Unluckily, it is difficult for a certain type of mind to grasp the concept of insolubility. Thousands of poor dolts keep on trying to square the circle; other thousands keep pegging away at perpetual motion. … The fact is that some of the things that men and women have desired most ardently for thousands of years are not nearer realization to-day than they were in the time of Rameses, and that there is not the slightest reason for believing that they will lose their coyness on any near to-morrow. … Let us take a look, say, at the so-called drink problem, a small subdivision of the larger problem of saving men from their inherent and incurable hoggishness …. —H.L. Mencken, writing in the 1920s
And so I had to laugh at the beginning of an interview published yesterday by the communication industry's premier podcasters, Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. They spoke with Chris Sorek, the new paid president of the International Association of Business Communicators.
Before they asked him about his big schemes for solving ancient problems at IABC—as I also did last month—Holtz and Hobson got Sorek talking about his last job at a nonprofit in England, called Drinkaware. The mission was to get Brits to drink less. "Under Chris' leadership the charity's website now attracts nearly three million unique visitors a year, the logo is featured on over 5 billlion products and Drinkaware campaigns have started to show 'green shoots' of behavior change," said Drinkaware chairman Derek Lewis in a release announcing Sorek's departure.
You know Mencken would love that term, "green shoots."
In the course of the Holtz and Hobson interview, Sorek identified a number of persistent problems that he hopes to attack:
• The "ABC" accreditation designation: The association needs to make sure it "is objective, is professional, is defensible," Sorek says. This, more than 15 years after the accredited communicator Dan Danbom quipped that the only effect his "ABC" has had is people squinting at his name tag at conferences and calling him, "Mr. Abick." Come on, folks: How is accreditation ever going to mean any more than it does now? It is what it is: credible to the gullible, suspect to the cynical, and a total nonentity to everyone in between. But if it gives the cowardly lion courage, who's gonna complain, or investigate the rigor of the secret test? Not me.
• The Gold Quill Awards. "It should be seen as being the best of the best" in communication awards programs, Sorkek says—and not just by communicators, but by top leaders in business and government. My response? Ibid.
• Communiation World—since 1970, the blandest and most useless magazine ever published on any subject. (I admit, I've missed a few issues: At the World Conference last month, I had a super embarrassing meeting the "new" editor at the World Conference in Chicago. "Wow, when did you take over?" I asked. "Six years ago," she said.) Sorek says that what this publication needs is a focus, on the half dozen issues that members really care about. No, what it needs is an editor who does not work in the hushed IABC headquarters in San Francisco, and who is charged with generating compelling columns, surprising stories and lively conversations about communication. (IABC once had a magazine like that—Reporting, it was called, and it was done by a freelancer named Larry Ragan, out of Chicago, until he quit to start Ragan Communications, in 1969. Sorek ought to look at those back issues, and draw some inspiration.)
Sorek strikes me as a good, smart, in-touch guy, who I believe will make IABC more rational and efficient and user-friendly. "Watch this space," he told Holtz and Hobson. "We're going through a review of what we're doing as an organization … of what we're offering in terms of IT and IT support—basically our digital presence and how we deliver that for members." He told them to check back after the first of the year, and I'll bet he'll have done some stuff by then.
Also to his credit, Sorek doesn't appear to believe for one minute, as some members allow themselves to do, that IABC will ever become a ballsy political "advocacy" organization on behalf of Communication Goodness. Neither does he seem to go in for the fantastical notion that IABC could ever issue revokable, CPA-like "licences" to communicators, a idea that Holtz periodically fondles.
But Sorek did allow his lips to form words to the effect that IABC needs to help communicators get taken seriously in the C-suite.
I'll keep an equally vigilant eye on that, and the flow of ale England.