Using the Gift of Communication to connect

Fresh on the heels of a holiday designed to showcase our love for others (yes, I’m talking about Valentine’s Day), let’s take think about how we can carry that love forward into other aspects of life and business.

Your local chapter’s first Gift of Communication event will be Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 11:30 to 1 at the Hughes Education Center on North Washington. Come for lunch and a discussion with a local nonprofit that is seeking ways to better connect its services with those who need them.

Read the summary below. Put your thinking caps on. Come to the event and share your ideas with a great organization that’s eager to hear them.

~ Erin Huntimer, your board president

The nonprofit

Missouri River Educational Cooperative

Lyle Krueger, executive director

The overview

The Missouri River Educational Cooperative (MREC) is one of eight Regional Educational Associations (REA) in North Dakota. We are comprised of 37 School Districts, 3 Cooperating Partners, and 8 collaborating partners. We provide support and services for 60 elementary schools and 44 secondary schools.

Mission: To provide sustainable action focused solutions which educate, inform, and inspire our member districts.

Vision: To become a leading educational organization that strengthens member districts in preparing all children to become responsible, active, participating citizens of society

The challenge
• Branding – clearly communicating who they are & what they do to their target audience(s)
• Reaching diverse target audiences – district superintendents, teachers, parents
• Effectively using existing communication channels

The run-down directly from Lyle:

“One of our biggest challenges is simply people knowing who were are and what we do. We are a Regional Education Association (REA). When most people hear of an “REA,” their first thought goes to “Rural Electric Association.” Same goes with MREC, they hear MREC they think “electric cooperative.” Getting past that obstacle.

“Additionally, we do a variety of things/services, so getting people to realize what we do, for whom, and who we impact, is a struggle. This struggle has multiple levels because we have several target audiences based on the work we do. For example, our member district superintendents know the services we can provide. However, teachers may only think of us providing large professional learning events and may not know that we have specific ways we can do to help them at their district. Parents in Bismarck-Mandan may only know us for the Extended School Program (afterschool program; we are not BLAST) if their child attends one of the schools we serve, but they don’t realize we provide other online course offerings for Career and Technical Education for high school students or that we work with businesses/colleges to develop and host college/career symposiums.

“Lastly, I am trying to better organize the services our member school districts can utilize in a manner that provides them with enough information to be informed and know how to find us, but not a full page narrative report trying to explain it (which they won’t read!). We know what we do, districts who use our services understand, but how do we get others to understand our services and/or access them? What strategies are best to inform them of the various services?
“We have recently updated our website ( to make it more user friendly. We also try tying our newsletter article/information to go back to our website to drive traffic. We send out that newsletter twice a month to our districts and began pushing a lot more info out on our Facebook ( and Twitter ( accounts too.”

Learn the new video rules in November

keenan-h-headshotOur November 2016 professional development session is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. At KLJ.

Videos are taking over the social media landscape. Marketers are jumping on the trend and adding video to their 2017 marketing budgets. Keenan Hauff, Chief Executive Visionary at Threefold, will discuss what you need to know about video and how it can boost your client engagement.

Register today

The Power of Presentation – and Membership

Join us Thursday, Oct. 20, for the first professional development luncheon of the year: The Power of Presentation.

PowerPoint may be the standard for professional presentations, but it isn’t the only option. Darren Hertz of Bank of North Dakota will show you how you can enhance your presentations by demonstrating the capabilities of three other popular presentation tools: Nearpod, Kahoot! and Google Slides. Read more and register….


Speaking of powerful things, how about IABC membership? (How do you like that segue?)

Thinking about joining IABC Great Plains? Now’s the time to do it! October is Membership Month. Save 10% on international dues, PLUS the $40 application fee is waived.

Contact any IABC Great Plains board member to hear why local membership is so powerful. Learn more about international benefits on IABC’s membership page.



Let’s get this year started

A note from your chapter president, Erin Huntimer

Welcome to your 2016-2017 IABC Great Plains year ‘o fun and learning!

Stacy Sturm (in pink) hosts a Haunted History tour that included a look into tunnels under downtown Bismarck.

Stacy Sturm (in pink) hosts a Haunted History tour that included a look into tunnels under downtown Bismarck.

I’m your chapter president this year and I had a blast seeing so many of you at the fall kick-off event, Beers with Peers, on Sept. 27. Many thanks to Annette Schilling and Stacy Sturm for allowing us to attend Bismarck Tour Company’s inaugural Haunted History Tour of downtown Bismarck. CREEEEEPY, but cool! Our next event is Oct. 20, Power of Presentation.

I want to introduce your slate of officers, as submitted by the nominating committee and ratified by an email vote of the membership, with 24 of 42 active members responding. They are generously giving of their time and talents to bring local, affordable professional development opportunities to you:

  • Immediate Past President: Kay LaCoe, Lignite Energy Council
  • President: Erin Huntimer, Basin Electric
  • President-Elect: Chris Gessele, Basin Electric
  • Professional Development Chair: Annette Willis, Agency MABU
  • Treasurer: Jill Beilke, KLJ
  • Secretary: Krista Harju, City of Mandan

Also, many thanks to Lacey Lange of Bismarck State College for being our chapter volunteer.

A couple other things to note for the month of October:

Notes from IABC’s Leadership Institute

From your chapter’s president-elect, Erin Huntimer

I just flew in from Long Beach, and boy, are my arms tired! [I crack myself up.]

I attended IABC’s annual Leadership Institute Feb. 4-6 in sunny California, as did Andrea Blowers who serves on the Pacific Plains Region board. (Thank you, Andrea, for your higher service in the IABC world.) I want to report back to you, the membership, about what I learned and how I intend to apply it going forward.


Three countries come together in this photo from the Leadership Institute: Canada, Australia, and the United States

Most significantly, I walked away excited about International’s vision for the future. It’s no secret that leadership at the top has been lacking. We as chapter leaders have struggled with lack of support and technology failures at the corporate level. The last time I attended the Leadership Institute in 2008, International was largely absent from the conference, and I noticed chapter leaders struggling with basic but critical survival issues like fiscal viability and succession planning.

This Leadership Institute was different. IABC Chairman Michael Ambjorn was present and fully engaged, not only as an emcee, but as a presenter and full participant. IABC Executive Director Carlos Fulcher was present and engaged as well, though I feel he was observing and harvesting feedback from chapter leaders.

Bottom line: I finally feel that the pieces are in place for chapters, regions and International to begin linking more strongly, and for all to be able to better demonstrate the value of IABC membership. I encourage you to check out their quarterly report, which details the vision:

I attended several sessions where leaders shared best practices. I walked away with MANY ideas, including but not limited to:

  • Ideas for encouraging new communication professionals to join.
    • Web designers? Graphic artists? Pitch the benefit of broadening education.
  • Ideas for demonstrating the value of IABC membership not only locally, but regionally and globally.
    • Point members to relevant materials on at our professional development meetings, and demonstrate that broader connection.
  • Ideas for new professional development sessions that really are the core of our local value.
    • Annual “Gift of Communication” sessions, webinar+workshop, successful communication in fast-paced political campaigns, “Fame and Shame,” business fashion
  • Ideas for encouraging new leaders to step within IABC Great Plains
    • Ask members what they would like to share with the chapter through board service.

As part of your board’s commitment to chapter leadership development, I’ll also be attending the IABC Pacific Plains region meeting in St. Louis in April. If you have any questions or concerns you’d like me to research during my trip, please let me know.

I also must say how much I appreciated the opportunity to go to Long Beach for the Leadership Institute. I was stunned by the caliber of communicators who attended, and am grateful to have connected meaningfully with many of them. I’m grateful to the boards of the past who committed to such leader development. I have already had experiences that will stick with me for a lifetime!

January PD encouraged attendees to find purpose in their work


Marci Narum, inspirational speaker and personal and professional development coach, presented “Defining Your Career – How to Find Purpose in Your Work” at the January Professional Development event in Bismarck. Narum encouraged attendees to define their unique talents and strengths, assess their skills in education, reflect on their individual journey and examine their purpose.

Sullivan wins IABC Silver Quill

Congratulations to Basin Electric staff writer Dain Sullivan, who won a 2015 Pacific Plains Region IABC Silver Quill Award for his work on the “Why Basin?” blog series. The series shares the story of new employees and how their interests and values tie into the Basin Electric culture.

IABC Pacific Plains’ Silver Quill Awards are held annually to provide communicators an opportunity to share their best work with the region. For more information, visit

October is Membership Month


IABC World Conference 2015: former board member attends and reports back

Tracie Bettenhausen

Tracie Bettenhausen, IABC Great Plains member. She took this selfie as part of a game, which was included in the IABC World Conference app.

Tracie Bettenhausen, who formerly served on IABC Great Plains board as president and director of professional development, attended the 2015 IABC World Conference in San Francisco, CA, in June. Here is a summary of what she learned.

I wish for all IABC members to be able to attend at least one world conference. This was my first. My recap follows my tweets from the event, at @tracielee. If you’re interested in learning about anything more in this summary, IABC World Conference 2015.

Day 1
First keynote: Aaron Dignan
1. How can we organize our companies and work groups so that we are not spending our time making plans (which Dignan refers to as “crap with good intentions”) and instead respond to changes and emerge with solutions.
2. Networks are important in getting work done. He used the examples of the immune system, the Internet, and colonies of ants, that we can use as examples in our own companies.
3. Learn more about “holacracy,” which is a way of running an organization so that the authority and decision making is pushed out to the very edges, away from management hierarchy.

Second keynote: Liz Wiseman
1. What you know is less important than what you can learn. Don’t let what you know get in the way of what you don’t know.
2. Try to bring back your rookie mindset. When was the last time you felt like a rookie? What did you do at that point to succeed? Wiseman helped us understand how those processes and the qualities that brought us to them can be useful all the time. When you know enough to see a pattern, you start to fill in the blanks and assume things. That is not helpful in growing and developing new and better things. And when the leaders of an organization think they “know it all” they don’t hear the feedback coming from their employees.
3. She also got into a discussion on the difference between multipliers and diminishers. Multipliers are the kind of leaders who make everyone around them smarter. Diminishers do the opposite. And there are people who are diminishers even though they have the best of intentions.

Breakouts: Allyson W. Neal and Chuck Gose
1. Allyson W. Neal of Conoco Phillips presented on how to keep your organization’s website relevant in today’s world of social media. She says you must always design with mobile in mind. At ConocoPhillips, Neal’s team is 4-5 people handling content, with one of them also handling social media. 1) Visual appeal is most important. Eye-popping images are what will keep people on your website. Image colors should match your web colors. 2) Simple architecture is extremely important. 3) Your top level navigation needs to be limited to five to seven tabs. Writing must be clear and short, just a headline. 4) Less graphics, more photos and video. Content maintenance is important. Be consistent. 5) Infinite scroll: dynamically created, generating like content as you keep scrolling.
2. Chuck Gose does not work for LinkedIn, but presented on how he uses the network. I’ve never been much for LinkedIn, but Gose’s insights (and what Dignan said earlier about networks) got me thinking I need to pay more attention to this social network. 1) LinkedIn is about data, not numbers. Once you have 500 connections, they don’t even show your number any more. Once you’ve had 99 people endorse you for a particular skill, they don’t show that number any more. The reason being by that point, you’re proven to be connected, with skills. 2) Gose recommends accepting LinkedIn connections from anyone where there could be value and not just limiting it to those you know or have met in person. He says the point is to have a network of connections, and you want to be connecting up and out. 3) What is your digital curb appeal? What do you see when you Google yourself? LinkedIn will help you build and maintain that, because the content there is trusted.

Day 2
First keynote: Bill McDermott
1. Bill McDermott is CEO of SAP.
2. The focus of his presentation was the power of storytelling and the importance of reading a room.

Breakouts: Shane McLaughlin, Shel Holtz, Chuck Gose, and Dr. Laoise Murchu
1. Shane McLaughlin of Walmart talked about WalmartOne, Walmart’s extranet for employees. It’s both on desktop and an app, and it’s password-protected, but outside the firewall, meant to be accessed off-the-clock. Some of the content is duplicated on the intranet, which is accessed during work. WalmartOne has employee’s paycheck information, benefits, vacation days, all of that. But it’s also meant to help build Walmart’s culture.
2. During the panel with Shane McLaughlin, Shel Holtz and Chuck Gose, we learned about technology’s part in today’s workforce. 1) WhatsApp can be used to reach remote employees to send information and photos to those who don’t sit at a desk. 2) Internal vs. external communications no longer exists thanks to the digital world. 3) Employees will go around the IT department to find the solutions they know are out there. Bring your own device (BYOD) is more popular than ever.
3. Dr. Laoise Murchu talked about helping employees in times of change. People seek out connections in times of change. She brought up the CAFÉ process, in which leaders focus on positive: what are we good at and how can we do that better? Consistent communication between managers and employees increases productivity. As part of an example, the Irish rugby team spends 30 percent of their time working on being a team.

Day 3
First session: Gamification
1. You can use gamification to engage and motivate employees.
2. Gamification is part of most of our daily lives now: Fitbits, fantasy football, frequent flier miles, etc. (lots of Fs…) Something to chew on.

Second session: Rapido
1. Rapido is a line-up of presenters, each presenting for less than four minutes, on a common topic. Any IABC member can apply to be part of Rapido.

In the middle of Rapido, I had to leave to get on my plane.

I did follow the tweets of the last two sessions of the day: a panel on the Boston Marathon bombing and a session on social media with Guy Kawasaki. The Kawasaki tweets were so influential I changed my profile pics on every one of my social media applications.

Live reporting from Communicate Stronger 2015

Communicate Stronger 2015

Jan Nelson, BNC National Bank, chats with Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic and Communicate Stronger 2015 keynote speaker.

Communicate Stronger 2015 was a full day of learning and networking. Our hashtag #CommStrong15 holds a pretty good rundown of what really stuck out to attendees. Here is a roundup of what you were saying on Twitter.