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February 11, 2013

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For how long, indeed. Sounds to me like Sorek is onto something. I could understand why he'd sound so frustrated and exasperated. Welcome to the members' (or former members') world!

My (former) chapter has been dying on the vine for years, reached out to HQ and ultimately the immediate past CEO for help and received little to none. I've believed for as many years that IABC has lost sight of its lifeblood -- members running local chapters -- but was patted on the head and told I just didn't understand the business of associations.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't blame him if he decided it's not worth the headaches and heartburn and told IABC he's taking a hike.

That's quite a commentary, David.

I left a comment about this in the LinkedIn discussion thread (where huge conversation is going on). I'd like to duplicate that comment here, mostly in case it disappears from there because of a glitch or something:

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I was just reading David Murray's commentary post about the Leadership Institute last week on his blog - http://writingboots.typepad.com/writing_boots/2013/02/at-iabc-change-means-never-having-to-say-youre-sorek.html

There's one thing I'd like to comment on, part of David's reporting on some of the things Chris Sorek said. I'm going to directly quote from David's post when he writes about Mr Sorek referring to "nitwits from the present", meaning specifically -

"[...] one of our lapsed members had written something about the fact that they hadn’t been notified about their lapsing. And as it turns out—there are so many problems … that I have to watch over and take a look at—as it turns out, that person got three emails from us about their lapsing. Three emails. You’re lapsing, you’re gonna lapse, oh my God, you lapsed. And the person comes back and says, ‘No one talked to me.’ "

Unless there is someone else who said such things, I bet he meant me as this is a specific point I included in the post I wrote and published on my blog on Feb 3 - http://www.nevillehobson.com/2013/02/03/its-a-matter-of-respect-iabc/

What I said was this, in the context of being a lapsed member from my last renewal date in November 2012 -

"[...] In total, 23 years of continuous dues-paying membership. Since then, I have been a lapsed member. (As I’ve heard not a word from anyone in IABC about that, perhaps to ask why I didn’t renew after so many years, I guess no one has even noticed.)"

I said something similar in an earlier comment in one of these LinkedIn threads; such a byzantine labrynth here that I can't find it right now.

But aren't those words clear enough? What I was referring to was receiving no contact *after* the membership lapse, not before. Sure, I received the various paper invoices in the mail leading up to renewal. It just seemed to me that someone like me, an active member for so long, didn't get anyone's attention after renewal passed for them to ask, "Hmm, I wonder why that guy didn't renew, he was an active member for over 20 years. Maybe we should ask him!"

An emotional reaction? Well, yes, it was.

But, as David wrote in his post, Mr Sorek has so many other issues to deal with. One of them obviously isn't verifying his facts before commenting, even in a closed group.

Ok, fair enough, Mr Sorek, it's not that important. I'll return the nitwit compliment simply by saying, "Good luck to you."

@Neville: You're right, it's not a big deal. But the thing is, 14,600 member association is a huge collection of little deals. I worked at a publisher and I know that not an hour goes by that you don't hear from some persistent, cranky, wronged, inconvenienced, disappointed, outraged or annoyed human being WHO IS, as a matter of fact, your boss (or in the publisher's case, your customer). And if Sorek can't get his mind around that—or insulate himself from it by building a really good customer service team—he's gonna hate this job, and we're going to be listening to more of his moaning and groaning.

@Robert: Yes, listening to Sorek, I did at times think of Obama's Anger Translator, Luther.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qv7k2_lc0M&list=PLD7nPL1U-R5q1FaNZlXWbRJdummbcksUd&index=9

You're right, @David, it's not a big deal at all. I like your description re lots of little deals. The LinkedIn discussions are full of little deals, most of which are not good for IABC imo.

Sorek's attitude about members as shown in your reporting and his 'nitwits' comment suggest a man who doesn't understand what's important in being the leader of a professional association. Yes, the numbers, the strategy, the money, all the big problems he talks about: it looks like he gets those, or at least he's talking about them. But it's missing the most important aspect: the people.

Combine all that with his lack of communication and engagement in any of the current discussions, and you have to wonder whether Sorek is the right man for such a people business.

It's a big disappointment after the optimism I felt about Sorek when Shel and I interviewed him for an FIR podcast last summer.

Anyway, time to move on.

Neville, before you move on, I'd just like to point out that 'nitwits' is David's interpretation of an admittedly bad recording. So try not to take personally a word that was never uttered. All the comments I've heard from the people who were actually in the room was that they appreciated the frank exchange. Some people remained healthily skeptical about some of the answers given, but overall felt that a good dialogue had been undertaken.

Kristen, that's absolutely correct. The word "nitwit" was never uttered; nor did I put it in quotation marks.

As for the recording, please don't imply that any inaccuracies, to the extent they exist, were material. When IABC publishes the video recording of the event, you'll find they were not.

And Kristen, don't you think you should identify yourself, in comments like this, as a member of IABC's International Executive Board—e.g., one of the people on the receiving end of members' questions?

Hi David -- Thanks for helping foster a healthy dialogue about IABC, where we're headed and how we're going there. As a member of the IABC International Executive Board / Research Foundation Board and former two-term chapter president of IABC Los Angeles, I'm excited to be one of the leader's leading the change for IABC, for our profession and for me personally as an IABC member and a next-gen communications professional.

The various dialogues about the changes IABC is making are healthy. The open discussion at the start of LI was just one conversation. Had you been there, you would have participated in numerous others as and all the other current leaders in attendance did. What wasn't heard in that open discussion was all of the supportive comments from chapter and region leaders. That one conversation was, from my perspective, part of an ongoing dialogue.

The dialogue about how effectively the changes have been communicated is welcome and warranted, if not often overly critical (kind of like inviting Wolfgang Puck to your house for dinner -- the standards will be high). The devil is in the details, as the saying goes, and as someone currently involved in the details, I'm willing to bet that no email, video, town hall, etc. will ever satisfy as voracious an appetite for clear communications as yours and other more vested leaders of our profession and of IABC.

With the American football season over, the time for armchair quarterbacking is over. I'd encourage you to get off the blog couch and back in to the game -- perhaps not as a player on the team but as a coach on the sidelines. Join one of the committees working on changing IABC for the better. Be part of helping IABC staff and our international, regional and chapter boards communicate to members what our profession is becoming and what IABC is putting in to place to support that. If you'd like a seat at the IABC leadership table to be part of the dialogue there, let me know and I will be sure to invite you (and any other IABC member) to join an upcoming Board meeting.

If you'd rather contribute here, that's your choice. The healthy dialogue is good to have and rounds out the feedback I've received from other IABC members and non-members over the past two years while I've been on the Board.

For anyone who would like to draw their own conclusions, the Town Hall video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGtha2E7ixY&feature=youtu.be.

Thanks, Kristen.

Michael, a long response I wrote to you here has disappeared. No time to recreate it in full, but mainly:

I happily accept that there's positive energy at IABC, and that many of the proposed changes, depending on how they are implemented, will be for the better.

I am not "armchair quarterbacking" and my platform is not "the blog couch." I've been covering IABC for two decades as a journalist. For a long time for Ragan publications, but more recently on my own. Aside from Jack O'Dwyer, who does not know the association well, I am the ONLY journalist covering IABC. During this recent crisis, I've been repeatedly thanked by IABC members who say with dismay that my blog is the only place they're finding things out.

Rather than coopt me into an IABC committee—you have plenty of talent and good minds within the ranks of your members—I would think IABC leaders would be grateful, in the long run, for regular, independent coverage. As Adrian Cropley agreed with me last year that an organization that expects a nosy journalist to ask impertinent questions at awkward moments is more ready to answer such questions.

Now here's a proposal for you. In 2001, at the first World Conference after the 2000 financial fiasco, interim IABC executive director Lou Williams allowed me to sit in on and report on for The Ragan Report, the IEB meeting. There were more than two dozen members back then, and it was loud and messy. But readers came away from the coverage knowing they knew everything important that had taken place.

Wouldn't it be good for people to feel that way about this year's board meeting? I will be in New York (I'm speaking at the conference), I do hope to interview IABC leaders and plan to write about the state of the association. What if you allowed me then, as in 2001, to attend the IEB meeting?

David,

I also lost a comment posted yesterday, so I'll try to capture the main points:
1) It was unintentional that I didn't mention my IEB membership. There are so many of these threads going on at the moment where I have made the mention, and I was responding directly to Neville who I've known for years (having had the pleasure to serve on the EME board he chaired), so it didn't occur to me.
2) My intent was not to imply that you were making inaccurate quotes, but that a lot of communication is non-verbal and can get lost with a poor audio recording.
3) No you didn't put the word nitwit in quotes, but Neville quoted the text as though you had ('he writes about Mr Sorek referring to "nitwits from the present"') so it seemed worthwhile to remind Neville that it was your word not Chris's.

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