A Conversation with Brenda Siler, IABC's 1998-99 Chairwoman

Article excerpt

Brenda Siler has more than 20 years' experience in corporate communication and nonprofit management, and has worked as a consultant. In addition to her many activities for IABC, she has been active in many other professional and community organizations. She served as vice president of IABC/Atlanta, in several posts for the multiculturalism committee, and as director-at-large on the executive board before being elected IABC chairwoman. She chaired IABC's Chapter Management Forum and the program advisory committee that planned the content for the 1996 and 1997 international conferences. In 1990, she received the IABC/Atlanta President's Award, one of the highest recognitions given to a local chapter member. Siler has given presentations to college students and professional organizations, and was named one of "Ten Outstanding Atlantans" by the city's mayor in 1989. In 1999 she was cited by PR WEEK as one of "12 Leading African Americans in PR."

Currently Slier is director of communication at the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Competitiveness, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of chief executive officers from leading businesses, organized labor and universities.

Gloria Gordon: As you near completion of your term as IABC's chair, what do you feel were the most significant achievements during your term of office?

Brenda Slier: We did a good job of articulating a message about value for IABC. As executive board and chapter leaders discussed the proposed dues increase, we could all connect on the importance of this global membership association and how IABC affects our abilities to be effective business communicators.

Even though IABC's membership continues to grow, what measures do you feel we should take to increase membership substantially, especially internationally?

We are making progress in our growth outside of North America, but there is always more we can do. We hope IABC will continue to make more services accessible to that important member sector. An example was our successful IABC/Europe conference held in October. Plans are under way to have another small conference in Europe next year. We also will offer some of IABC's seminars outside of North America. These efforts plus others should turn into recruitment opportunities for us.

IABC has been using a business plan since 1995 to focus on its work. As this plan continues to evolve to meet members' needs, do you see any major changes or revisions occurring?

As businesses continue to grow globally, this will definitely have an effect on how IABC conducts its work. IABC has a solid business plan, but there is an opportunity to grow our electronic community by offering e-commerce and regular online discussion groups. This can be a part of a member communication, professional development and member recruitment strategy.

What do you consider to be the most significant factor in achieving unanimous approval of IABC's board of directors to institute a dues increase?

IABC has done an excellent job in recent years with its long-range planning through the development of financial scenarios. These scenarios allow executive board leaders to plan five years out for association/member needs. This type of planning with IABC staff, along with identifying the value and need, allowed for thorough and thoughtful deliberation on the dues increase issue.

You have had a very busy travel schedule during your term of office. What did you find to be some of the most important issues facing communicators at the grass-roots level?

I lived the most important issue this year - that is, how do we find the time to do it all? I was surprised to learn that many IABCers thought I was on a one-year sabbatical to fulfill my role as IABC chair. That could not be further from the truth! I had to be IABC's chief volunteer officer while keeping my full-time job and tending to family obligations. It is getting harder and harder to manage our time and responsibilities. …