Monday, September 25, 2006

Conundrum within an enigma

Later this week I'll take part in the latest Council meeting of Communicators in Business - the largest organisation representing business communicators in the UK and Ireland. Then, in a couple of week's time, I'll chair a meeting on membership: how we can attract communicators to, and retain communicators within an organisation where membership has remained in the very low four figures for as long as I can remember.

CiB has a perception problem: too many people within the organisational communications world see the organisation as being run by publications agency folk for publication agency folk. It's a perception that's frankly not helped by the fact that the current President, immediate past president and vice president are all....publications agency folk. But there lies the conundrum.

I'm getting to know all these people reasonably well and thery're both darned good at what they do and forward-thinking in terms of CiB. They're also the ones with the energy to take a front seat in managing CiB. They've already firmed up the organisation's niche by asserting that it's an organisation focused on internal communication. Additionally, they've launched development work built around providing an offering that will attract communicators at all levels - from new entries to the boardroom.

But there's the danger of Catch 22 setting in: at present, the vast bulk of CiB's membership is at the newbie-through-junior-to-craft level. There's still a backbone of journalists and designers who've come through the traditional print route to work in employee comms. How these people can make the step change to creating an organisation that can become a thought-leader across the wider realms of internal communications is quite a challenge.

Allied to this, too few corporate people or new thinkers are prepared to get involved in the active side of CiB. Unless people who've come to internal comms from a different background are prepared to step up to the plate and make an active difference within CiB, it'll stay the same. And if it stays the same, those very people it needs will never be attracted.

Third, the organisational comms world is changing - perhaps faster than CiB's thinking. The barriers between internal and external communication are breaking down rapidly - more and more organisations I work with have one communications team working on issues first, and segmenting the audiences later. Grabbing the high ground on internal comms is absolutely right now - but it's not an end point, and CiB will have to find a way to ensure its thinking will evolve as organisational comms changes.

I'm not sure how far we'll move on Wednesday - my experience is that these large Council sessions rarely bring searing light to any issue. However, I'm more hopeful of what will emerge from the Membership group - slightly younger than the CiB average, with more corporate experience and largely working across external and internal comms.

However, what's abundantly clear to me is that CiB must change - thankfully it's clear to those running the organisation too. But, I've a nagging doubt about whether the right change will happen with sufficient speed to make a difference.

No comments: