Thursday, July 06, 2006

What does it take?

....not to fall in love, but to get an 1,100 strong business communications group to the minimum 10,000 required members to reach charter status?

That's the challenge facing Communicators in Business at the moment, and a challenge I can affect since I've taken on the role of chairing CiB's membership committee.

Not sure why I did that - a moment of weakness fuelled by wine was enough to flatter me into the post. Anyway, I'm here now, and have gathered an interesting team around me ranging across corporates, agency and freelance members.

The first challenge we face is CiB's image problem. Though there are pockets of leading-edge thought within it, the organisation is still thought of as agency-led and somewhat self-serving in that all those agencies enter and win awards every year for their publications. Clearly, it has been in he agencies' interest to feed and water CiB over the years, and many really good people have taken on roles within CiB's management - most necessary as it's largely a voluntary organisation.

However, that makes it harder to break free of the media and craft focus of the organisation. The result is that it largely recruits and meets the needs of people whose living comes from writing, designing and editing media for internal audiences.

CiB now has a development group in place working on how to attract more senior people and provide an ofering that will make CiB the organisaton to belong to if your prime business stake is in internal communications. The aim is to have a body that still caters for the needs of those on the early rungs of the internal comms ladder, but that also puts all the building blocks in place to support people as they rise through what's becoming a more recognised profession. I see those building blocks as access to best practice and leading edge thought; communities of interest; excellent networking opportunities; recognised professional qualifications and links to he best in academia. Equally we must build links and alliances that bring IC professionals into regular and beneficial contact with peers in related fields such as HR, legal and change as well as the obvious PR/marketing organisations.

The development group is researching now and will report in the Autumn. In the meantime, my group needs to get the transactional processes right to enable us to reach both into CiB to meet the needs of existing members, and reach out to potential members and those who've never even thought of CiB in the past tohelp get the organisation out of the 'craft' bracket and into space where it's truly representative of hat's happening in IC today.

The only potential problem then is that organisational communication is consolidating, so that there's now less of a distinction between external and internal comms and more of a grouping around issue communication. I think there is, and will remain, a distinct skill set for internal comms and thus there's a distinct and necessary niche for CiB. However, CiB needs to play this one cleverly so as not to exclude those of us wh's skillset and audiences span both internal and external stakeholders.

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