Many of you would know that Melissa Dark – former member, volunteer and Board member of IABC Victoria – recently left our shores. She has taken up an exciting new role as Director Communication and Member Services for IABC international. This month, we're rewarding Melissa for her years of support by putting her through the griller that is IABC Vic's '5 minutes' segment.
It's been about two months since you left Australia for the USA. Where are you living and how are you enjoying it?
It’s been a fantastic ride. I’m living in San Francisco, in a neighborhood called Lower Haight which is roughly comparable to Fitzroy/Collingwood. I’ve (almost!) mastered the public transport system and worked out where my nearest Whole Foods is. The weather has been gorgeous, too, which helps. So far I’m loving my newly adopted home.
You are working as the Director of Communication and Member Services for IABC. What are the major things you're working on?
There are lots of things to do! My main priorities are to ensure that headquarters is providing as much support as possible to its chapters and membership. We have a Membership Month promotion on right now which has been a big campaign for me, and we’ve got World Conference coming up in June – and trust me, it’s well worth the trip from Australia to attend! IABC World Conferences are always amazing (I’ve been to the last five) and this one will be just as great.
Are you seeing any differences between the way communications is practiced in USA and Australia? In particular, are there any big trends occurring there that haven't hit Australia yet?
I don’t think there are any real differences, actually. I think everyone is grappling with the same challenges. Having communication that is responsive and interactive in the way people now expect from their social media experience is challenging. On a similar vein, communicators are also having to adjust to their new-world roles as facilitators of conversation instead of disseminators of information.
Given what you've learned so far, how would you advise our local members who are keen to make the most of their IABC membership?
I think it is true to some extent that you’ll get out of it exactly what you put into it. There is a lot of learning opportunities and information made available to members, it’s just a matter of finding what works for you. And, of course, being part of an excellent chapter like Victoria, where there are consistent and valuable events and learning opportunities doesn’t hurt either.
What are your thoughts about the best way for IABC chapters to build and demonstrate member value? Are there any exciting innovations you've seen?
The chapters that are really doing the best by their members are doing so by doing all the basics really well. Things like keeping in touch with their membership through regular communications, holding regular learning events, and understanding what their membership needs. It’s nothing revolutionary – just providing solid, valuable community.
What do you miss most about Australia? Of course, your wonderful colleagues at IABC Vic would be a given!
Of course! I definitely miss friends and family most. I also miss having a car – public transport here is hugely better than Melbourne’s but carting groceries home on the bus isn’t the best fun I’ve ever had. And I miss the Aussie sense of humor – not that there’s no humor here, because of course there is, but it’s not the same as that cheeky-borderline-offensive comedy that’s a daily part of life in Australia. I’m very much looking forward to conference in Toronto when I can catch up with lots of IABC pals – and hopefully hear a few Aussie accents amongst them. Register now!!