IABC weighs town hall meeting at world conference

Following the controversial departure of its executive director, the communications organization is ‘seriously considering’ a forum this month.

The International Association of Business Communicators may host a town hall so members can ask questions and air grievances in the wake of its executive director’s resignation this week.

A spokeswoman said in a LinkedIn discussion that IABC is “seriously considering” a forum at the June 23-26 world conference in New York. The issue was first floated in a Ragan.com story Thursday.

Claire Watson, IABC’s external relations team lead consultant, said the town hall would be similar to one held at its leadership institute in Phoenix in February.

“This gave the attendees there a chance to ask questions and air grievances to an open audience and was well received,” she stated.

In an email to Ragan.com, IABC Spokesman Aaron Heinrich said it was too soon to comment on the possibility of a town hall, but the organization was working on the details.

He added, “We’ve heard members suggest a need for a town hall or related format at world conference and we’re looking at the best way to make that happen.”

But responding to questions on the LinkedIn forum posed by Ragan Communications CEO Mark Ragan, Watson said IABC had no further comment on Sorek’s departure, adding that it was a resignation.

The organization has seen months of controversy since Sorek laid off half its 32 staffers and hired 11 newcomers last fall.

Watson sought to put that behind IABC. When Ragan asked if the organization should apologize for the past nine months, Watson said no.

“While there were communication missteps in the past which we have acknowledged, the last nine months have actually seen a lot of progress we have nothing to apologize for,” she wrote.

She noted positive changes. IABC had one of its most successful Gold Quill Awards programs in several years, and Communication World’s reboot in a digital format, Watson said.

“We’re on track to bring a new, more user friendly website online later this summer; we have additional digital initiatives underway that will ease other aspects of member and chapter relations; and we’re heading into World Conference with an impressive program of speakers and sessions,” she stated.

Communicator Elaine W. Krause echoed the call for a town hall in her comments.

“This is not to impugn the board for anything except, perhaps, not getting competent advice from a corporate-level change management specialist … before embarking on bumpy waters they clearly weren’t prepared for,” Krause wrote.

In his comments, Ragan stated that given the fanfare of Sorek’s recruitment and hiring last year, it is important to know what his departure means. He asked whether IABC should examine why the recruitment of Sorek went wrong and “whether the layoffs that ensued were hastily arranged and also in error.”

But Watson replied, “The recruitment effort didn’t lead to Chris’ departure.”

Watson addressed financial issues as well. An operating deficit of was the result of costs incurred in 2012.

She added that its previously released May quarterly report shows that IABC ended 2012 financially healthy with cash liquidity of $2.7 million, including an operating reserve of $1.66 million, up from $1.55 million in 2011.

“It is a time of change for IABC-a time of positive change and I would like to think that most of you are cheerleaders urging us on to score the winning touchdown,” she stated. “I hope so! Change is never easy, but it’s important to stay relevant and serve those things that we believe in: IABC and the communication profession.”

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