‘Work with people you’d want to share a meal with’ says Jonathan Champ

While most IABC members in our Asia Pacific region belong to a local chapter, we also have a strong community of Members-at-Large. One such member is Jonathan Champ SCMP, who has a 25-year career working with almost every industry except oil, tobacco and weapons through corporate, community, government, NFP and creative industry clients. He founded Meaning Business in 2010, and is a GCCC certified Strategic Communication Management Professional, an IABC Gold Quill Winner and Australasian Reporting Awards Bronze recipient. He is the creator of the open-source COMMS Plan method and has served as an IABC volunteer at state, regional and global level through advisory committees and recognition panels. He is also an emerging screenwriter and occasionally rage-tweets at @meaningbusiness.

When did you join IABC and why?

I’ve been a member of IABC since last century. I like saying that as it makes me sound old and wise. I joined IABC while at NRMA at my then-manager Marnie Reid’s recommendation as I was starting on my organisational communication career, before the formation of Australian chapters. From the outset, IABC provided a connection to the experiences of other communication professionals across the world. The tools, resources, research and people of IABC have been an essential part of my professional development at every stage since then. With the arrival of Australian chapters our IABC community also grew.

What’s it like being a member-at-large?

Moving to South Australia 18 months ago, I was conscious of being away from the NSW chapter and the community which I’d been involved in for many years. But IABC creates connection wherever you are: it is ‘boundaryless’. Through the work of the Australian chapters to create a consistent experience for regional corporate members and through the role of the regional APAC Board as the mortar between the Chapter bricks, I feel more connected to the broader organisation now than ever. And the sense of IABC shared community through COVID is such a strong representation of the international nature of IABC.

What is a typical day like for you?

Being a solo consultant means there isn’t a typical day, but there are some certainties. Coffee! And writing daily pages first thing in the morning.  From there, my client work defines the priorities, and that work can be diverse. The common thread is helping people tell their stories in ways that create outcomes. My other significant communication focus is in coaching, mentoring, and skills development through training and facilitation. And while my IABC volunteering has taken a backseat in South Australia, my local involvement in Australian Writers Guild committee programs is similar, establishing events for developing screenwriters.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing communication professionals now and into the future?

A crisis is when quality communication has life and death impact. This year has been unprecedented for organisations due to COVID-19, but one thing that has been front and centre is the impact (and in some cases absence) of solid effective communication and sound strategy. At the same time, we’ve seen the immediate impact of communications tech. Recently I shared an article criticising the rush of pundits to have answers about ‘what this will mean’ and a push for ‘certainties’ in the future. I think that’s a huge challenge for communication practice for both emerging and experienced professionals. Vendors and technologies have been a saviour at this time, but this is a unique set of circumstances, and there’s a risk in assuming platforms that have been rapidly adopted in crisis are a basis for ‘a new normal’ in the future. (I realise the irony of giving advice about not listening to advice). Another mid-term challenge is to not lose the new degree of human connection that we’ve seen be such a feature of workplaces and workforces during COVID. I’m going to finish answering the question with a question I’ve used with clients: how do we avoid normalising what isn’t normal while retaining the best of what has come about during this time?

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in our profession?

Advice isn’t a substitute for experience. Take on challenges. A template isn’t a plan, and neither is a case study: you have to work the steps every single time, and show your working out. Draw on everything that IABC has to offer you. Enter Quills. I feel like I should also say ‘wear sunscreen’. TV producer, director and showrunner Tony Ayres was asked this same question in a South Australian Film Corporation live stream this week. He always says “Work with people you’d want to share a meal with.” Now that’s a good advice.