The Association of Professional Communication Consultants began in 1982 as The Association of Professional Writing Consultants (APWC). The name was changed to The Association of Professional Communication Consultants (APCC) to reflect our broader approach to consulting in 1996. The timeline below provides a brief overview of the organization’s history.
From the Beginning: A Lesson in Collaboration
Significant Milestones—The First 18 Years
|March 19, 1982||Organizing Meeting—Mrs. Candy’s Coffee Shop, Hyatt Hotel, San Francisco, CA|
|August 1982||Announcement of the Association of Professional Writing Consultants (APWC) in Business Communication Matters, newsletter of the Business Communication Committee, Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC)|
|March 17, 1983||First Annual Meeting , election of Board of Directors, and adoption of by-laws, Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI|
|Fall 1983||First newsletter, The Professional Writing Consultant, Steve Moskey, Editor|
|February 1984||Incorporation of APWC by the Secretary of State, State of Oklahoma|
|March 29, 1984||First major speaker: “Know Thyself and Thy Product,” Nancy Jo Kimmerle, Sr. VP and Director of Marketing Research, Geers Gross Advertising, New York City Annual Meeting|
|March 1985||Published APWC Code of Ethics|
|March 23, 1985||First Professional Development Workshop, Bob Pike, President of Professional Educational Institute, Minneapolis, MN|
|April 25, 1986||Received final approval of IRS tax-exempt status as 501 (c)(3) organization|
|July 1986||First Annual Leadership Conference, Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, Zena, OK|
|1986||First publication: Resources for Writing Consultants, Dixie Elise Hickman, Editor|
|Fall 1986||First solicitation for nominations for APWC Awards Program|
|1986||Established referral service; database developed by Barbara Shwom in 1993|
|1996||Changed name to Association of Professional Communication Consultants (APCC)|
|January 1997||New name incorporated in the State of Oklahoma|
|1997||Established Web Site, Ken Davis, Director|
|Fall 2000||APCC began sponsoring the ABC Consulting Special Interest Group|
|April 15, 2003||Launched the virtual home of APCC|
Where do you begin to tell the story of the cooperation, collaboration, and sometimes consternation of establishing and sustaining an all-volunteer professional organization? In the hotel lobby coffee shop where the idea became flesh? In the list of firsts? In the names of directors? In the high goals set and advanced by individuals who added association responsibilities to their already packed schedules of running a consulting business, delivering services and, often, teaching full loads in a university.
Early ’80s—Association of Professional Writing Consultants (AWPC) Founded
Obviously, a full rendition would be long (and probably boring). The chronology above gives some idea of the early significant milestones of the Association of Professional Writing Consultants.
So I’ll stick to some highlights: what happened, why it mattered, and how we’ve managed to build an enduring association—and become friends.
In the early ‘80s, Dan Dieterich and Hank Sparapani uncovered the mother lode of interest in writing consulting with a series of pre-convention workshops at the annual meetings of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). Squeezed in among their standing-room-only crowds in 1982, several of us began to talk about not only the booming interest but also the need for a communications network, a medium for maintaining professional support and standards in an obviously growing field.
The talk led to an informal gathering in the San Francisco Hyatt’s Mrs. Candy’s Coffee Shop and the decision to found an association of writing consultants. At the table and responsible for the initial organizational steps were Lee Clark Johns, president; Don Coslick, vice president; Dixie Elise Hickman, secretary/treasurer; Marcia Berry, Daniel Dieterich, Terrell Dixon, Marion Madison, Hank Sparapani, and Suzanne Webb. Dues would be $20; we all wrote checks.
The First Year
The first year seemed painfully slow. Dan would publish the announcement of the association in Communication Matters, the newsletter of the Business Communications Committee he chaired for CCCC, Dixie would set up membership materials (lists, letterhead, brochure, and application), and Don would create by-laws.
I would start writing. Knowing that we needed additional “name recognition,” my first task would be to recruit additional members to the self-appointed Board of Directors, members “with both firm academic credentials and successful consulting histories.” My invitation said, “Although we hope our enthusiasm is catching, this invitation requires no commitment of your time or energy. We are asking primarily that you publicly endorse the organization and its goals.”
The First Supporters
Fortunately, our choices accepted—and paid no attention to my initial (and last) promise of requiring no commitment. On the first elected board, we added (beyond the founding directors) the following outstanding consultants who caught the enthusiasm and participated actively: Linda Driskell, Maxine Hairston, J.C. Mathes, Dwight Stevenson, and Merrill Whitburn. The acceptance letter from Dwight Stevenson mirrors the responses of all:
“I am convinced that there is a need for some sort of organization to provide focus and direction for the many consultants, would-be consultants, clients, and prospective clients…. I could profit a good deal from learning about what others are doing and cxonhow they are doing it. Further, I am certain that some sort of organization can help to protect clients against what seems to me at times to be a swarm of pretty questionably qualified people. In short, I approve the idea and am happy to accept your invitation.”
The Building Years of “Serial Cooperation”
By June 1983, we had 50 paid members and $900 in the bank. As the association grew during the next few years, “serial cooperation” marked our efforts to achieve our major goals.
The First Newsletters and Code of Ethics
The newsletters—produced first by Steve Moskey, then by Suzanne Webb, and upgraded later by Susan Kleimann—began to establish the information network. Dixie Hickman started to collect materials for the first publication, Resources for Writing Consultants, a serendipitous collection of course outlines, business forms, marketing materials, or anything else that might spark ideas for other consultants.
Dan rewrote the first set of by-laws (initially approved in March 1983 “with further appropriate language editing”), developed a draft Code of Ethics, and worked hard (unsuccessfully) to find an affordable provider of liability insurance. I began a two-year process of incorporation and IRS approval of tax-exempt status: “Based on the information you submitted, we have determined that you are not a private foundation within the meaning of section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.” [Didn’t want to be, to my knowledge, but we should not tell our grantors and contributors that we were.]
The First Annual Leadership Conference—Three People
To be sure, there was some consternation: missed deadlines, just-in-time programming, rejected proposals for wildly complex CCCC workshops, and—later—Treasurer Shirley Fencl’s annual pleading for “written budgets” from directors. But the determined collaboration is best illustrated by the First Annual Leadership Conference (attended by Dieterich, Johns, and new director Marty Nord) at my family’s cottage on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, Zena, Oklahoma, June 1986. For three days, we wrote job descriptions, drafted a complete policy manual, revised and expanded the association brochure and membership form, established guidelines for the awards program, developed financial procedures, and brainstormed the new member packet and member directory. Occasionally we would stop to enjoy the lake—or eat—or philosophize. Then back to negotiating “network is NOT a verb.”
APWC to APCC (Association of Professional Communication Consultants)
Ultimately, it’s the professional collaboration—and generosity—that have built and sustained the association. From Dan Dieterich’s marathon meetings with anyone who might want to get into consulting to Dixie’s Resources, to 15 years of ever-improving newsletters and other publications, to returned phone calls and now listserv discussions on marketing, best practices, new trends—APWC (and now APCC) has been a generous association. As new member Roger Ochse wrote in a 1994 Consulting Success article:
“These sessions offered quality presentations and discussions, and they were attended by attentive and approachable colleagues.…Colleagues became friends, and the ‘network’ turned a newcomer into an APWC member. I discovered an open yet cohesive group of dedicated professionals who cared about the success of all their colleagues.”
Here’s to more of the same.
—Lee Clark Johns, May, 2000