What Do Senior Communicators Want?

The challenge in any broad-based membership organization is to provide value to all your members. IABC traditionally does a great job of programming for mid-level communicators; less so for its senior-level members. To address this challenge, IABC/Washington some years ago founded a Senior Communicators Council to provide more targeted programs and a place where senior-level members could network with each other. Past programs have included “how being a communicator helped me be a better CEO” and “Walmart‘s diversity initiatives.”

But is the organization hitting the mark?

The Senior Communicators Council kicked off its 2010 schedule yesterday with a program entitled simply: What Do Senior Communicators Want? My friend and colleague John Clemons surveyed 60 senior communicators in three large IABC chapters (Washington, Chicago, and Houston) on how well the association’s programming resonates with senior communicators. Of the 44 respondents, 61 percent had been in the profession 20 or more years; 30 percent had 15 or more years of experience.

Some key findings:

1. A split on whether IABC’s International Conference is programming to senior-level attendees (48.7 percent said yes; 51.2 percent said no). An informal poll of participants at yesterday’s event trended toward a resounding NO.

2. The top 2 categories of interest for programs: best practices (76.1 percent) and breaking news|topical (61.9 percent). “We want to hear real stories,” said Clemons, who suggested that people think about such topics as bringing in someone from the White House to talk about communicating around health care reform or the spokesperson for USAIR to talk about communicating around a a crisis.

3. A split on whether people would pay extra to join an IABC program specifically for senior communicators (i.e., something akin to IABC/Washington’s SCC). While 51 percent say yes, 49 percent said no. As one person yesterday put it, “My dues should already pay for that.” Another pointed out that the difference in responses might be due to location; in Washington, there are a lot of other resources and opportunities.

4. The top 2 specific program suggestions: social media and crisis communications. This was followed by staff management and development, and case studies linked to ROI. Attendees at yesterday’s meeting also expressed a real hunger to tap into our collective wisdom and learn from each other, such as perhaps holding moderate discussions around a key topic. (My suggestion: corporate blogging and personal brands, especially in light of Forrester‘s decision to ban its employees from maintaining personal blogs.)

Wrapping up his findings, Clemons said that senior communicators want face-to-face meetings and programming that goes beyond how-to sessions, and that IABC and its chapters have an opportunity to better meet the needs of its more seasoned members–as long as no ones ask us to pay more. [Note: IABC/Washington charges for SCC meetings; but there is no separate fee to join the special interest group (i.e., it is a benefit of membership).]

If you’re a senior-level communicator, do these findings gel with what you want? If not, what would you add?

Photo by iamchat (Flickr).

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