By Shayna Keyles

It’s been quite an exciting month of transitions for SF IABC. Our new board has assembled and grown quite a bit, Kamna Narain has taken the reins as SF IABC president, and one of our own, Ed Kamrin, has ascended to the role of IABC chair for the entire Pacific Plains region!

I sat down with Ed at the Capital One 360 coffee shop in San Francisco, a favorite spot for Independent Communicators’ Roundtable attendees. He filled me in about the hierarchy of IABC, the goals of the organization, and his reasons for sticking with it for so long.

Shayna Keyles: Tell me a bit about your experience with IABC. You’ve filled quite a lot of roles!

Ed Kamrin: I’ve been with the San Francisco chapter for a while. I was VP of Finance for three years; then I had the opportunity to serve as president. Last year, the world conference was hosted in San Francisco, and I chaired the hospitality committee, which allowed me to work with volunteers from other chapters and cities. It helped me decide that I really wanted to take a volunteer role with the global organization, which is what led me to the Pacific Plains Regional Board.

SK: Why did you choose to work within the greater organization instead of amplifying your contributions as a local member?

EK: It’s very easy to catch the IABC bug. Once you start with the organization, you want to keep going and help the organization grow. Plus, on a personal level, working with the regional board and collaborating at the global level helps me expand my network outside of the city in which I live. I get to coordinate with volunteers across the country and develop a skills that I haven’t exercised much before.

SK: What are the key differences between the local and regional chapters of IABC?

EK: The local chapters are the pulse of IABC. They keep the organization alive by providing members a home base, a network, and a slew of resources. These chapters are where the bulk of the programs happen and where people congregate and participate.

The regional chapters provide support and guidance to the local chapters. They help navigate market challenges and leadership issues. They communicate with the global headquarters to advocate for local chapters.

SK: What do you mean when you say “advocate”?

EK: Each chapter needs to advocate for its individual members by providing the appropriate content or scheduling accessible events, but we advocate for the chapters themselves. For example, we need to make sure that each chapter has the right mix of programming for its members. One size definitely does not fit all: even within our region, we have a lot of variation across chapters. So at the regional level, we make sure chapters of all sizes have the right resources to accommodate their members.

SK: How do you determine the baseline of member needs?

EK: One thing that I’m excited to be a part of is the IABC Council of Regions. One representative from each region meets in an international coalition to formally discuss issues faced by the chapters being represented. The Council of Regions is also the program committee for the leadership institute. We develop volunteer leaders and nominate the committee for the international executive board.

SK: Have you set any goals for the upcoming year?

EK: We want to address the members who don’t have local chapters. For example, Washington doesn’t have an active chapter, but there are active, dispersed members in the area. We would like to extend virtual programming to these members so that they can receive some of the community and educational benefits that chapter-affiliated members receive; virtual programming will also benefit chapter members who can’t attend events. We don’t want to introduce these events to compete with local chapters but to enhance the membership experience.

Another issue we’d like to tackle is professional development: we want to provide development programs that speak to the needs of our members. Some regions do conferences, and we’re exploring the possibility of in-person events open to members across our region.

SK: What types of trends do you want to promote across different chapters?

EK: We really want to encourage sharing among chapters. For example, the San Francisco mentorship program has been gaining a lot of speed, and we’d like to see more programs like that develop in the region. We’d love to see chapter leaders connecting with each other, and the region’s job is to facilitate those connections.

SK: So far, what stands out as your favorite part of serving as chair?

EK: I’m getting the opportunity to engage with so many parts of the organization that you don’t normally get to see as a member or a chapter leader. It’s fascinating to see the inner workings of such a large network and use my role in this network to make sure all members and chapters are being heard.

SK: Do you plan to remain an IABC member even after you finish your term as Pacific Plains Regions chair?

EK: You know, many feel that membership organizations are fading into oblivion because of all the free content that exists out there. But IABC is more than just a content generator; it’s a community that encourages openness and participation. The leadership is engaged, transparent, and accountable, and the members are warm, enthusiastic, and dynamic. IABC gives people a voice. It’s a home for professionals who have gone through career transitions, who have relocated, or who have been displaced. It has structure and stability, and you can plug in from anywhere: if you signed up as a member in Brazil, you’ll be just fine in Boston.

In other words, absolutely. I’ll be here for a while.

Ed Kamrin leads McKesson’s corporate social responsibility and community engagement communications. He is currently chair of IABC’s Pacific Plains Region and a long-time member of the San Francisco chapter of IABC. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Shayna Keyles is a multidisciplinary writer, editor, and content strategist focused on producing and distributing accessible information. She is currently director of content strategy for IABC’s San Francisco Chapter. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.