icandiCQ strategist, Tracy Kirchhoffer is in Chicago attending the IABC 2012 World Conference. Follow her on twitter @icandiCQ and stay connected with daily posts on strategic communication, research and ‘all that jazz’…

Day 1:
Sunday in the city of Chicago was beautiful and buzzing with people having a wonderful time. I didn’t get to do the city tours, but hope that I will still find some time.

First-up was a workshop on what the field requires data on. We were participating in discussions around the key things that were being identified in an online brainstorm. Top of the list is the need for data on the communication function and structure within a company. This led to a later discussion that supports our thinking about it being central to an organisation and that this function should sit next to the office of the CEO. Secondly, the need for data on measuring impact. The main message coming through on measurement is that we are measuring output on communications, but not impact. And how to do this, is really the challenge.

There is also a need for more data around social media as a tool of engagement. Much has been said around the use of it for PR and Marketing. Apparently British Telecom has just opened all social media channels and is no longer controlling anything. This action is quite recent and so it remains to be seen what the impact will be. Studies show that companies that want to keep more control and are not inclined to using social media, are also showing less impressive performance. It’s not imperial evidence, but it is a tendency. The thing about research in the social media industry is that it can’t happen fast enough before the whole thing starts morphing again.

The CEO research project over the past 10 years should be interesting to see on the conference papers.  The challenges for the next 10 years are vast: dealing with regulation, diversity, polarities and speed is crucial. A new kind of leader is necessary. Leaders need to be more ready to make new and other connections with all types of people; they need to be more reflective, listening, and able to tell a compelling story.  There is also new material now supporting the direct link between leadership communication, employee engagement and increased productivity.

Top issues contributing to employee unhappiness are: frustration about switch communication channels where they can’t give ideas, when managers stop initiatives (34%), recognition (32%) and the performance review process (29%).

Other reasons for unhappiness include: when employees do not feel pride in their company, when they cannot see any career growth, when they cannot see a line of sight between individual performance and company performance. This calls for the need for a holistic understanding in the organisation of the business itself, the strategy and how each person is critical to business performance.

This is exactly the message we’re driving to our clients, here at icandiCQ. Don’t you love it when you see that your thinking is on track?

It came out loud and clear that critical, in order to measure impact or outcome as opposed to just output, is knowledge about your audience. We at icandiCQ know this to be our number one priority in any communication endeavour.

The speaker session was fun and motivating, using play to promote a lot of good things in our world and realising that playing is really all about enjoying something so much that ideas and solutions can flow from complex activities.

I like the fact that IABC believes that the power of communication can change people. Can change companies, can change the world – and it is this that makes their work of building the field and the profession so meaningful.

We too should see that as our purpose and responsibility.

All in all, a great start to an exciting conference.