IABC Heritage Conference 2013 Elevates My Game

IABC Heritage Conf TitleLast month, I had the privilege of attending the International Association Business Communicators (IABC) 2013 Heritage Region Conference in Indianapolis.

At first blush,  I wasn’t much enamored with visiting a city in a “Red” state nicknamed “India-No-Place” nor do I spend much time sports fanning (conference theme was “Elevate your Game,” and Opening Night Reception was held at the NCAA Hall of Champions).

But, whIndy Canalen I found out  that my fellow IABC Cleveland/Akron Board Member Kavita Sherman was one of the instrumental conference organizers;  that I was being offered a nice stipend to cover the majority of my costs; the location was just one state over and less than a five hour drive; and that coincidentally I could “Priceline” a top hotel overlooking the Central Canal Culture District that I covered in a recent article I wrote on “stormwater management”  for Turf magazine,  I couldn’t pass it up.

I’m pleased to report that my preconceived notions about the conference were blown away quickly after experiencing the incredible hospitality of the city and conference hosts together with the quality of the conference programs and presenters.

Chapter Leaders Forum

IABC Cleve logoMy first encounter at the conference was attending the Chapter Leaders Forum.  Here,  I picked up a lot of great tips for working on building and retaining memberships serving on the Board as Membership Director for the IABC-Cleveland/Akron Chapter.*

Key Take-aways:  Try “Tour and Talks” by holding your meetings at members’ workplaces; keep age differences in mind when programming; consistency (time, place, etc) and quality of speakers is paramount; mentoring and buddy systems for new members; guest coupons; robo reminder calls mixed with personal calls; assign special short-term projects for members to feel involved and special–joining Board can come later.


 McClearyWhat’s Your ‘It’   Tim McCleary, The Involvement Practice, Sandy Hook, CT.

Tim was backed up by “graphic recorder (aka mindful artist)  Breah Parker,  who continually synthesized verbal content into detailed graphic charts, bringing the words and interactions in the room to life for participants– way cool as I never experienced that before. Key Take-away:  When influencing, your constituents will only remember 50% when you dialogue, 75% when immersed, 90% when involved.

SiteLogoWhats in it for Me?  Cindy L. Graham, Goodwill Industries, Indianapolis, IN.

Key Take-aways:  The customer is the boss; be available to the customer 24/7 and reach them wherever they are on multiple channels; the customer conversation never stops; create communities where they can dialogue with you back and forth; people love loyalty programs.

 Break-out Sessions

SmithJump Start Small Business Communications  Will Smith, EScreenz, Entre Computer Systems, Rochester, NY.

Key Take-aways:  Small businesses with small marcom budgets represent 50% of working population and generate 65% of the new jobs for marcoms.  Spend time and money on making a killer world-class website with lots of links; use the newswires.  Case studies:  Small bank offered community free meeting space, Manufacturer developed fan base for snowplow lovers with killer YouTube videos and online chat sites.

 WilliamsWhy Reptation Risk is More Than a PR Issue  Sean Williams, Communication AMMO, Cleveland OH.

Key Take-aways:  Technology, data security, regulatory compliance are types of risks; the “reputation” economy is growing all the time; Good measures of reputation include (1) direct feedback from relevant publics (2) positive share of social media (3) positive share of media coverage; Communicators notoriously fall flat on knowing numbers, regulations and business; content analysis is too much on “boiling the ocean.”

ImmEleven Ways to Rock Your Communications Career  Tracy Imm, Charm City Chicks, Baltimore, MD.

For someone like me in “Career Mid-life Crisis,” clearly experiencing age discrimination in job searching and straddling the two worlds of corporate employee (though part-time) and freelancing–I was at full attention sitting in this one. I walked out with no less than a dozen books and blogs I need to read in order to keep moving forward! Key Take-aways:  Discover your “Why”  and don’t start with your “What”; check out Ralph Marston’s “Power of Purpose” and subscribe to his “Daily Motivator”; the reason you may be unhappy at work is that you have a “Values Conflict”; Be an early adapter, stay relevant and never stop learning–at least one hour a day!; luck happens when prep meets opportunity; ask the universe for what you want, own that room and then you’ll be sure to get it.

 EnslenWrite Normal  Samantha Enslen, Dragonfly Editorial, Tipp City, OH.

Why can we not write like we talk?  The best writing is simple–like you are targeting it to a clueless kid–but most writers can’t do that.  Key Take-aways:  Use “The Universal Story” template and you can’t go wrong–“Once Upon a Time,” then “Suddenly,” then “Luckily,” and finally, its “Happily Ever After;” readability needs to be at the 7th grade level; vary the length of your sentences.

 DemoBarattanstrating ROI: How Public Relations & Social Media Drive Business Metrics  Melissa Baratta, Affect, New York, NY.

Key Take-aways: 30% of us are not tracking ROI; Setting realistic goals include grounding in reality, knowing the limitations of resources and commitment from executive leadership; you’ve got to keep a good mix of PR, social media and marketing going; Social media audiences–LinkedIn is for the B-B commercial and industrial, Twitter is for small business tips and Facebook is for consumers; quality over quantity.

Student Involvement: Key to IABC’s Future?

On either side of the conference, I had the opportunity to taxi a Kent State University student to and from the conference.  She was put through the ringer by competing on one of three student teams whose challenge was to come up with a full-fledged marketing communications campaign for a new sports service within a few hours. She indeed survived the challenge and had a great time at the conference. But. she was the last student standing for our Cleveland/Akron chapter and was now checking out for good.  I learned from her that IABC needs to ramp up student involvement.  Makes sense–after all, they are our future!

* The Cleveland IABC chapter hasn’t officially “slashed on” Akron, but since half the Board works and lives in Akron, and we’re re-introducing programs and focusing on recruiting there, I add it on whenever possible.