IABC logoThe so-called “Friday night massacre” of 16 of the 32 staffers of the International Assn. of Business Communicators continued as a hot topic during the holiday period with 208 comments posted on LinkedIn as of Dec. 26.

The “ForImmediateRelease” podcast (http://tinyurl.com/c7e5pqa) devoting 20 minutes of its Dec 24 show to the topic.

Co-host Shel Holtz said there was no question that the principal forum for the staff cuts had become a LinkedIn special section (http://tinyurl.com/bnw2p8u) and not anyplace on the IABC website. A few comments had surfaced on FaceBook, he noted.

Comments on the LinkedIn site have been overwhelmingly negative about both the staff cuts and the way they were announced (or not announced).

A common observation by IABC members on LinkedIn is that they heard of the drastic changes from friends or various websites and not from IABC itself.

Chair Kerby Meyers and executive director Christopher Sorek initially only announced the changes to leaders. They posted a four-minute video that expressed confidence in the future of IABC but that did not mention the staff cuts.

Roger D’Aprix, longtime IABC member, called Sorek “a bull in a China shop who seemingly has no understanding of how to manage, let alone communicate, change.”

“Lack of Interaction”

Holtz and co-host Neville Hobson repeatedly noted the “lack of interaction” and “engagement” between IABC elected leaders and staff and IABC members who want more specifics about the new directions of the group.

They and others expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation that “business judgment” was behind the changes.

Participants in the Dec. 24 FIR expressed alarm that a shift to “certification” as the new credential for members would mean the denigration of the ABC (Accredited Business Communicator) credential currently used. IABC has stopped taking applications for ABC, citing low interest in the program and high costs.

Meyers said it takes an average of 17 hours of staff time for each new successful ABC candidate.

Holtz said members are alarmed by the cancellation of the printed bi-monthly Communication World after more than 40 years, saying the magazine was the “main benefit” they received from IABC.

No input was sought from members on this decision, he noted. “A number of members tell me that CW is the most significant benefit they receive from IABC,” said Holtz.

“We are not against these changes, we are just not being informed about them,” said Holtz.

Consultant Hamm Headed NOCA, Now ICE

Michael Hamm of Albuquerque, N.M., who has been retained as a consultant on the ABC program, headed the National Assn. of Competency Assurance for eight years, according to the bio posted on his website. Its name was changed to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) in 2009.

According to the Hamm website, http://www.michaelhammand associates.com/bio.htm, he “specializes in meeting the needs of certification and accreditation organizations. Mr. Hamm is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC). For eight years, he served as the executive director of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). He also managed the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the primary national accreditation program for certification organizations. Michael is the author of Fundamentals of Accreditation, published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). This book is one of the primary references in the field. Michael has more than 20 years experience in association management and health care issues. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Association Management Company Accreditation Commission. He earned a master’s degree in health care administration from George Washington University.”

Numerous Questions Posted on LinkedIn

Below is a serious of questions aimed at IABC leaders and staff that were posted on LinkedIn:

Q: There has been a rumour about existing ABC's losing or somehow having their classification of accreditation changed following the accreditation review. Will any changes affecting existing ABCs? Can you comment on this rumour? What about candidates currently enrolled in the program who are working even now to complete the process?

Q: An extensive amount of volunteer work and consultant research has gone into reviewing accreditation; can you share what you do know? Example: the leveling of the profession and the body of knowledge.

Q: What are the principles that will guide decision making with respect to accreditation, certification, certificates, fellows, etc. going forward?

Q: With IABC getting out of the publishing business, where does the research arm of the organization stand, and what are IABC's objectives regarding research? The subtext here is that IABC's publishing program really positioned the organization as a leader in research. What is being done to ensure that IABC still is perceived as being the most intellectually rigourous of the communication organizations?

Q: What is the current research agenda?

Q: How has the process of research changed with the adoption of the content strategy?

Q: Where does this shift leave the longstanding “fundraising” arm of IABC - the Research

Organizational Competency
Q: With several communication misfires in the past months, one wonders about the communications and change management plan around some of these changes. When will leaders or members have a chance to see even a high-level outline of those plans, so as to begin rebuilding trust that this kind of thing won’t happen again?

Q: With most of the senior staff fired, how do you expect to maintain IABC's institutional memory? Or is that not important?

Q: You say you fired senior staff because they did not have the right skills. What skills are lacking? For example, have you already created new job descriptions that identify those needed skills and the laid-off staff didn’t have them?

Q: You say we are "on budget" but refuse to release any numbers. Yet, I know from personal experience that you have up-to-date numbers at hand that you could release if you chose. Why don’t you?

Q: Firing senior (and highly paid) staff + a switch out of print smacks of massive cost cutting... You refused to discuss this situation until the budget had been approved by the board, which also smacks of financial crisis. How can you demonstrate in the next couple of weeks that IABC is not in dire financial straits? Many of us were around 12 years ago, and can sniff the signs.

Q: Are we losing membership? Failing to attract new members? What is the justification for a massive reorganization?

Q: When will IABC present a comprehensive strategy and business plan to its members?

Q: Kerby, you have had 18 months on the job... why weren't you talking about this a year ago? And why isn't Robin here to discuss how she is going to help carry this out, since your term ends in a matter of months? Is McCasland on board with this?

Q: Chris Sorek must be expected to "make numbers"... may we have a clue as to what those are? What will be a successful first year for him?

Q: What was the justification for shutting down Accreditation? Rumor has it there was a deliberate deletion of data earlier this year and that a planned IT initiative for the program never launched. Is this true?

Q: While Gold Quill had some flaws, was it really necessary to completely rip apart the program and then paste it back together with an unwieldy "all entries go to Blue Ribbon" solution?

Q: The officers and board have, according to my sources, rarely reached out in the past two years to Fellows, former officers and leading volunteers, dismissing them (in Adrian Cropley's word) as "Chellows." Will Meyers and McCasland begin reaching out to these leaders?

Q: Can you provide information around the process of decision-making over the past three years? It would be informative if members knew the committees, consultations and surveys that have informed decision-making from a member’s perspective.

Q: You said on a call that you killed the print version of CW after doing external benchmarking (though I find it interesting that CIO Magazine still offers printed subscriptions). However, have you actually surveyed members to see how many prefer to have it available in print (in addition to the enhanced online version)? This is not the same as having a PDF available for printing out online (a pulled communication) vs. a pushed printed publication that is much more likely to be read. My own research at many client companies shows that when printed publications are killed, the number of readers of the replacement online publication goes down and those fewer readers read fewer articles--which is true even in companies where everyone works online. Other publicly conducted research shows that readers of online versions of daily newspapers read fewer stories than those reading the printed version. Educational research shows that comprehension of reading online with multiple links is much lower than reading print, where the reader follows a single linear train of thought.

Q: Given that IABC is ceasing its publishing business, what are the plans for the IABC Handbook? It was/is a valuable compendium of communication methodology and best practice. There is no comparable document so if the decision is to end it, that is a serious mistake.