A former reporter, Springfield Lewis started his corporate career at IBM, becoming a speechwriter for senior executives. As director of communications at EDS, he continued working with several chief executives there, as well as developing communications during HP’s acquisition of the company.
by Springfield Lewis, Newsroom Ink’s VP of Strategic Communication and Ed Lallo, CEO and Founder
Recently, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) announced two major changes that will define its ability to successfully move forward.
The first is the rollout of its digital edition of Communication World (CW). The second is the departure of executive director Chris Sorek. Sadly, both are not good news for the 14,000 members.
In a recent media release, IABC stated the once bi-monthly magazine will be posted now once a month. It will be available on desktop, mobile and iOS devices, with an Android version released in the near future.
One of the main reasons the magazine went digital was overseas members didn’t receive printed copies for several weeks after mailing, according to Natasha Nicholson, executive director of Communication World. By going digital, she explained that subscribers will receive each issue as soon as it is available.
The organization plans to offer the online magazine free for the next four months, and then charge $120 a year to non-members.
Going “e” Ain’t e-nough
While attractive, the slick and costly publication already was an outdated way of communicating. Delivering digitally it reduces printing and mailing costs. So on one level, the new format makes sense.
The e-version, however, still does not allow for two-way conversations with members. Also, it lacks the ability for the timely transfer of important information.
“Trust” is the topic of the first electronic issue. It came out with the departure of IABC’s Sorek. Based on Tweets and other comments online, the news left some members questioning the organization’s leadership.
When such events occur, there’s a better way to communicate with members, inviting their immediate participation up close – rather than leaving them to post after-the-fact reactions from afar.
An online newsroom, which creates a sense of community, can foster communications among stakeholders — inside and outside an organization. Using brand journalism as its base, a newsroom reports stories as they happen and follows their development.
Also, a newsroom introduces different opinions, perspectives and offers a forum for open discussions among members and influencers. It is also an effective marketing tool, reaching communication professionals outside the organization.
Born in Crisis, Built for Business
Often, a newsroom is created during a crisis, stepping into the void left by media outlets either too busy or not interested in covering a particular issue or event. It provides a much-needed voice amid the drama for those who otherwise might be ignored and go unheard.
Beyond that, a newsroom proves to be a powerful business and marketing tool when aligned with an organization’s strategic agenda. An editorial calendar, embedded with SEO triggers, produces a drumbeat of coverage on industry issues, market trends and thought leadership – all designed to advance the conversation for an organization.
As a newsroom’s reputation and online community grow, it becomes a respected and often-quoted source for news and points of view. At the same time, it is a place where an organization’s leaders, members and others can express ideas, air differences and be recognized for their expertise and insights.
Communication World Newsroom
This said, how would a Communication World newsroom handle the Sorek departure announcement?
Most probably, such a newsroom would:
- First, produce out-in-front stories – putting things in proper perspective within IABC’s overall direction.
- Second, make the organization’s position known on discussion boards – getting it on the record, engaging critics, and perhaps, shortstopping some negative chat.
For the first part, planned coverage might include:
- Official announcement done as a news story, with comments from IABC Chair Kerby Meyer and incoming Chair Robin McCasland.
- Sidebar story by Meyer on how he hopes to handle the leadership transition over the next few months as the board searches for a new executive director.
- Article by McCasland on how this transition will affect the upcoming IABC World Conference and her move into the board chair.
- Possible stories from chapter and regional perspectives on how leadership changes could affect their operations, if at all.
- Q&A with select IABC Fellows, getting their thoughts on the situation.
- Interview with Sorek, giving him an opportunity to talk about the change.
On the second front, a newsroom could address issues raised in chat rooms by:
- Interviewing Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, to address – and even diffuse – the constant questions he raises in IABC chat rooms.
- Focusing on lingering, chat-room questions, which revolve around:
- Release of last year’s financial statement, with a piece outlining the fiscal health of the organization
- Cost of Sorek’s hiring, and how things might be handled differently this next go-around.
Buy into What You Sell
As an organization of professionals, IABC has in the hand the expertise to intelligently communicate about its business and operations. After all, it’s the same expertise it educates and sells to members – who, in turn, counsel the world’s business leaders about what’s best in communications.
For IABC leadership to do anything less for its own members seems, well, disingenuous.
For now, what we are left with is communications interruptus: “Can’t get no…”
We know the song and the words. What’s important here is that we know there’s a better way to communicate – as professionals leading professionals. To paraphrase for the sake of progress: “Hey, hey, hey. That’s what we should all say.”