunderstood when you communicate visually.

--Suzanne Salvo, Houston, Texas, USA

WHAT IS A COMMON OBSTACLE YOU ENCOUNTER IN YOUR DAY-TO-DAY WORK, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?

Communication still tends to be the catchall position within organizations, which means that many obscure projects end up being assigned to communications by default. lime management, flexibility, strategic focus and good relationships with senior management help maintain clarity in my roles and responsibilities.

--Todd Hattori, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

One of my responsibilities is to communicate the value of employee learning and its impact on individual and organizational performance to external audiences and the media. Oftentimes, the business media are not as engaged in this topic when there is no breaking news or new data to report. So, to engage them in our issues on a more regular basis, I've held virtual press conferences on timely topics, including corporate ethics and bioterrorism. By connecting a current issue to our association's experts, I am able to position my organization as a resource and go-to source for information on how learning and development play a role in these issues.

--Jennifer Homer, Alexandria, Va., USA

I'm impatient by nature: finishing sentences, assuming outcomes, presuming premises or facts. To counter that tendency, I treat my communicator's role as similar to that of a lawyer building a strong case. Each piece of evidence--or fact--needs to be properly identified, considered and investigated. Only then can it be positioned or presented as part of the overall communication strategy or case.

--Annette Martell, ABC, MC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The time crunch. There are too many projects and too many interruptions. So many days start out thick with anticipated work hours and end up splintered and dissipated by meetings, calls, faxes and e-mails, all of them pulling me away for 20 or 45 minutes, or two hours at a time. I find that prioritizing helps, as does shutting off the e-mail flow. Consciously carving out days of solid, uninterrupted work time helps (give up meetings for a while), especially to work on larger projects.

--Ivan Muzychka, St. John 's Newfoundland, Canada

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE TO BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE(S) FACING COMMUNICATORS TODAY?

All too often, I see communicators filling their roles too narrowly. Ours is a unique position. Through communication and management, we have the ability to solve organizational issues. And we have the tools to help shape employee behaviors. Leaders look to us as business people and problem solvers...not writers, editors, designers and event coordinators. Yet many communicators still present themselves as craftspeople or tacticians. It weakens one's job, role and profession.

--Shelley Griewahn, ABC, Arlington, Va., USA

Credibility is our greatest obstacle and until we act like business managers, with the balance sheet clear in our minds, we'll just be the kids who do the newsletter.

--Katherine (Kit) Jenkins, ABC, St. Louis, Mo., USA

I think the biggest challenge is our need to be multi-disciplined. More and more, companies are looking for people not to be specialists, but to understand and be competent in a breadth of communication disciplines and business operations. Communicators can no longer say, "I don't do numbers"--we must be savvy business people as well as consummate communicators.

--Lori Joseph, ABC, Overland Park, Kan., USA

Technology. Communicators are the people responsible for assimilating technological advancements into the company's communication operations. Staying on top of the next wave and its rivulets can be challenging. Then there's always the problem of workload and quality control. Where there was one channel, there are now five, with only one person to keep all five channels filled. The information has to go out so quickly there is often little time to craft things carefully.

--Ivan Muzychka, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE JUST ENTERED THE PROFESSION?

Diverse experiences are required. And get to know your audience. Don't think that because you have a degree in journalism, know how to write an 11-word lead and can format a page in Quark, you are now equipped to be a communicator. Wait tables, work as a bank teller or a grocery clerk, spend a summer as a camp counselor, be a Peace Corps volunteer before you become a professional communicator. Part of being an effective communicator is the ability to talk with--communicate with--different audiences. And if you have shared experiences, your job as a communicator will be that much easier. If you're starting to work with a company that has a lot of warehouses, spend a day in the warehouse and drive the forklift, haul boxes. If your company is involved in food service, spend one day a month in the kitchen with the staff. Establish a level of credibility with your audience and your message will be far better received.

--Julie Piper Finley, ABC, Portland, Ore., USA

Be curious and take initiative. Why are we doing this? What if we did this instead of that? What are others doing? Who's done it before? Then take action. Don't wait to be told what to do. Or at the very least, come to the table with a recommendation.

--David Kistle, ABC, Minneapolis, Minn., USA

Belong to IABC. Vary your communication projects and roles. Work for--or with--great communicators. Pick tough assignments. Find ways for feedback to reach you. Push your limits so you grow every day. And, most important, love what you do; it can be very demanding.

--Annette Martell, ABC, MC, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Develop a real understanding of the organisation in which you work or the clients you advise and the environments in which they function. Without this understanding, you won't know what the real issues are and what factors need to be influencec to achieve the organisation's objectives. In my career, I've gone through training sessions about drilling an oil well, designing and manufacturing fuel injection systems, manufacturing biscuits, and teaching young people to drive. All of this knowledge has helped me to work more closely with the managers in the business because I could talk knowledgeably with them about the issues that keep them awake at night and use communication as one way of resolving some of those issues and moving the organisation forward.

--Gloria Walker, ABC, Middlesex, England

WHAT CHANGES DO YOU ANTICIPATE IN THE COMMUNICATION PROFESSION DURING THE COMING YEARS?

The continuous push to achieve organizational performance led by senior management means that communicators will have to step up to the plate (even more than they do now) and demonstrate the value of their work. Communicators will also have to become strategic partners with other key areas of their organization. Because of increasing globalization, communicators will be expected to understand how to help their customers and clients succeed in this constantly changing environment. For many communicators, it won't be enough to understand their organization's brand, customers and mission-they must also understand the global business environment within which it operates.

--Jennifer Homer, Alexandria, Va., USA

In the U.S., we will continue to grapple with changing demographics. Our population is becoming more diverse in ethnicity, ages of workers, religious affiliations, economic status and mobility, political persuasion, educational attainment, access to technology and life expectations. This has enormous implications for professional communicators. Research, development, negotiation, mediation, facilitation, change adaptation--these are just some of the skills and experiences that professional communicators will have to bring to the table. We must learn how to help ourselves and our audiences align our differences to create the energy needed to meet emerging business goals and societal expectations, not just on a national basis, but on a global basis. We must embrace our diversity while forging generally accepted ethics and practices in business and our communities.

--Joy Love joy, ABC, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

As real time becomes even more immediate, we will need to do more with less in less time. And this will challenge us to simplify our work lives so we can focus at a moment's notice on critical issues and then communicate them to the world in language a child understands and a CEO adores.

--Tracy Metzger, Bismarck, N.D., USA

I see a better balance of high-tech and high-touch communications. As we all become less enamored with technology and our ability to get information out quickly and to large numbers of people, I think the pendulum will begin to swing back to include more face-to-face, or at least person-to-person communication. We will begin to sort out how and when to use the tools of technology more effectively.

And we will recognize when communication requires people connecting to and engaging other people. We will see these changes both within organizations in the form of leader, management and peer-to-peer communications and between organizations and their customers in the form of more personal customer service and marketing.

--Jan Thibodeau, Cumberland, R.I., USA

HOW DOES IABC ATTRACT YOUNG MEMBERS TO THE ASSOCIATION TO ENSURE A CONTINUING FLOW OF INVOLVEMENT?

The best way IABC can attract young members is, first, by becoming involved with local academic institutions and student membership, and second, by proactively making volunteer opportunities available and attractive to young members so as to build a sense of involvement and participation.

--Larry Kerpelman, Ph.D., Acton, Mass., USA

Through mentoring and buddy systems, through the student members' network, through the leaders in the profession who are constantly speaking to younger audiences at the universities and business forums, through the active chapters aggressively marketing, and through word of mouth and testimonials.

--Bish Mukherjee, ABC, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

The challenge for IABC is to be relevant. Specifically, young communicators are going to want to know, "What's in this for me?" The days of belonging, not just to IABC, but to any organization for the sake of civic involvement or professional duty are over and gone. The organization must first show what it has to give to the individual, and only then will the individual be willing to give to the organization.

--Donna StClair, ABC, Lynchburg, Va., USA

We have to offer something they can't get elsewhere and serve as a role model in their development of their careers. We have to demonstrate the benefits of membership and involvement and make it a pleasure, not a chore, to be involved. "What's in it for me?" is a question we have to answer, especially with the growing number of associations that compete with us for members, particularly outside of North America. In Europe each country has a national association that is fully staffed and supported financially. We have to offer something that those national associations can't and we will have to think outside of the North American model to do that.

--Gloria Walker, ABC, Middlesex, England

HOW DOES IABC KEEP ITS EDGE WHEN THE COMPETITION IS FIERCE?

By constantly engaging and acting upon member opinion. By providing relevant and meaningful products and services. And with advocacy, visibility, credibility and integrity.

--Stephanie M. Griffiths, Johannesburg, South Africa

On a strategic basis, we must continue to create and demonstrate the value of involvement in a professional organization. This must be made clear not just to communicators, but also to the business community. On the operational side, we must be open to new definitions of professional association activities. This may mean creating opportunities for members to drop in and out of active involvement/sideline observation. We need to provide flexibility for those functions that depend on volunteer involvement.

--Joy Lovejoy, ABC, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

By providing research and knowledge resources, and by raising the profile of professional communicators and establishing it as a credible and valued profession worldwide.

--Carina de Klerk, Johannesburg, South Africa

IABC must continue to hear the needs of its members--all over the globe. It must work to internationalise its services and position itself as the one truly global professional communication association. To do this, it certainly must adopt a marketing orientation in all that it does-including speaking for the profession.

--Paul Sanchez, APR, London, England

IABC EXECUTIVE BOARD OFFICERS

CHAIRMAN

Stephanie M. Griffiths is a senior partner with Material Assistance Communication, Research and Development, an organizational development and applied communication practice in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has served on the ABC executive board and the IABC Research Foundation board, as well as on the ABC Sub-Saharan Africa board. She is currently completing an MBA program.

VICE CHAIRMAN

David C. Kistle, ABC, is senior vice president at Padilla Speer Beardsley, a public relations firm with offices in Minneapolis, Minn., and New York, N.Y., USA. He has served on the ABC executive board and is former chair of the IABC Research Foundation. He is also adjunct professor of public relations and communication research at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.

PAST CHAIRMAN

Annette Martell, ABC, MC, is a consultant in the communication practice of Mercer Human Resource Consulting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. An active ABC volunteer leader, she has served several times on ABC's executive board, as director of ABC's Canada District 2, as president of IABC/Atlantic Canada and as a Blue Ribbon Panel judge with ABC's Gold Quill Awards program. She was also a contributing author to the third edition of "Inside Organizational Communication."

FINANCE DIRECTOR

Jan Thibodeau is founder and president of JT Communications LLC in Cumberland, R.I., USA, where she develops employee and marketing communications and instructional programs for corporate clients. Jan also serves as finance director for the ABC Foundation, is on the adjunct faculty of Lesley University Graduate School of Business in Cambridge, Mass., and is a frequent lecturer at Boston University School of Public Health.

IABC RESEARCH FOUNDATION OFFICERS

CHAIRMAN

Katherine (Kit) Jenkins, IABC, is an associate professor of communications and journalism at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo., USA. She has served as an IABC chapter and district leader, as well as director-at-large on the executive board. She has taught and conducted research around the world, including Asia, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.

VICE CHAIRMAN

Gloria Walker, ABC, is a U.K.-based communication consultant advising clients and leading projects on commercial, organizational and business change issues. She has served on the IABC Research Foundation Board, as well as the IABC EMENA Board. She is currently completing a doctoral program.

PAST CHAIRMAN

Warren E. Bickford is director of communication and public education for the Saskatchewan Department of Corrections and Public Safety in Regina. He has held a number of volunteer leadership positions within IABC, including director of finance for the IABC executive board, trustee for the IABC Research Foundation, president of the IABC Regina Chapter and director of IABC Canada District 1.

FINANCE DIRECTOR

Jan Thibodeau is founder and president of JT Communications LLC in Cumberland, R.I., USA, where she develops employee and marketing communications and instructional programs for corporate clients. Jan also serves as finance director for the IABC Foundation, is on the adjunct faculty of Lesley University Graduate School of Business in Cambridge, Mass., and is a frequent lecturer at Boston University School of Public Health.
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Publication:Communication World
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:3573
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