World Conference recap Monday: A day of discoveries

IBM’s Jon Iwata (Credit: Choice Photography)

by Peg Champion

“We will all become cognitive communicators,” says Jon Iwata, senior vice president of marketing and communications for IBM. Iwata led a brilliant, if sometimes unnerving, session about artificial intelligence (AI) and its broad application across every field.

Iwata discussed IBM’s AI system, Watson, which can see, hear, understand, read, comprehend and recognize language. Watson was developed to “enhance and extend human capability, expertise and potential” though it’s best known for having beaten human champions on the quiz show Jeopardy.

AI is transforming every industry, including our own. Communication is moving away from a traditional method of “push” information delivery to that of understanding stakeholders as unique individuals and serving their needs. And, as vast amounts of information and data is produced every day, communicators will need AI to help sort through it all to find the most meaningful and relevant information for key audiences.

World Café: Ethics in Communication

IABC professionals shared ethics insights and techniques at the afternoon general session. Following the collaborative World Café format, participants assembled in different groups of five per table to discuss three topics:

  1. What does ethics in communications mean to you?
  2. Share how the recent social and political situation impacts your thinking about ethics or describe an ethical challenge you’ve experienced?
  3. What do you consider your own code of ethics?

After the discussions, using a “popcorn technique,” audience members quickly shared individual insights as an illustrator captured their comments graphically on a large poster board, shown above. The poster went on display in The Hub, the central gathering point in the conference hotel.

My own tables shared professional opinions, told war stories and made suggestions. We agreed on four key concepts:

  • A company must have a written code of ethics.
  • Job applicants should inquire about a company’s ethics commitment.
  • Communicating ethically requires a strategic plan.
  • IABC’s Code of Ethics closely mirrors our own beliefs and practices.

Ned Lundquist, ABC, and IABC Fellow and a table leader, said, “Our table discussed how ethics are tied to core values, and why organizations need to communicate and act based on them. Communicators have an important role in ensuring that stakeholders understand those core values, so that their behavior is guided by them.”

Circles of Wisdom

I attended several Circles of Wisdom presentations led by Angela Sinickas, John Deveney and Tamara Gillis. IABC’s Fellow designation is the highest honor that the organization bestows upon members who have made major contributions to the profession and the association. And all of them gladly shared their expertise.

Sinickas stressed the importance of research and pre-testing before crafting your communication plan in her presentation “How to Use Research to Fine-tune your Strategies.”

In Gillis’s discussion of “Nurturing and Recruiting the Next Generation of Corporate Communicators,” she identified competencies and expectations for next-generation practitioners.

During his session “Compel and Persuade,” Deveney described the four essential information types—facts and figures, specific details, emotions, and focus—that he uses to influence an audience, based on research done with a group of CEOs.


About the author

Peg Champion is the principal of Champion Organic Communications and is a passionate advocate for sustainability and environmental issues, with a special focus on wine and food. Peg is also a Sonoma County Certified Tourism Ambassador and, when she’s not tasting Pinots or cooking, she enjoys sharing the pleasures of California Wine Country.

Cheers from the Russian River Valley! Peg Champion and her husband, IABC Fellow Brad Whitworth, enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir from the Russian River appellation.