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Insights from the IABC 2022 World Conference

The IABC World Conference brings together communications professionals from across the world to meet peers, learn from experts, and share information on the latest and greatest communication tools and trends.

Jul. 21, 2022

This past June, my spark* colleague Christine Burke and I were lucky enough to attend the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference in New York City. For those who don’t know, the IABC World Conference brings together communications professionals from across the world to meet peers, learn from experts, and share information on the latest and greatest communication tools and trends.

Here are my seven takeaways on the future of the communications industry from the conference:

 

1. We need to listen to the softer voices.

One of the themes that kept repeating itself was that we need to make more of an effort to listen to the softer voices – be that within an audience, a company, or stakeholder groups. There are many tools out there to do so, such as social listening software, but it also takes intentionally by communications professionals to ensure we’re hearing all perspectives and not just the loudest.

2. Action before communication.

It’s become increasingly important for organizations to take stances on the issues of the day; staying silent reduces trust. However, just saying the “right” thing isn’t enough. You need to take concrete actions or develop concrete plans and then communicate about what you’re doing/going to do. Ask yourself, what policies do we already have in place? How are we embodying our values? What specific actions are we going to take on this issue?

Need an example? After the Roe v. Wade case was overturned by the United States Supreme Court, The Walt Disney Company communicated both internally and externally about their policies already in place to help employees access family planning. They didn’t just tell people where they stood, they showed it through action.

3. Micro over macro. 

The future of communications is microtargeting. As technology continues to make it easier to reach small segments of audiences, messaging needs to become more targeted and personalized to stand out. Creepy? Maybe. Effective? Yes.

 
 

4. Trust matters more than truth. 

In a world that is more uncertain than ever before... with more information pouring out of more sources than ever before... it’s harder to know what and who to believe than ever before! So, what do you do? You go with the sources you trust, the people and organizations that have influence over you (I went to a full workshop on this, but the Coles Notes are that to build trust in uncertain times you need to demonstrate ability, integrity, and benevolence).

When you can find any answer you want on the Internet, facts and evidence just aren’t enough. And if this idea has left you as depressed as it left me, here’s a fun relevant throwback to pull you out of that funk.

5. Have the right people in the room. 

There is no substitute for lived experience and engaging a diversity of voices. When possible, engage those directly affected by the issues you are communicating on. It’s easy to want to move fast when a crisis arises, but engagement is a critical step to ensure you’re making the right statement and taking the right action. Not only will this make your external communications better but help build an internal culture of inclusion and trust.

6. Communications builds company culture.

Often, we think it’s the HR department’s job to foster company culture – but communications professionals play an integral role. Whether it’s taking public stances on issues employees care about, crafting a company memo on behalf of the C-suite, or announcing company changes in a transparent and timely fashion, communications can help build a company that people not only trust, but feel proud to be part of.

7. Communications is more important than ever before.

We’ve heard it said that when financial times are tough, the communications department is the first to be cut. This is changing. How an organization is perceived, the values it embodies, the stories it tells, the internal culture it builds, matter more than ever before to both the public and employees. Not long ago, there was no such thing as a Chief Communications Officer. Now not only is this a common role, but 83% of CCO’s report their C-Suite influence is growing.

Wrap up

The IABC 2022 World Conference was great… and not just because it was my first time in New York City. It was a celebration of what communications professionals do and a reminder that how, what, and why we communicate is important. It was an opportunity to learn and grow skills. And it was a chance to be surrounded by people who make you want to be even better at what you do. Yep, I’d say it was pretty great. :)