In gratitude for your support

The beginning of the new year prompts us to review the past year’s achievements, milestones, and challenges, and to look ahead to a new year full of possibilities.

For the IABC Orange County chapter, 2018 was full of stimulating programs on cutting-edge communications issues. We discussed hacking dangers and safeguarding clients’ privacy; cultivated advice from a top communications recruiter; offered professional advice at an innovative drop-in coffee session for recent college graduates; received valuable advice on communications measurement and the neuroscience of marketing; and enjoyed an evening game with the Anaheim Ducks, including a presentation on sports marketing from a Ducks marketing executive.

Our December holiday party was a highlight as well. This caliber of the year’s outstanding monthly programs is thanks to Cara Raffele, our diligent Vice President for Professional Development, and her committee, comprised of Events Director Jennifer Mower, Professional Development Director Lisa Thomas, and Bridget Soden Mills.

New chapter President John Fabris has proven to be an invaluable asset for our chapter as Vice President for Administration and President Elect. John has attracted an equally stellar board of directors and officers slate for 2019, and we can look forward to many more compelling programs in the months to come.

I’d like to thank all of you for helping make this year a successful one for IABC Orange County. Without the enthusiasm and involvement of our members we would never be able to achieve these milestones.

We have a robust and engaged membership, thanks to outgoing Vice President for Membership Judy Iannaccone and Director of Membership Ciara O’Keeffe. And we stay in touch through the many efforts of Vice President for Communications Stephanie Stiles and her committee.

Thanks to Vice President for Special Interest Groups Claudia Miller, we hosted several compelling 2018 programs for members of two groups, IndyComm for independent communications consultants and the Mastermind Group, which is studying the how-to marketing book, “The Brand Called You.” Our most recent IndyComm meeting in November featured Cara offering a stimulating presentation on personal branding, brand archetypes, and cultivating a persona that opens doors.

Past President Michael Shepherd was our senior delegate to IABC International and sustained our sponsorship efforts, and Sarah Willis keeps an eagle eye on our budget as Vice President for Finance.

I am so honored to have served as IABC OC president this year. I’ve treasured the opportunity to develop friendships and cultivate professional relationships, and the leadership experience has been invaluable. Thank you for letting me serve this fine organization – I look forward to continuing to see IABC OC progress and thrive in 2019.

Cathi Douglas, APR
IABC/OC president, 2018

IABC Orange County: A value proposition for prospects and members?

Ad hoc committee heads efforts to regain relevance in 2018 and beyond

This week I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Anthony D’Angelo, chair of the Public Relations Society of America and a professor of public relations practice at Syracuse University.

D’Angelo sounded the warning that in a very short time 70 percent of the American workforce will be made up of millennials. Millennials – who treasure data-driven, socially responsible actions by prospective employers and spend little time traditionally networking – are a new breed.

Seasoned pros like me and many of our IABC Orange County board members are sitting up and taking notice of these new professionals in communications fields. As D’Angelo says, millennials and Gen Zers consider activities such as our organization’s backbone, the monthly Knowledge & Networking lunch, out-of-touch or unengaging.

So, how does IABC remain relevant in this new communications environment? That is the question we are wrestling with, and we would like your help to solve it.

Judy Iannaccone, VP for Membership, is heading up a new effort to listen to what prospective and current members of IABC want in terms of programming, networking, and education in the coming years. Judy has formed an ad hoc committee to study this issue, and we would love your input, as well.

We want to mold IABC Orange County into a responsive organization that provides critical know-how when members need it most. With that in mind, we’re asking these kinds of questions:

  • Are lunch programs viable ways to reach our members with cutting-edge insights?
  • What kinds of presenters, speakers and panels can generate attendance at IABC events?
  • Do younger potential members and members prefer drop-in events with casual speakers?
  • Are there ways the Orange County chapter can provide education and insights online rather than in person?
  • What are some of the burning questions that young people in communications are asking? How can we provide answers?

If you have thoughts about these and other topics that relate to IABC’s ongoing relevance in our ever-changing and developing communications fields, please let us know. You can seek any board member out at our events, volunteer to assist with the ad hoc committee, or email Judy at, or me at We welcome your opinions – they are critical to growing IABC Orange County into the kind of organization you want and need to belong to in 2018 and beyond.

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

How IABC can improve your life

Striving for happiness is a constant challenge. It becomes nearly impossible when we face big changes at home or work. Unless we set boundaries, unrelieved anxiety can fester into life-threatening health issues – not to mention problems with our spouses and families.

We’re all stressed out

Four years ago, I neglected the danger signs when my father passed away, my workload increased, and the demands of my job felt impossible. Tension, anxiety, and worry gave way to major depression. Ultimately, I missed several weeks of work.

Supportive friends and colleagues are critical

A big reason I’ve been able to move past my major depression – and a painful job layoff that followed – is the support I receive from friends and colleagues, including the warm and welcoming members of IABC Orange County.

Though participation in IABC events and especially my involvement in IndyComm, our subgroup of independent communications consultants, I’ve learned about the business side of my work and received unwavering encouragement from colleagues. These people provide me with the boost I need to keep my business flourishing, and my confidence soaring.

Involvement pays off

I initially resisted the kind suggestion of IABC board members who urged me to serve as chapter president in 2018. Yet, my first eight months in office have been rewarding, educational, and fulfilling as no other job could have been. I’m proud to contribute to a worthy organization that serves the communications community – particularly in a tumultuous period when our professionalism is questioned at the highest national levels.

Corporate social responsibility panel marks 9/11

Please consider participating in our annual Corporate Social Responsibility panel, which takes place, fittingly, on Tuesday, Sept. 11 from 11:30-1 p.m. at JT Schmid’s at The District in Tustin.

This year’s event promises to build on the success of our CSR events held during the past several years. You won’t want to miss it.

More to come …

Please stay tuned and mark your calendars for fall and winter IABC Orange County events including: An evening with the Ducks at the Honda Center on Wednesday, Oct. 17; professional speaker Leisa Reed presenting “Emotional Intelligence & Your Professional Success” at our Nov. 13 luncheon; and a gala holiday party in early December at Il Fornaio restaurant.

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

Seeking new knowledge? Become an IABC/OC volunteer

When you rely on LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster for job leads, you recognize that competition is fierce for available communications positions.

Even if you aren’t looking for your next opportunity, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that other communications professionals are eager to move up the ladder, sniff around your workplace, and even snatch your job away.

How can you retain your relevance when you’re already working to capacity? What bright new ideas can you generate to let the boss know you’re an engaged and valuable commodity? Where can you gain some experience outside your immediate job description?

The answer to all three of these questions is simple: By volunteering to assist IABC Orange County, you can learn new skills, brainstorm new ideas, and see the new ways other pros successfully communicate. While it doesn’t pay a salary, an IABC/OC volunteer position lets you become a leader with very little downside.

IABC/OC needs you

In my experience, leading professional organizations is rewarding on several levels. Not only does it train you to work collaboratively with others, it also forces you out of your comfort zone and into a place where your ideas are given serious consideration.

Once you rise to a leadership role in IABC/OC, you can correlate directly the effectiveness and ingenuity of your suggestions – and consider the reasons you are or are not effective.

Colleagues grow to respect your dedication to the common cause. For me, that meant recognition of my adherence to a professional code of ethics and earning an accreditation in public relations that few pros attain.

Serving as president of IABC Orange County has allowed me to meet communications professionals – graphic artists, writers, public affairs directors and corporate marketing heads – from throughout North America. Sharing ideas for common concerns has taught me that there are usually a few answers to every thorny issue as long as you remain open to fresh insights.

Does volunteering take up valuable free time? Yes, and unless you’re willing to give up a few “Seinfeld” reruns you won’t yield the rewards of helping others who need you.

Is volunteer leadership demanding? I won’t lie. Sometimes being a volunteer leader is as politically rife as one’s ‘real’ job. But wow, what a way to learn – you aren’t gambling your job when you fail to adopt a budget or if your speaker doesn’t show up.

Are the rewards of volunteering immediate and measurable? Not always. But as I’ve accumulated leadership roles in several professional organizations, I’ve developed a strong, broad network comprised of professionals in many areas of expertise. I feel good about reaching out to seek advice or assistance.

It’s for a good cause

No matter the affiliation, volunteer positions require the same leadership skills, donations of time and talents, and monetary donations to keep the association strong and operational.

My daughter and I spent a year working for School on Wheels, an organization dedicated to tutoring homeless children. It wasn’t always easy to get our young charges to focus on their homework or read a book, but we knew every time we stepped through the classroom door that these kids needed us.

If you go into a nonprofit organization such as IABC/OC knowing you can make a difference with your time, contacts, and experience, volunteering will begin to pay off almost immediately.

Recognizing that your hours of volunteer work assist others is a strong motivation. It’s amazing to see your efforts pay off.

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

What is a leader?

At the newspaper where I landed my first job, the best writers were plucked from the newsroom and promoted to editors.

And while some of them were inspiring and talented, there was little understanding that a good writer doesn’t always make the best leader.

What does being a leader mean? How can you gain leadership skills to prepare for future success?

Leadership – like every valuable skill – is something you develop over time. In a recent Inc. magazine column, best-selling author Jacob Morgan notes that the best leaders are not always at the top of the organization chart. “It relies on your ability to influence and engage other people,” he says.

One of the many good reasons to join IABC Orange County and become engaged with the organization is the opportunity to hone your leadership skills. We offer committee jobs, board positions, and other opportunities to develop strategy and programs.

Through IABC/OC you will learn to plan, staff, and execute special events; develop your writing and editing skills; provide strategic leadership to an impressive and far-reaching international organization; and learn leadership skills working side-by-side with experienced colleagues in a variety of communications fields.

When I joined the organization several years ago, I was immediately welcomed into the Communications Committee and began writing stories for the newsletter. In a short time, I was given more responsibilities and helped with the organization and planning of events for our subgroup, IndyComm, which serves independent consultants like me.

It was flattering to be asked to lead an organization like IABC Orange County, but I realized right away that the position requires a lot of good leaders – not just one – to be successful. I am fortunate to work with a board full of dedicated people who want success for our association and the communicators it serves.

New board members Cara Raffele of The Brand Journalist, our Vice President for Professional Development, Eva Finn of Eva Finn Copywriting & Concepts, who heads our Job Board, and Jennifer Mower of Alzheimer’s Orange County, who is our new Events Director, bring a wealth of experience and perspective.

Combined with senior strategists like graphic artist Claudia Miller, who presented at our May mixer and heads ADirections, these new members will help guide IABC Orange County to success in the remaining months of 2018.

Recently recognized as IABC International’s Regional Leader of the Year, Claudia has served as Chapter Advocate for the Pacific Plains Region. A two-time former Orange County Chapter president, she helped lead the 2011 board to become the Mid-Size Chapter of the Year.

A big thank-you to Claudia for her stimulating discussion of the latest graphics trends and the dos and don’ts of working with graphic artists. A small-but-mighty group welcomed the knowledge and inspiration Claudia shared.

If you are interested in becoming more involved with IABC Orange County, please contact me or any of the board members. We’d love to have you.

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

Let’s get down to business

IABC is a critical weapon in my arsenal of knowledge. Like many communications professionals I’ve spent time striving to be creative and productive, and I’ve found that IABC offers something other organizations do not: Our members gladly share their skills and expertise – a single lunchtime conversation can provide the elusive solution to a troubling communications challenge.

IABC offers information at your fingertips – webinars, workshops, conferences and library of best-practices publications, among other perks – from an organization that ‘gets it.’ When it comes to business success, there is no substitution for real-life learning and in-person networking encounters.

Which brings us to the topic of this month’s Network & Knowledge Series lunch. “How to Get Leaders to Listen to You” will resonate with any communications pro who’s been asked to prove the dollar value of a strategic communications effort.

Satisfying such clients may seem impossible; as featured speaker Angela Sinickis says, CEOs and owners speak the language of numbers.

An IABC Fellow, Angela is CEO of Sinickas Communications, Inc., an international consulting firm that has worked with Fortune 100 global companies using principles of marketing science to create smarter programs that resonate with audiences. On April 10, Angela will show how to employ new methods to enhance the effectiveness of our strategic marketing efforts.

The April lunch is the latest in IABC Orange County’s series of presentations designed to provide cutting-edge solutions to modern communications challenges. Earlier we offered insights on what recruiters want from job-seekers; ways to respond to hacking attacks; and neuro-marketing. IndyComm discussed methods to make solo practitioners’ social media marketing efforts successful.

In other chapter news, I’m pleased to note that Judy Iannaccone is leading the Membership Team in welcoming new and returning members to the IABC OC ranks. Welcome, everyone!

When you evaluate the cost effectiveness of IABC membership, I think you will agree that there are few professional opportunities for knowledge and networking that match IABC Orange County. Please take part in our upcoming activities – we can’t wait to meet you!

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

Telling stories that matter

Whether we define ourselves as writers, content providers, senior communicators or graphic artists, we are storytellers. Our mission is to successfully craft the stories that support our brand, generate client loyalty, and boost sales for our companies.

IABC membership exposes us to the best storytellers in the business.

At this month’s Leadership Institute, for example, chapter leaders from around the world participated in a program packed with effective speakers. Each presenter offered different tales about communications leaders, trends, challenges and successes. Their stories included personal hardship and crises, challenging work and well-deserved opportunities. Each speaker motivated us to return to our chapters with these stories in mind.

Our keynote speaker was the always-funny Cynthia D’Amour, author of “The Lazy Leader’s Guide to Outrageous Results,” among other popular recruitment and motivational books.

D’Amour’s interactive presentation included many colorful stories. The one that resonated most with me was about receiving praise. She asked us to think about the times others have complimented us and to recall how we accepted or demurred. She forced us to admit how difficult it is for us to graciously accept sincere praise and heart-felt thanks.

Women particularly have a difficult time receiving praise, D’Amour pointed out. We’ve been taught from an early age to avoid boastfulness and to be humble, even if the praise is deserved.

Our exercise was to praise our neighbor for 90 seconds – and for us to accept the praise gracefully when the tables were turned. Faced with sincere praise that demanded our acceptance, every one of us stumbled.

This exercise convinced me that we women must redouble our efforts to develop self-confidence. It also illustrated plainly just how important praise and gratitude are to everyone.

How often do we thank our vice president of finance for the hard work they do to keep our books, pay our bills and reimburse our expenses? What praise have we given the chapter secretary who keeps accurate records of our board meetings and circulates minutes in a timely fashion?

It’s difficult to remember to properly thank the people who make our chapters run smoothly. It can feel awkward to praise someone who does a good job without complaint.

Still, thankfulness and praise are precious and appreciated. Our gratitude and acclaim make doing business together more honest and real and motivate all of us to serve as well as we can.

A spirit of thankfulness, admiration and respect empowers us to keep telling the stories that matter in our wonderful careers as professional communicators and expert storytellers.

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

We’ll help you start your year off right

It’s January – the time for new beginnings and getting off to a fresh start. With the holidays behind us, the new year is a welcome breath of fresh air.

But I’m not feeling it. And apparently, I’m not alone.

A Jan. 17 Fast Company story declares that we are least-productive in January. According to a study by the data collaboration software provider Redbooth, we complete just 7.2 percent of our yearly tasks this month. It should be 8.33 percent.

Fast Company sources list the ways we can jump-start our efficiency, including clearing our workspaces, ditching papers and files and cleaning old materials out of our computers. One of the tried-and-true ways to get on the right track is to concentrate on professional development.

Indeed, January is the perfect time to set our course toward a fulfilling new year:

  • IABC offers different ways to learn new skills. Click around on our organization’s website,,  and you’ll see podcasts on best practices; online and on-demand workshops offering in-depth learning and skill-building knowledge; articles, webinars and videos – all of which are open to members for little to no cost.
  • IABC Orange County has monthly Network & Knowledge events. 2018 topics include our Marketing Science lunch (February 13) featuring speaker Jade Bunke who will take us on a tour of the brain and help us discover how marketing science influences consumers.
  • IABC hosts an international conference each year. The event attracts professional communicators from more than 30 countries. This year’s event takes place June 3-6 in Montreal. There is no better annual gathering for gaining a truly global perspective on business communication.
  • IABC Orange County offers unparalleled Orange County networking opportunities. These include our fabulous evening mixer in August and a festive, end-of-the-year party where you can celebrate the holidays with your colleagues.

As IABC Orange County president I am proud to invite you to join me at J.T. Schmidt’s at The District in Tustin on February 13. I trust you will find it to be stimulating, and just the push you need to escape the January doldrums.

Cathi Douglas
IABC/OC president, 2018

Mingle & Jingle: It’s good business

If I had to pick a theme for this edition of the President’s Letter, I would choose the Power of Party.  Holiday celebrations abound, highlighted by IABC Orange County’s festive gathering on December 5 at Irvine’s elegant Il Fornaio. It promises to be one of our best ever, with great food, beverages, gifts and stimulating conversations with fellow communicators.

That last point deserves special emphasis. In a day and age where we spend so much time staring at our device screens, hammering away on keyboards, and navigating our way through the digital world, the importance of face-to-face human connection has never been greater.

Set aside the anthropological need we have as humans to seek connection. That’s for sociologists to explore.  Let’s look at the business case for communications professionals coming together to exchange experiences, thoughts, ideas and a good joke or two.

A nationwide survey of PR agency owners by New York-based strategic consulting firm Gould Partners revealed that a whopping 86.7% of them landed their latest account through referrals and good old-fashioned networking. The success rate for those burning the midnight oil on nights and weekends responding to a RFP (Request for Proposal):  10%. Oh, and for those intrepid soldiers unafraid of repeated rejections, just 1% of them found gold at the end of their new business rainbow.

Now, that’s the consulting world. Maybe you’re a corporate communications professional with a great job, who isn’t looking for your next gig. I’d like to meet you, because employment data overwhelmingly shows that job tenure continues to shrink – often because of disruptive forces beyond our control. When it happens, you need a network with a rich reserve of relationship equity that you can access – like the one at IABC OC.

Finally, there’s the fun factor. As an old college professor of mine once said, “If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing!”  That’s what makes our parties powerful.

So, I hope you’ve circled December 5 in bright holiday red and plan to show up in bells.

It’s time to Mingle & Jingle – IABC style!

Michael Shepherd
IABC/OC president, 2017

Feel the power of being part of the tribe

Only a few days removed from celebrating our nation’s independence and the respect we have for those who dare to break away and go it alone, I find myself thinking about freedom along different lines. It’s the concept of becoming a part of something bigger than ourselves.  I’m talking about the power of association.

Think back to the pivotal moments in your professional career. Chances are they unfolded because of a connection to a particular individual with whom you shared common interests. In other words, you both belonged to the same tribe.

This need for connection is what drives the growth and success of IABC Orange County. We all long for career enrichment in whatever form that may take. However, the truly enduring and most valuable gains we achieve in our professional lives stem from the relationships we form along the way.

Some would have you believe that the concept of association membership is becoming obsolete. They will opine that people much prefer the freedom to show up at professional events whenever and wherever they choose – and pay the premium for doing so.  I would as well, if I believed that the value proposition for being a Member was restricted exclusively to networking and passing out business cards.

Candidly, that’s not a big enough ROI for me. Important as those gatherings are, they are merely catalysts to something much bigger: the sense of belonging to an internationally recognized and accomplished group of like-minded professionals – and the doors that open through that association.

Whether your desire is to develop new skill sets, give back through volunteering, or access top-level practitioners and informational resources, there’s always someone at IABC/OC to whom you can turn. Someone who understands your world.  Someone from your tribe.

If you’re an active Chapter Member, you get it. If not, I invite you to join and experience what I’m describing.  We’ve got a large tent.

Michael Shepherd
IABC/OC president, 2017