UPDATE, 6/5, 10:19 a.m., PST: IABC members will find out what happened, and why
Today I'm leaving on a family trip from which I won't be distracted by the latest IABC sturm und drang. I'll dig back into this story when I'm back, and over the next few weeks leading up to the IABC conference, after which I plan to write a state-of-the-association story. Meanwhile, Ragan.com will be doing an investigation of its own.
Before I go, I'd like to answer the IABC leaders and others who have questioned the relevance of the details in this situation, and our right to know what happened at IABC.
IABC represents our community—the closest thing communicators have to a professional family. Imagine coming into your home to a stench in the air and scorch marks on the kitchen wall. You ask what happened, and your teenager says, "It doesn't matter what happened. What's important is that I'm going to the store—with your money—and get some cleaning supplies and all this will look fine by Friday, I promise."
It's exactly that ridiculous and childish for IABC leaders to put forth a completely opaque set of talking points and news release and expect us all to shrug with scorch marks all around us and acrid smoke still in the air, and give the people who made them the benefit of the such profound doubt.
IABC members who care about their association want to know and will find out: WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED HERE? Only after they're satisfied with a reasonable accounting of what went wrong will they begin to listen to leaders talk about how they're going to make it right.
And one more thing: A board member who would call such reasonable questions about IABC's management "voyeurism" ought to be eliminated from the conversation altogether. —DM
UPDATE, 6/5, 9:20 a.m. Silence from IABC, which responds to Ragan, but not to me.
My missing self-defense on LinkedIn has mysteriously appeared, though no one at IABC has responded to my repeated inquiries. PR director Aaron Heinrich did respond for this just-posted Ragan.com story about Sorek's departure.
UPDATE, 6/5, 9:09 a.m., PST: Ragan CEO claims Sorek was pushed;international board member asks, "Why does it matter?"
Ragan Communications' publisher Mark Ragan posted the following at IABC's LinkedIn site:
Stay tuned for our story today on Ragan.com.
The rumor mill is producing a dozen variations of the so-called back story.
In the absence of communication from IABC leaders, the real story behind Sorek's sacking may never be told. Issuing talking points and instructing chapter leaders to stay inside the company line is not what I would call transparency. It's a recipe for disaster.
IABC insiders knew for a while that a plan was afoot to force Chris's exit. Too many people inside headquarters and around the country were upset with the lack of communication. Announcing his departure now was clearly a move to avoid a very awkward situation at the World Conference in a few weeks.
IABC leaders: Get the story out so you don't die by a hundred cuts over the next two weeks. Talk about what happened openly and honestly. No one expects you to criticize Chris directly. We know that's not possible.
The problems with the association are multi-faceted and go well beyond one executive director's role.
So get with it. You're communicators for heaven's sake! Communicate.
To which International Executive Board member Kristen Sukalac replied, in part: "There is a fine line between transparency and voyeurism. … There are two key principles to bear in mind when reporting: materiality and contextualization. For the first, the question to be answered is 'what issues (potentially) have an impact.' The second is 'why does this matter?' … My question is, personal curiosity aside, which questions of materiality and contextualization do people [feel] have not been addressed?"
UPDATE, 6/5, 7:30 a.m. PST: IABC external relations pro questions my ethics, then (apparently) deletes my response
IABC's longtime volunteer leader and now paid external relations chief Claire Watson wrote in a thread on IABC's LinkedIn group: "What interests me … is the fact that the international Chair sent a message to internal leaders that was immediately shared with a non-member journalist who didn't even pick up the phone and ask for more details and clarification. I wonder about the ethics of balanced reporting and I wonder about ethics in relationship to volunteer leadership positions, and the underlying motive for even going there."
Since that non-member journalist would be me, I responded with a comment to the affect that I published the information I had from two sources, last night. I added that I had emails in as of last night with both IABC's PR director, Aaron Heinrich and its chair, Kerby Meyers. Neither have yet gotten back to me, and neither has Watson, even though I provided my phone number.
My comment didn't appear and is no longer in the "pending comments" section. And my ethics are being questioned? Ms. Watson, please Claire-ify.
UPDATE, 6/5, 5:00 a.m. PST: IABC leaders say strategy hasn't changed, World Conference "is not a mess"; ask for "respect, dignity and support"
Not to worry, says IABC chair Kerby Meyers in a release IABC posted on its LinkedIn group because "our technology wouldn't allow us" to post it on the IABC website (which as of 5:00 a.m. PST still had nothing on executive director Sorek's departure):
"IABC's strategy remains on track. We are dedicated to delivering exceptional service to our members and growing the Association. We have an ambitious agenda and will continue to implement innovative products and services that raise the bar within the communication profession worldwide."
In Facebook discussion started by IABC Fellow Tudor Williams, longtime IABC volunteer Claire Watson, who has now joined the IABC staff to handle "external relations," said:
"To those of you who are worried about World Conference, it is not a mess. We are on target and have great staff who have been working tirelessly to make this conference absolutely amazing. As the recently appointed External Relations person, I am happy to say that the good ship IABC sails on schedule and is primed to meet the future with both inspiration and innovation. And yes, proud to be a long time member and volunteer and we're counting on your respect, dignity and support for us as we move forward with strength, purpose and conviction."
More as we get it. —DM
When he resigned a little over a year ago from his last job, at the organization for building awareness of alcohol among the British people, Chris Sorek (pictured, left) said, "I will miss being part of Drinkaware and am incredibly proud of what the charity has become."
Today when he resigned from the organization for global communication after less than a year on the job and less than three weeks before its annual conference, he left it to the volunteer chairman Kerby Meyers (pictured, right) to do the talking.
Here's the email that went out today to IABC's chapter leaders:
Departure of Chris Sorek (on behalf of Kerby Meyers)
I am writing to inform you that IABC’s Executive Director, Chris Sorek has resigned from the organization. Please join me in thanking Chris for his contributions over the past 11 months, and for leading an operational review that resulted in a number of business efficiencies. Changes introduced on several fronts are helping the organization meet the objectives laid out in our strategy. We wish Chris well as he returns to the corporate world.
Chris will work with the Board on a number of special projects over the next two months.
Between now and the end of June, I will lead the daily IABC operations with support from Jean McCloskey, our Human Resources Team Lead and Claire Watson, ABC, our External Relations Management Consultant. Working with our headquarters staff, we will deliver a great World Conference and continue to move IABC’s agenda forward.
In addition, the Board will look for an interim Executive Director immediately until we can fill the position on a more permanent basis.
We anticipate significant conversation among our members and the trade media. As part of the IABC global management team, you play a key role in representing the Association at the chapter level, and we will need your help to ensure that the organization speaks with a common voice. To this end, I am providing you with talking points and ask that do not offer comment or conjecture beyond our approved key messages. Any media inquires should be referred to Aaron Heinrich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your key messages are:
1. Chris Sorek has resigned from IABC to return to the corporate world. We thank him for his contributions over the past 11 months.
2. Between now and World Conference at the end of June, IEB Chair Kerby Meyers will lead day-to-day operations at IABC headquarters. After that time an interim Executive Director will be appointed by the Board and will continue to manage the business of IABC until a new Executive Director is found.
3. IABC’s strategic direction remains on track. We are dedicated to delivering exceptional service to our members and growing the Association. We have an ambitious agenda and will continue to implement innovative products and services that raise the bar within the communication profession worldwide.
As we work through this time of transition, thank you for your continued support and all you do for IABC. You are the face and voice of IABC at the local level, and I’m counting on you to help us through this important change.
Kerby Meyers, International Chair
International Association of Business Communicators
It's the latest development in a long, strange year for IABC. I'm headed to New York June 23 for the World Conference, where I plan to interview IABC's top brass, such as it is, and deliver a report on the state of the association. And though I'm traveling a lot over the next couple of weeks, I'll do my best to update you in the meantime. Meantime, I hope IABCers feel free to write me with insights on this matter: writingboots at gmail dot com. —DM