2016 #IABCLI leadership advice on paper airplanes

Timeless gift ideas for the Communicator in your life

Whether starting out, or a master communicator, many tools of the trade are the same. And one can always use more of these…

That said, if you have a bit more to spend, there are a few even more valuable ideas right at the end.

Three quick ideas for the Professional Communicator




A good fountain pen need not cost a fortune. Looks great in the boardroom – and can easily be refilled. Stenography might be out of fashion, but handwritten notes are not. A chat over coffee is one of the fastest ways to #createconnection. Check out the merch from IABC…
IABC Merchandise - Coffee Cup - 'What to say when comforting a communicator: there, their, they're

Pen and paper in action – fuelled by coffee

Scaling your intent: personal & professional development for professional communicators




Get inside your head to transform how you work. How to build relationships, handle conflict and share control. Give membership of the International Association of Communicators.
Andy Gibson: A Mind For Business

David Archer & Alex Cameron: Collaborative Leadership IABC Member Logo

What’s missing? Got other ideas? Share them. Tweet @alignyourorg.


Only half of communicators say all their work is aligned to corporate strategy and goals

Benchmarking survey reveals that high performing organizations, when compared to their peers, are:

  • Twice as likely to keep language simple and jargon-free
  • 80% more likely to have a process for creating great corporate stories.
  • Twice as likely to make emotional connections to their audiences
  • 60% more likely to think about communication from the audience perspective.

The #11ways benchmarking database, developed by Michael Ambjorn and Stephen Welch, covers 81 organizations, across 10 countries, with approximately 390,000 employees.

“We wanted to develop a database to explore the connections between communication practices and organizational performance”, says Michael. “What are the common communication practices that have an impact on performance?  And are there things that communicators do which actually contribute to organizational underperformance?”

Well it turns out there are.

In their recent session at the World Conference for the International Association of Business Communicators, Michael and Stephen explored these connection with a brand-new presentation format, involving magical mind-games, geo-mapping and role-play.

But the serious research came from the benchmarking survey, which reveals some of the challenges communicators face.

The know-it-all leader and the know-a-little communicator?

Half of organizations say that corporate messages are generally devised by senior executives, potentially relegating the communications team to the role of a paper-boy or paper-girl: just delivering the message.  Indeed, some communications departments are referred to the SOS team : “Send Out Stuff”. If corporate leaders are devising the messages they’d better be good at it, but only 20% of benchmarked organizations think their leaders are good at communicating. There must be a lot of horrible communications going on.  Or, as one organization anonymously told us:

“Executives that think they know how to communicate with employees, but don’t!”

So it seems that executives should listen to communicators’ advice more. But only a third of communicators admitted that their level of business know-how and understanding was high. Two-thirds of communicators, we therefore suggest, need to improve their business understanding if they want to advise business people.

Think audience!

High performing organizations are much better at this. Indeed: 71% of them say they think specifically about things form the audience perspective, vs 45% of average organizations. Bu there are other indicators too:

  • Average organizations are 40% more likely to pack a lot of messages into their comms. High performing ones are much more parsimonious about packing messages into comms.
  • Average organizations like to talk about themselves.  High performing ones are more balanced: only five in eight say they like to talk about themselves compared to seven in eight average organizations.
  • Average organizations like jargon: only 21% say they keep their language simple and jargon-free, compared to half of high performing organizations.

So the typical communication in an average organization is stuffed with  messages, ‘all about me’, and has jargon-galore. Where as in a high performing organization, things are likely to be simple, clear and with two-way channels built in.


Storytelling has become de rigeur in organizations but it doesn’t mean all stories are good ones. High performers seemed to have cracked it by borrowing from Adam Smith and Henry Ford: half of them have developed a process for creating great corporate stories, vs only a quarter of average organizations. Great stories don’t appear, they need to be created, to evolve and to have meaning.

“Hwæt” is the opening line of Beowulf, the epic story that has lasted 1,000 years. Which of your organisation’s stories will last half as long?

“We need to do more as communicators to align our organizations and make use of our professional knowledge. The IABC global standard for communicators is the best place to start. Follow this and you will avoid the #11ways, and deliver great corporate results”, says Michael.

Stephen adds, “When only half of communicators say their work is aligned to business strategy and goals, and less than a third admit to understanding the business, the profession has a serious problem. Luckily these skills are easily taught – I teach them all the time – so there is hope.  But our research tells us that – for many communicators, it is a case of ‘step-up-or-ship out’”.

If you’d like to talk through the full analysis or talk about solutions to these issues, please get in touch:

Stephen Welch | @stephenwelch11 | stephenwelch [at] eml.cc & Michael Ambjorn | @michaelambjorn | michael [at] alignyour.org

#11ways @ #IABC14 – TUNE IN


Whether you’re in Toronto in person – or attending remotely via Twitter – we would love for you to pitch into what @StephenWelch11 and I are aiming to be the most tweeted talk of Toronto:

#11ways @ #IABC14

There’ll be numbers for the data-driven, there’ll be mind-tricks – and quite a bit of banter.

We want you there – please add this to your calendar (.ics) and tune in, in person or via Twitter.

Meanwhile, here’s the official blurb – you can get it on the #IABC14 app as well:

#IABC14 App - click to download11 ways you can ensure your organization underperforms

Michael Ambjorn and Stephen Welch, two innovative presenters, are doing a double-act for the first time. Together they will take you on a journey looking at the power of cultural alignment in driving strategic business performance, to help communicators engage with leaders and deliver on the strategy and engagement elements of IABC’s Global Standard. Michael and Stephen will draw on their own professional experience and latest thinking, to explore how communicators have a role to play in increasing employee engagement, enablement and culture.

P.S. Want to help us get more data? Join our benchmark exercise (and retweet this whilst you’re at it – we’d be ever so grateful).

Follow @michaelambjorn and @stephenwelch11 for more of the above. You can also join the conversation: #11ways and of course #IABC14.

#11ways to under-perform? Take the survey

Cross-post from today’s Simply Communicate:

2014 IABC World Conference | 8-11 June | Toronto
At the IABC World Conference, Michael Ambjorn and Stephen Welch will run a session on the #11ways communicators can contribute to organisational under-performance. To add some spice to the presentation, they’ve knocked up a little survey.

The 2014 IABC – International Association of Business Communicators – World Conference will take place in Toronto Canada on 8-11 June.

IABC Board Director Michael Ambjorn and President of IABC UK Stephen Welch, will look at the power of cultural alignment in driving strategic business performance. They will explore how communicators have a role to play in increasing employee engagement, enablement and culture.

To help shape their presentation they are asking for feedback from communication professionals. They write: “We’re hoping for three minutes of your time. Please help us test our thinking by completing this informal questionnaire.

“It’s completely anonymous; a self-selected sample and if you vote twice, we won’t know. So please don’t. You can even pass it to people you know. This is a viral survey not a ‘random sample’ one.

“If, once you are done, you’d like a copy of the results, once we’re done, tweet us @stephenwelch11 or @michaelambjorn with the hashtag #11ways.”


For more news from Simply Communicate, here’s a host of places to keep up to speed with what’s going on in comms: 

    Find us on Google+ 

Meanwhile, please take the survey – and if you’ve got a moment to help spread the word, here are a couple of tweets ready made for an RT:





Alignment Lab: from chaos to consensus in 3600 seconds

Launch of // Align Your Org

Monday, 24 June, 10:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m. NYC @ #IABCWC13

Sources say 70% of change initiatives fail. We say, “what are we going to do about it?

This is Alignment Lab – It’s live and it’s learning at warp speed how alignment to a clear purpose can lead to consensus-driven results – quicker and with less disruption.

But is it really as simple as getting everyone into the same room? Join the experiment to find out when we drive you and everyone in the room to create The Communicators’ Credo for Achieving Alignment, a founding contribution to the new Creative Commons space right here on alignyour.org. 

You’ll take away tips and tricks about proven people-centred methodologies that can not only help you drive successful change, but clearly demonstrate the value that you bring to your organisation.

In a word: #ALIGN.

Want to stay tuned?

Follow on Twitter; LinkedIn and add //Align Your Org to your Google Plus circles.

Want to contribute?

Share your favourite alignment resource. Get in touch – multiple ways set out in the margin.