Are the ethical boundaries shifting in communications?

If you’ve been around the communications profession as long as I have, you can’t help but be alarmed about some of the content that’s showing up in public discourse these days. I’m not simply referring to the language, tenor or visual elements, although those are certainly flash points. The deeper, more strategic implications are the ethical issues involved.

Are the boundaries shifting when it comes to ethics in communications? Some have even raised the question of whether those boundaries still exist – and if they do, where are they?

IABC Orange County is going to explore those questions and more on May 10, as we gather for an interactive luncheon panel discussion at TAPS Fish House in the Irvine Market Place. Hear insightful perspectives from recognized thought leaders spanning the corporate communications spectrum – and share yours.

Putting a top-flight program like this together is no small undertaking and I want to take a moment to thank the dynamic duo of Jayne Merritt and Lisa Thomas, along with Programs VP Kim Evans, for their hard work in making it happen. Kudos to our Communications and Membership teams for their invaluable support as well.

Speaking of membership, let me formally welcome and acknowledge those who joined our Chapter this month. I had the pleasure of meeting a group of them at our recent New Member Orientation, led by VP-Membership Judy Iannaccone. What a great session and impressive group of professionals!

Not only did the group ask thoughtful questions about IABC resources and support available to them as members, they volunteered to share their expertise at the Committee level. That’s the kind of enthusiasm and leadership that makes IABC Orange County special – and a privilege to serve.

Michael Shepherd
IABC/OC president, 2017

IABC/OC honored as worldwide chapter of the year

How cool is it to be recognized as the best in the world? Well, if you happen to be a Member of the International Association of Business Communicators Orange County, you now – officially – own that status.

Your chapter just landed six Awards of Excellence, the highest level attainable, at IABC International’s 2017 Leadership Institute!  And, that epic performance also includes our very own Claudia Miller, Chapter Advocate for the Pacific Plain Region, who captured Regional Leader of the Year!

Here’s the IABC OC Awards of Excellence box score:

  • Financial Management
  • Membership Development
  • Professional Development
  • Sponsorship
  • Chapter of the Year (Medium-size)
  • Regional Leader of the Year

What a night! What a Chapter!

If you are new to IABC, let me help put some context around these accomplishments. There are roughly 10,000 members throughout the world.  There are medium-sized Chapters on virtually every continent (except, interestingly enough, South America).  And our little 80-person band of communications warriors from the OC topped them all!

BIG props are also in order for the following Board Members without whom we could not have prevailed: the incomparable Kim Evans and her amazing team on Events; Perennial All-Star and Membership VP Judy Iannaccone for increasing our member ranks and value; Sarah Willis, whose Sponsor committee leadership helped secure critically important underwriting support for the Chapter’s 2016 season; and Roberta Coffin, our former finance guru who put in countless hours to organize the business side of the house.

Then, there’s Claudia. If you’ve spent, oh, maybe 10 minutes with our resident “Energizer Bunny,” you know why IABC continues to flourish.  Her receptivity to new ideas and love of this organization permeates everything she does.  And it’s not gone unnoticed at the Region level, where she serves as a Chapter Advocate for the Pacific Plains region. In fact, support for her nomination also included testimonials from IABC leaders throughout the West and Midwest.

Finally, I’ll round out the list of “valentines” with one very special person who I wished could have been at the Institute to see what her leadership and hard work produced:  Elaine Beliakoff, 2016 IABC/OC President.  Her collaboration with Board members to research, write and develop compelling, high-quality entries – over the holidays, no less – captured our excellence.  And we’ve got the Awards to prove it!

Thank you, Elaine – and to each and every Member who give their time and talents to create greater good.   As 2017 Chapter President and new Board Member, I could not be more proud to have been at this year’s Leadership Institute to celebrate our collective accomplishments

Or, to say it a bit less formally, we rocked it!

Michael Shepherd
IABC/OC president, 2017

Nothing beats the relationships you gain by joining an IABC committee

When communications professionals use the word engagement these days, more often than not the conversation touches on analytics. I’m going to go old school and talk about that term in a different context.

It’s become fashionable these days to avoid professional memberships. With so many choices and different events, the idea of committing to one organization just doesn’t make sense – or, so the argument goes. Better to “cherry pick” the ones that interest you most. Besides, we’re all too busy to be burdened with trying to fit all those commitments into our schedules, right?

Here’s the problem with that logic: It places the value proposition of membership in organizations like IABC too much around events. Even as a devoted networker, I can assure you that’s a questionable strategy.

Let’s set aside the obvious price penalty of attending events as a non-member. Or, the inability to access valuable IABC member-only content and continuing education resources that can advance your career faster.

The bigger loss is the missed relationship building and engagement that comes from serving on a committee – a privilege reserved exclusively for members. Whether you’re cultivating connections for your next career gig or a great consulting opportunity, the seeds of those relationships take root inside committees.

If you’re an IABC member serving on a standing committee – Programs, Communications, Membership, Finance or Sponsorship – you already know it. If you’re a member that hasn’t discovered this somewhat counter-intuitive benefit, I encourage you to engage.

And, finally, if you’re reading this and find yourself on the fence about whether or not to join, there’s not a better time than right now to dive in. The waters, like the people you’ll meet, are warm.

Michael Shepherd
IABC/OC president, 2017

Looking ahead to a new year, and celebrating the successes of the year past

The blank page staring me in the face when I sat down to write this letter serves as a fitting metaphor for my new role as President of IABC Orange County.

Questions swirl: What do we want our Chapter to accomplish in the coming year? How will we prioritize our objectives? Where are the biggest challenges and most compelling opportunities? How will we measure our success?

Fortunately, I don’t have to tackle these issues alone. With the great minds and experience inherent in our newly installed IABC/OC Board, I’m confident we will address each one at our upcoming strategic planning retreat with much deliberation and insight, ultimately setting the course for an amazing 2017.

Boards lead and manage organizations. Members make them grow. And that’s why your involvement this year means so much.

Attending IABC monthly professional development forums, engaging through our social media communities or the Chapter website – and, especially taking a sponsorship role – is truly a win-win proposition. You gain access to people, resources and content that makes you a better professional. The Chapter, meanwhile, benefits from the wealth of talent, experience and perspective that you – and only you – can share.

All of this is part of the IABC/OC Member experience. Then there’s the fabulous array of educational tools, informational resources and content-rich events – highlighted by this year’s World Conference in Washington, D.C. – that comes with belonging to a worldwide Association of top-flight communicators.

Add it all up and it’s easy to see why more and more professionals are discovering the value proposition of IABC. Maybe you know one or two. I encourage you to bring them to our next event. We would love to meet and welcome them!

While planning is critical to any successful endeavor, it’s equally valuable to look back and see all that was accomplished over the past year. IABC/OC enjoyed a great year thanks in large measure to the excellent leadership of Past President Elaine Beliakoff, whose tireless work – evidenced over the past several weeks in pulling together our submissions for the upcoming IABC Chapter Management Awards – ensures we will be well-represented this February in Dallas. Thank you, Elaine!

It’s just one more reason why 2017 promises to be a very special year at IABC/OC. I’m looking forward to sharing it with YOU!

Michael Shepherd
IABC/OC president, 2017

Celebrating a milestone year – 2016

2016 was a milestone year for IABC Orange County. As I reflect on this past year, I’m so proud of our strong leadership team, our growing membership and our quality professional development programs.

Membership is up – and by a substantial 30%. We’re seeing more mid-career and senior communication professionals join because IABC provides valuable networking opportunities and compelling, actionable content for members.

Professional Development events offered industry best practices and solutions to your communication problems. On average, attendees scored 90%+ satisfaction for our monthly “Network & Knowledge Series” events. Your feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the breadth and relevance of topics. Our “IndyComm” group grew in popularity and we also launched a Directory of Independent Consultants.

We’re gaining ground on our vision to be the destination association for all Orange County communication professionals. A new corporate member – Ingram Micro – joined our chapter this year, joining the long list of Orange County companies that support IABC’s value proposition: AECOM, Irvine Company, Boeing, Pacific Life, IBM, Beckman Coulter, Parker Aerospace, Toshiba, Disney, Willis Towers Watson, Epicor, Clean Energy Fuels, St. Joseph Health, United Way, Taylor Digital, Writing Stiles, Belmont Publications, Shepherd Marketing + PR, and many others. We’re also very excited that Chapman University is beginning an IABC Student Chapter.

Thank you to our 2016 sponsors who graciously provided financial and in-kind donations that enabled us to deliver high-quality, cost-effective programs to our members. Many thanks to ShowPros, OneOC, Young’s Market Company, and UC Irvine Extension.

Drum roll, please… On December 14, our Board of Directors submitted four applications for recognition by IABC’s 2017 Chapter Management Awards program. The applications outline our strategy, objectives, and results in four aspects of our chapter’s 2016 success: (1) Professional Development, (2) Membership Marketing, (3) Sponsorship, and (4) Financial Management. I’m confident our Chapter’s recent success will shine brightly among the 100+ IABC chapters around the world. Winners will be announced in February at the IABC Leadership Institute in Dallas, Texas.

It was a pleasure to serve alongside our Board of Directors and volunteers this year. Many thanks to our 2016 Board: Sarah Willis, Kim Evans, Judy Iannaccone, Lisa Falcetti, Claudia Miller, John Fabris, Roberta Coffin, Jason Johnston, Denise Keddy, Raleigh Gerber, Jayne Merritt, Janine Zanelli, Rachel Smith, Cathi Douglas, Dean Hopkins, Michael Shepherd and Linda Kim. I look forward to welcoming Michael Shepherd as our 2017 President, and seeing what the New Year has in store for our Chapter.

Happy holidays and happy New Year!

Elaine Beliakoff
IABC/OC president, 2016

Doing good matters

Last week, NPR ran a story that argued the business necessity of CSR – corporate social responsibility – amid the rise of millennials “as a powerful economic force” in the United States. With their “BS meters” finely tuned, Paul Argenti says that millennials are “more demanding, more in touch and more skeptical.”

In our roles as Corporate Communication and PR professionals, we’ve been witness to millennials making employment and consumption decisions based on CSR efforts. In fact, with their zero tolerance for inauthenticity by Corporate America, millennials are a good barometer to measure the quality of our CSR strategies. To pass muster, a CSR strategy must be genuine, consistent with an organization’s values and brand proposition, and it must resonate with the company’s client, customer, and consumer audiences.

Does your CSR strategy follow best practices? Learn from an all-star line-up of Orange County’s best CSR pros at the upcoming Network & Knowledge Series event on September 13. Every September, our chapter honors the anniversary of 9/11 and our National Day of Service by inviting a panel to share how they’re implementing social purpose programs in their communities. Lisa Falcetti will moderate a powerful discussion among: Charles Antis, Antis Roofing and Waterproofing; Sarah Huoh, Edwards Lifesciences; Shellie Frey, Golden State Foods; and Tyler Wagner, thinkPARALLAX.

If you’re in Southern California on September 13, we’ll save you a seat! Our annual CSR panel event is always popular, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Elaine Beliakoff
IABC/OC president, 2016

People worth following

Like many of you, my days are busy and my life is crazy. But somewhere between fielding media requests and keeping my editorial calendar in good form, I make time to follow experts that keep me informed and inspired. Here are some of my favorite people to follow:

The BraudCast. I’ve been following The BraudCast ever since I heard media training expert Gerard Braud speak at last year’s IABC World Conference. This guy is a pro, and his style is relaxed and straightforward. Why I follow him: Gerard gives bite-sized bits of best practices, like this short YouTube episode: “Should social media be part of your crisis communications strategy?

Shel Holtz. Always ahead of the game, Shel Holtz makes it his business to help communicators stay current on trends and technology. In a recent Friday Wrap, I learned that virtual appearances by hologram aren’t just for Stephen Hawking, given this Washington Post article: “Accenture’s CEO attends meeting as a hologram.”

IABC Speakers. I love our monthly Network and Knowledge Series because it exposes us to experts worth following. I’ve quickly become a fan of: Kate Peters, Joan Gladstone, Tyler Wagner, Raleigh Gerber, and Matt Clayman. When it comes to internal communications, Chuck Gose is my go-to expert. You’ll want to check out Chuck’s ICology podcasts on iTunes. And, I’m looking forward to our IABC event in June by Katie Wagner on “Social Media Storytelling” and how to dominate social media.

My network’s online engagement. My idea of ‘wasting time’ is scrolling through LinkedIn’s Pulse feed or seeing how my network is engaging with other thought leaders. Just today, fellow IABC member Robin McCasland shared a Business Insider article that had me laughing – check it out! “This résumé for Elon Musk proves you never, ever need to use more than one page.”

Who are your favorite people worth following?

Elaine Beliakoff
IABC/OC president, 2016

We’re bringing you expert speakers on topics that matter to you as a communication professional. 
Earlier this month, social media strategist Raleigh Gerber shared her expert insight and examples of brands doing it right. Coming up on April 12, Matt Clayman, Director, Client Partnerships at Innovation Protocol will discuss developing your personal brand.  Registration is open and seats are limited – sign up today!

Special thanks to Kim Evans, Vice President, Programs, for coordinating the multitude of details for our 2016 Network and Knowledge Series! Kim Evans, together with Jayne Merritt, is leading the charge to deliver incredible networking and learning opportunities for professional communicators in Orange County.

If you’re an independent consultant, we’d love to welcome you to one of our future IndyComm events.  Our next event will be held in May and will focus on your website – you won’t want to miss it! Our last IndyComm event on “Answers to Legal Issues Every Independent Constant Needs to Know” was eye opening and attendees walked away with a better understanding of legal issues that they may face.  More details for the May event will be available on our website in the up coming days. IndyComm is unique to IABC/OC and led by our very own Claudia Miller.

Invest in Yourself: Join IABC! 
IABC members enjoy unparalleled opportunities for career development through job connections and online workshops as well as global events throughout the year. Not a member? Join this month! Whether you’re a corporate communicator, independent consultant, academic or student, IABC offers the resources, connections and learning opportunities to move your career forward.

Elaine Beliakoff
President, IABC Orange County

Elaine Beliakoff - Communications Director

I delivered my first big speech when I ran for President of my fifth grade class at Los Robles Elementary.  I employed the “I have a short speech” stunt: I unrolled a long scroll of paper that dramatically fell off the podium and barreled down the stage. My hard-to-crack audience of 9- to 11-year-olds laughed. The auditorium was abuzz with good energy. I was confident. Nay, fearless. They were waiting to hear what I had to say. I let my perfectly orchestrated pregnant pause fill the air, and then…   

I pledged free ice cream sundaes every Friday. I guaranteed a celebrity-studded Halloween parade. 

Like a good politician, I made outlandish and fiscally irresponsible promises. I pledged free ice cream sundaes every Friday. I guaranteed a celebrity-studded Halloween parade. I promised to fund construction of the school’s new driveway for parents to more efficiently chauffeur my esteemed fellow students to and from school. All this I vowed to deliver – when I was President. 

I lost that presidential race to Bobby Godinez. It was a painful loss, but an important life lesson. I learned that my voice is a powerful communication tool, and there should be no fear in using it. 

I lost that presidential race to Bobby Godinez. It was a painful loss, but an important life lesson.

Heaven help my parents for the hours I made them sit on the couch while I practiced that big campaign speech: energy and emphasis, rhythm and pace, intonation, and body language. Looking back, I felt safe to fail in front of my parents, my first audience. In that safe practice environment, I learned to give myself the freedom to be vulnerable and fearless. They didn’t mock; they uplifted, coached, and applauded.   

The most rewarding moments of my career have involved working closely with leaders to build confidence in their on-stage presence and leadership voice. Breakthroughs happen when we have real conversations about personal insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, and even painful memories. In these moments of vulnerability, healing occurs and confidence builds. 

Sure, there are easy techniques to improve presentation skills. But true confidence – a fifth-grade fearlessness – happens when we feel safe to fail, and when we practice until we’re confident.

Next time you’re preparing to speak in front of an audience, channel your inner fifth grader: Know your audience. Believe in your message. Practice in front of someone who believes in you. And, have fun!

Elaine Beliakoff
President, IABC Orange County

Elaine Beliakoff - Communications Director

Have you heard about the latest trends, strategies and tactics in communication? 

Your answer would be a resounding “Yes” if you attended the IABC-OC 2015 third annual Business Communications Forecast Panel discussion on January 13, where four astute Orange County business leaders shared valuable insights regarding the year ahead. 

The topics ranged from the improved outlook for communicators, mobile marketing, customer and employee engagement, social media, technology implications, branding and more.

One specific truth emerged: Business Communicators like you who keep informed and abreast of current and future trends, technology and social media will be poised to take advantage of the improving economy.

This truth mirrored one overwhelming insight from our 2014 interviews: Business communicators like you want to keep informed and are seeking resources, tools, information, case studies and a network of fellow professionals to keep you current and relevant. 

In keeping with our goal of providing relevant content, during our February luncheon we learned why Instagram isn’t just for fun or just for kids – and it how to use Instagram as a powerful B2B marketing and communications tool in your business.   For more information see the article “Think Instagram is just for millennials? You may be missing out” in the newsletter for a glimpse into why Instagram is becoming a key for communicators.

IABC has a world of ideas, support, tools and resources to help you navigate the rapid, continuous change in communication.They are right at your fingertips! For example, IABC members can read CW Magazine and review the case study, “How a Website Redesign Connects a Community,” or tune into periodic webinars.

If you’re looking to extend your network with other communications professionals, mark your calendar for an IABC mixer on Wednesday, March 18. Take a break from the work fervor to connect with others in your field. 

I look forward to seeing you all at our events this year and hearing your stories about how your involvement and membership with IABC has been a benefit!


Sarah Willis
President, IABC Orange County