My first boss Larry Ragan impressed on me that it's not a customer's job to tell you what he or she wants from you, because the customer doesn't often know. It's primarily your job, to know the customer (or reader) so well you can deliver it without being asked. That's very hard work; it requires close observation, careful listening, great care and some imagination.
Last week, members of the International Association of Business Communicators received a letter that began this way:
As the industry continues to change and shift, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) wants to solidify its positioning as a cornerstone in your strategy to remain relevant and keep up in the field of business communication. We are dedicated to the success of our members and to the advancement of the profession, which is why we have embarked on a comprehensive research study to gain insight from members and industry professionals like you. Your input will help ensure that IABC continues to serve as a valuable resource to you and all those involved in the business communication field.
If I were an IABC member, and it was my dues money going to the association consulting firm that's conducting the online survey, I wouldn't like the sound of that.
It would sound to me like: My professional association is hazy on what I am dealing with, and thus unsure how to help me.
I would ask whether it's me who needs to come up with a "strategy to remain relevant and keep up in the field of of business communication," or my professional association?
IABC members, I haven't checked in on you for awhile. How about you?