Update: The blog posting I've been calling for finally was published on the IABC Chairman's Blog April 2. It's a cautionary tale for corporate blogs, and a candid admission that blogging "isn't for everyone". Kudos to David Kistle for his posting.
Something popped up on my RSS feeder yesterday and I almost tapped the side of my monitor to see if there was a problem with the screen.
It was an update to the IABC Chairman's Blog. The previous posting was 68 days ago, and as I clicked on the link, I was dying to see who was posting on the blog (could it be Chairman David Kistle?), and what response they had to the repeated criticisms of the long drought on postings.
What I found was a very straightforward, upbeat report from Kistle, describing progress during the past quarter and expressing optimism about the future.
No mention of any unpleasantness over the blog and its absentee author. No link to a recent Ragan Report interview in which Kistle dismisses IABC's blog evangelists as a bit of a fringe element, admits he doesn't like blogging and commits the cardinal sin of blaming his actions on staff.
In isolation, the document is a great report on IABC activities. If it had been preceded the day before with a brief item explaining the lengthy delay in posting to the blog, apologizing to its readers, and putting the criticisms behind him (two paragraphs would have done it), it would have been a nice step forward for Kistle and IABC.
In the context of all the controversy, the update does a great job of doing the wrong thing. The first rule of crisis management is to acknowledge the crisis, then calm people by displaying leadership that shows the situation is well in hand. By not mentioning his failure to publish for the past two months, Kistle reinforces the criticisms that he doesn't understand blogging. If the editor of
Communications World had neglected to publish one or two editions, you can be sure there would be an explanation in the next issue to be released.
I bear Kistle no ill will, and in many ways he's been tarred and feathered for doing no worse than many chairpersons before him. By ignoring instead of engaging his critics, he probably felt he was depriving them of the satisfaction of a public fight. As with all other media, however, the messages you send pass through to your ultimate audience. Kistle's long silence sent no message of reassurance to his membership. We deserved better.
IABC will move forward. Hopefully it will pay attention to some of its critics and will over the coming months and years takes steps to:
- prove its relevance to communicators
- prove the relevance of PR and organizational communications to business leaders; and
- extend the ways in which its members interact with and learn from each other.
I hope that IABC will get better at using the emerging communications technologies that are allowing organizations to talk with and listen to their most important audiences. A few missteps in a blog can be overlooked if IABC shows it has learned something from this controversy.
IABC needs to leap into the discussion about its future direction, the role of PR professionals and corporate communicators, and the ways in which effective communications makes stronger and more effective organizations. Some of that discussion is already taking place in the MemberSpeak area of IABC's web site. That's a good start.