Magazine article Communication World

Brad Whitworth, ABC - New IABC Chairman

Magazine article Communication World

Brad Whitworth, ABC - New IABC Chairman

Article excerpt

Brad Whitworth, ABC--New IABC Chairman

Brad Whitworth's first job as a photographer for his high school yearbook gave him an early opportunity to learn the skills of a communicator--and as he says, "also showed me the value of adding on, not dropping off."

As he was trudging along the sidelines shooting football in the cold and windy Missouri winter weather, he decided that those people up in the warm broadcast booths commenting on the game were far better off. "So I decided to join them--and be comfortable!"--which he did, as a spotter for a radio station. "Then someone put a mike in my hand and that was the beginning of a whole new career. I added new skills, but didn't drop older ones."

At the University of Missouri, he continued as a radio commentator both for the local AM station and the campus FM station. Whitworth says he learned audience differentiation, and the importance of responding to an unseen group. "My mentor was Chris Lincoln, a sports announcer who's done NCAA (college) football games for ABC and has his own sports show on ESPN cable network. Learning tricks of broadcast skills from someone like that enabled me to take what ability I had as a writer and add a public personna as well as behind-the-scenes management skills."

Whitworth made the leap from those early days to managing employee communication for one of the world's most highly regarded companies, Hewlett-Packard Company, Palo Alto, Calif., with his characteristic mixture of tenacity and nonchalance. Along the way he picked up a Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) and loads of IABC management experience.

Whitworth visited 27 IABC chapters last year and says this year he doesn't know what the final count is going to be. "There's a part of me that is trying to limit the amount of time I spend out of the office. I want to be accessible to my staff, to help solve problems at H-P, but I also want to be doing all the IABC stuff. So again, my old motto--'In addition to...' rather than 'instead of...'"

I asked Whitworth how he sells his management on his IABC commitments. "What I'm doing on a daily basis as IABC chairman includes managing a 25-person volunteer board, overseeing a 25-person paid staff, looking at a US $3 million budget, and being aware of the concerns of some 124 chapters around the world. That's a lot of management expertise that IABC is giving me, and that H-P is investing in by giving me time to do this. After they've made this investment, H-P will reap the benefits of my time management skills, ability, energy, and enthusiasm. So I ask them to give me more challenges."

And while he's on the road for IABC and H-P, he feels he's giving his H-P staff an opportunity to really stand out in doing the job they were hired to do. "It allows my staff to grow professionally." But he's never that far from the office. Whitworth sets off on every trip with a handful of overnightmail envelopes, lists of fax and phone numbers and a pile of correspondence. "It's amazing how much you can accomplish on a three-hour flight," he says.

Whitworth is moving his own professional development along using IABC--he is mastering spokesperson and media relations skills he doesn't get on his job at H-P. Consistent with his head down, full-tilt approach to life, Whitworth recently completed an MBA at Santa Clara (Calif.) University. "Working on this certainly opened my mind. At an IABC seminar, a speaker commented that communicators moan and groan and gripe about not being involved in boardroom decisions. 'Look at the people in the room,' he told us. 'The lawyers represent the legal aspects; accountants look at the financial implications; engineers look at the technical feasibility. Because of the constituencies you represent--customers, community, employees, shareholders--you should be in there. But the reason you don't belong in the boardroom is because you don't speak the language. …

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