Societies Receive Help Getting Their Message Out

New communications program to help raise profile before media and general public

6 April 2009

Members of IEEE’s societies do a lot of great work in areas such as energy efficiency and biomedical engineering, but few outside the technical community know about it. That’s why the IEEE Public Visibility Initiative, a communications program that seeks to raise IEEE’s global presence, is teaming up with a number of societies to get word of their activities out to the news media and the general public.

The IEEE Power & Energy, Engineering in Medicine and Biology, Computer, Consumer Electronics, and Intelligent Transportation Systems societies are among those that have been working through the initiative to raise their profiles.

“Given the broad energy challenges that many countries face, the Power & Energy Society, for one, needs a way to connect with the general public to come to a common understanding of how technology might solve some of the problems and the public policy ramifications,” says the society’s president, Wanda Reder. “Using the press and the public visibility effort to make that connection is a good step.”

OBJECTIVE VOICES Reder notes that when it comes to technical issues, IEEE experts have an advantage. “We are independent,” she says. “There are few groups that will provide independent, absolutely objective opinion. That plays to our strong suit. We also want to call attention to the good things we’re about, as well as possibly attract new members to IEEE.”

The society scored its first success during the 2008 PowerCon in October in New Delhi. The society, working with a team composed of IEEE Corporate Communications staff members and the Ruder Finn public relations agency, held a briefing for the media to discuss India’s need for energy efficiency, fuel diversity, and energy security. The visibility team worked on getting India’s media outlets to cover the event, while the society identified local technical experts who could speak about the country’s energy challenges. There were more than 50 media placements and additional interviews conducted with the speakers.

Although the IEEE Power & Energy Society was happy with press coverage the conference itself received, Reder says that, more importantly, media requests to discuss energy topics have picked up. To handle the uptick in inquiries, the society is identifying energy experts who can respond quickly to media requests to add to the Public Visibility Technical Experts database. Similar efforts are under way to identify experts from all IEEE societies and technical communities.

“Our outreach to the media is having a snowball effect,” Reder says. “Once you get some visibility, and people understand what you’re doing, you tend to be more appealing to the press. This shows that the message and the target audience are connecting.”

The IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society is the most recent society to get involved with the initiative. Bin He, the society’s president, was interviewed by Medical Device Technology magazine about the brain-computer interface he’s working on. The director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, He is a professor of biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and neuroscience.

He also has talked to the press about the society’s activities, such as developing interoperability among medical devices, including standards for the devices, as well as the role its members play in the health-care industry. For example, they design the circuitry for pacemakers, create the software for reading MRIs, develop interfaces that allow brains to use a muscle to communicate with a computer, and help produce wireless technologies that allow patients and doctors to communicate and diagnose illnesses over long distances. He is also working with the initiative to provide names from the society to add to the experts database.

“IEEE is a leader in the technical world, and we need to get that message across, not just by doing things but also by sharing what we do along with our recommendations and opinions,” He says. “The visibility initiative will help every society and IEEE as a whole.”

For more information about the Public Visibility Initiative, contact Gailanne Barth, director of IEEE Marketing Communications.

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