James Howe is the current Head of Corporate Affairs at Bupa Health Insurance and was also recently appointed Vice-Chair of the IABC Asia Pacific Board.
James shares his thoughts on the challenges facing communication professionals today and into the future, and how they can overcome these challenges to stay ahead of the game.
Tell us what you do?
I’ve been in Communications and Corporate Affairs roles since 2001 and my current role is the Head of Corporate Affairs for Bupa Health Insurance. I’ve also recently been appointed Vice-Chair of the IABC Asia Pacific (APAC) board.
When did you join IABC Victoria and why?
I joined IABC Victoria back in 2010, so more than a decade ago. I’d attended a few events and saw the value in the professional networking. From there I was lucky enough to serve on the Victorian and APAC Boards which has been a wonderful way to not only put something back in to the profession, but also expose myself to new skills and ways of working that I don’t necessarily have in my role.
What will be you focus as Vice Chair of APAC?
I’ve stepped in to the Vice Chair role quite late in the year and will become Chair in July, so between now and then I’ll be picking the brains of a lot of my colleagues, including current APAC past-President and Victorian IABC legend Zora Artis.
The strategy of the region will be driven by the entire Board (shameless plug; nominations are now open if you would like to contribute!) but as Chair I’m keen to help members access the experiences and thought processes across the entire Asia Pacific region to improve diversity of thought. While there may be similar business and communication challenges around the world different cultures and countries approach them in different ways. As IABC we should be able to share that experience, using our ‘International’ aspect to really help us as all as ‘Business Communicators’.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing communication professionals right now, and in the future?
If I could choose only one word to answer this, I would say ‘busyness’. The whole world has got busier; individually our schedules and workloads continue to increase, the channels through which we need to communicate get busier and our audiences have more things to focus on and less clarity on who to listen to and why. For us as communication professionals it has a real impact on how we work, what we say and making sure that people understand and respond to it. It was like this before COVID-19 but it feels like the intensity of living through a pandemic has amplified this even further.
How do you think IABC can help communication professionals overcome these challenges and stay ahead of the game?
Historically it’s been viewed as a negative that “everyone thinks they can communicate”. Certainly when an email or media release you write receives endless rounds of edits and feedback from the CEO to the janitor and everyone in between it’s understandable to feel that way.
But in a world where everyone in a business really is a communicator, whether it be on email, running meetings, social networks or any other choice of channel, the training communication professionals receive from IABC can differentiate us. It helps us empower others to communicate more effectively so we can delegate and manage our workload, it can keep us across trends so we can advise others on best practice and we can coordinate timing so that people’s messages aren’t lost in the masses.
Now more than ever, what we learn from the IABC are the sort of skills that will ensure communication professionals continue to contribute to commercial and strategic outcomes in a business.