When I accepted my Fellowship from IABC in New Orleans last year, I told a story of my first IABC conference in New Orleans in 1998. I was a young 30 year old, just starting my career in Communication.
Introduced at the conference was Brenda Siler, the new Chair of IABC. As a woman and a minority, seeing a black woman step up to lead my international association was life-changing. In a world where all the leaders I worked with were Caucasian men, it was inspiring to see IABC embrace diversity.
I didn’t know at the time that she was stepping into a role never before given to any person of colour. I didn’t know that she played an integral role in helping IABC define what it meant to be multicultural and diverse. I didn’t know that the work that she did in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1980’s as the IABC representative on an Inter-association council led to a challenge for communication associations to be more diverse.
For me, I simply saw a strong, powerful, outspoken, kind, passionate woman who loved the profession and our association. She was respected and admired by everyone who had an opportunity to work with her. She wasn’t afraid to have the tough conversations and ask the right questions. She wasn’t afraid to stand up and speak out on behalf of everyone who came after her.
Because of Brenda, I believed leadership was possible in my work life and in my volunteer life. I quickly moved up the IABC ranks as IABC/Toronto president, Chair of IABC Canada District Two and member of the IEB. It’s because of Brenda that I was eventually recognized as an IABC Fellow. In fact, I mistakenly believed she had already been recognized as a Fellow when I made my way to New Orleans in 2016, and was surprised that this was not the case.
As I’ve gotten to know Brenda through this nomination process, I have been even more impressed. Brenda is the embodiment of the IABC Values that I had the pleasure to create when I led the IABC Brand Taskforce.
Brenda believes in the Global Profession. She felt that IABC was uniquely positioned to lead the way for communication professionals and had an opportunity to speak to the International Executive Board recommending ratification of the IABC/South Africa Chapter before the end of apartheid. She was also instrumental in paving the way for global growth.
Brenda Creates Connection. Everywhere she goes, she connects with people in a special way. Whether it’s mentoring students at Howard University; connecting celebrity stories with the non-profit causes she worked for; or connecting communication strategy to measurable goals; Brenda creates meaningful connection.
Brenda believes in the power of our Diverse Community. As the first person of colour to lead our professional association, she paved the way for others to follow. As the Chair of the IABC Multicultural Committee, she helped the association define what it meant to be multicultural and diverse. As a communication generalist, she became skilled in internal communication, public relations and digital communication and was never afraid to learn new skills and embrace new technologies as the profession evolved.
Brenda is always Focused on Insights and Results. Throughout her career, and with many organizations, Brenda took time to plan communication strategically and always measure results. Her focus led to bottom-line impact for organizations in the non-profit sector. Her ability to influence change through polite challenges earned her the respect of not only IABC but organizations like PRNews and PRWeek. Her insights earned her an invitation to evaluate awards programs and sit on the advisory boards of these organization for many years.
Throughout her career, Brenda has challenged organizations, including IABC, to embrace diversity. She wants to ensure that non-profits, women and minorities received their fair share of recognition and opportunity. She is an outspoken, hard-working advocate for the under-dog and causes for which she is passionate.
What amazed me personally was that I never got the sense that Brenda sought out the spotlight for personal gain. She did it to contribute, pave the way, and make a difference for those organizations and groups she fought for every day.
I believe Brenda Siler is an inspiration. She’s an expert in her field and passionate for her causes. She is a leader, mentor, and advocate, who is never afraid to set the example for others.