written by Chris Maddox

Paul Omodt’s yearlong tenure as IABC Minnesota president will be drawing to a close at the end of this month. An IABC member since 1995, and a former treasurer for 7 years, Paul has brought a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. I recently sat down with him as he shared some reflections on the past year.  

What are your reflections on the past year as president?

First, it went incredibly fast. It seems like it just started, although I know it didn’t. We started with the hashtag concept #findyourpossible, which was a way to ask the membership what they wanted from the leadership, from IABC, and how do we make it possible for you. I really did not want to make it about what we wanted to do but about what others wanted to do, so I hope that focus came through. I firmly believe that we are better when we do this together. Whether it’s your career, whether it’s networking, whether it’s learning. And that is what I have always found with IABC membership, that people are incredibly giving and very open to giving you what you need if you ask for it.

What have you most enjoyed about being president?

I have taken advantage of everything IABC has to offer. I was a Gold Quill judge. I took the time to do that in London where I met new people. I went to the World Conference in Toronto, again to learn new things. That’s an experience you can’t get with a domestic PR organization. At the international conference in Toronto there were people from 34 countries and nearly a thousand people, all with different perspectives. At the awards judging for Gold Quills there were people from six countries working side by side in a smaller, intimate setting judging awards.

You get the time to ask people about their perspective on a program in another country. To me, that’s the value of IABC. When we open our thoughts up to other new things it makes us better. There’s also the social part of it. I saw people in Toronto I hadn’t seen for years, and it felt like I had seen them just 10 minutes ago. I tell everybody I have a worldwide network, and I can honestly say that because I know people from around the world that do the work I do.

What has been the biggest surprise in the role?

The biggest surprise was seeing the Gold Quill winners. They keep it secret who wins the awards. I was in Toronto and someone from our chapter won a Gold Quill. It was a total surprise. I shouldn’t be surprised that there aren’t great people in our market, but there it was again, that connection between the best in the business working here in the Twin Cities. It was a total surprise, like one of those happy moments to see someone in our chapter standing head and shoulders above the rest of the world in terms of communication, and that’s pretty cool.

How do you see the value of IABC to individual members?

That gets to the question of #findyourpossible. In our chapter, we adopted an informal metric we call the vitality metric, which are the things we are doing that are vital to all our members. It’s going to be different for every member and it’s going to be different for members over time. When I was early in my career, getting my ABC designation through IABC was a big deal and to me that found my possible. I wanted that growth, I wanted that extra learning, I wanted that international look at things, and I have been able to carry that forward for 20 years now. So that was my possible then and now it’s being able to judge Gold Quills in another country. It gives me a great perspective.

To me it’s always been about making the offer to people to find what connects them to what they want to do. And that’s the best part of it, being flexible enough to find those opportunities. We had a hashtag a couple of years ago called #findyourtribe. This is a group of people with similar outlooks who are motivated similarly, that come to this because it’s a voluntary organization. You are there because you want to be there, because you have found something that benefits you, that nourishes you. I’ve been a member for almost 30 years for that reason. It’s helped me a lot.

What advice would you offer the incoming president?

The thing I learned is that you rest on the shoulders of who came before you—people who have taken the organization and morphed it as it has gone along. When I joined in 1995 there were almost 500 members and the approach was very different. We built on that approach and changed it to meet the members’ needs. And we continue to do that. I keep saying that our financial stability is not an accident and the vitality of our organization is not an accident. It’s all been put in place by others before us.

I almost like smaller better than the big chapter experience because you know everybody and you bond differently. You are not in a room with strangers; you are in a room with friends. When there were 500 members there might be 50 people at monthly lunches. Now gatherings are smaller, more intimate and more personal. I like that as it makes it easier to navigate. We have to recognize that we have all benefited from other chapters and other chapter’s leaders over the years, as well as other members who have volunteered their time.

What are you going to do with the extra time?

Here’s the funny thing, and I’ve told this to everybody. As a volunteer leader in IABC you should average no more than one hour a week being a volunteer. I have been pretty good at not making this a job, not giving too much time and asking people to volunteer if I need something done. No one has ever said no, and that’s the coolest part of it.

That extra hour? I’ll probably do something else within IABC. Maybe I’ll take an online course, maybe I’ll do something else. The way that my brain operates is that I have to be constantly learning, constantly finding out new things and to have a new challenge in front of me so it keeps me from getting stale. I don’t know if I’ll pick up a new hobby, as IABC has been a hobby. It’s always been there for me when I need it and how I need it.