Friday, January 25, 2013

IABC, It's Time to Tune in to Eurasian Country Chapters

April, 2013 will mark my five years at the Russian chapter of IABC. Back then I had been looking forward to networking, exchanging views and experience in international business communications on a global scale, and further developing my skills. Almost five years on, I would like to share my own experiences with the IABC community and suggest some ideas for the future.

The networking experience has been quite useful overall. I must say there were indeed some great meetings, sessions and exchanges with open-minded and intercultural communicators like Silvia Cambie, Gloria Walker, Ilze Raath, Rosanne Belczak and Michael Ambjorn. Not to mention my native ground IABC colleagues, including Natalia Mandrova and Vitaly Rasnitsyn, current and honorary presidents of IABC in Russia, respectively. I am grateful to Natalia and Vitaly for supporting my initiative to write this post.

On the development side, however, things haven't been as rosy. IABC's assessment projects like the Gold Quill and the ACP seemed to be too much America-centric.  An experienced Russian colleague told me to keep on trying (three corporate tries already) to get the GQ prize - he had to submit his projects at least five times before getting the first award. Another experienced American colleague told me to keep on trying (two personal tries) to pass the ACP written exam.

Now, with the ACP isn't it awkward to pass first with your profile and portfolio to fail later at some written test case featuring Canadian or Mexican employees at a branch of a US corporation? Is that really the right way of assessing your competencies as international business communicator? I wonder if an ABC would pass test case featuring a Russian company with migrant workers from, say, Tajikistan. Would that still mean her accreditation is international?

In 2012 I attended my first IABC World Conference. While there were some inspiring speeches and useful presentations – my pick would be Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Barbara Gibson and Ann Wylie – most dealt with issues coming from a small subset of countries where English is an official language.

The "I" in IABC should not imply interstate or interregional. However that's the way the things are seen from my side of the world, Russia, as part of Eurasia. If you think this is a distorted view, you can almost be sure the same goes for the way Eurasia is seen from the IABC headquarters.

I have no immediate plans of leaving IABC. As an international and intercultural business communicator I am always open for dialogue. I hope there is a reciprocal interest from the headquarters side in overhauling the organization for the benefit of international business communicators worldwide,

Here are some suggestions and ideas in the shape of action points for further discussion and elaboration:

  1. Partner with national PR associations in those Eurasian countries where IABC is underrepresented. Such partnerships could work both for the networking and development activities. For example, Russian Public Relations Association has a local certification program which could be offered jointly with the ACP (see #3). Another example is the Russian Association of Communication Directors and Corporate Media with its annual summits held as study tours in Europe, Asia and America. Participants of such study tours visit offices and headquarters of leading international companies and organizations for direct contacts with their vis-a-vis.

  2. Partner with national PR awards in those Eurasian countries where IABC is underrepresented. Choosing new international GQ judges from their jury members and experts. For example, there is Russia's largest national PR Award called Silver Archer. Projects in its Global Communications nomination like Russia Beyond the Headlines and from companies like Nord Stream AG give some fascinating insight into the world of international and global business communications.

  3. Make ACP a matrix four-level program: Merit National, Merit International, Excel National, Excel International. The merit certification could be made on the basis of profile and portfolio reviews. The merit certification holders could pass through oral and written exams to get their excel certification. Merit National and Excel National certification could be outsourced to partnering PR associations.

  4. Globalize the IABC World Conference agenda. A good example of communications conference with a global agenda and diversified attendance is the World Communication Forum, held in Davos right after the big WEF event. BTW, the forum's partners include IABC chapters in the Netherlands and Russia.

  5. Formulate the IABC strategy in breakdown by countries of current and potential (desired) presence.