A Year of Progress

New public visibility initiative marks many successes

7 December 2009


IEEE Spectrum editor in chief Susan Hassler with inventor Ray Kurzweil at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech [top]. Three publications in which IEEE was featured [bottom].

Building awareness and positioning IEEE as a thought leader on important technological and engineering issues around the globe were key achievements of IEEE’s Public Visibility Initiative in 2009. The initiative is a multiyear communications program that seeks to raise IEEE’s global visibility and increase public understanding of how engineering, computing, and technology benefit humanity. This year’s efforts were centered on launching and implementing three programs:

  • A communications program consisting of key messages about the organization.
  • A public relations campaign that targets all IEEE regions.
  • Innovation roundtables and forums featuring thought leaders who are IEEE members.

“Our focus is to position IEEE as the world’s trusted source and forum—the voice of the profession,” says Howard E. Michel, 2009 chair of the Public Visibility Ad Hoc Committee, which is charged with overseeing the initiative. “This goes hand in hand with one of the major goals of IEEE’s Envisioned Future: to get the public to increasingly value the role of IEEE and technical professionals in enhancing the quality of life and the environment.”

The Public Visibility team worked on developing three components of IEEE’s communications program: a positioning statement (a short description of what the organization does and what makes it different [see sidebar]), an elevator pitch (a message about IEEE that can be delivered in a matter of seconds, or as long as it takes to ride with someone in an elevator), and a tagline (a memorable phrase that summarizes IEEE’s essence and reinforces the audience’s identity with the brand). “Advancing Technology for Humanity” was the tagline approved by the IEEE Board of Directors in September.

Central to the initiative is a far-reaching global public relations effort aimed at IEEE’s four target audiences (individuals at the preuniversity and university levels, IEEE members, and professionals) across the Global-10 countries: Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. To date there have been more than 975 media placements, which is estimated to be the equivalent of about US $44 million worth of free advertising, based on circulation and TV audience. News outlets in which IEEE technical experts were quoted include BBC TV (UK), CTO (China), EE Times (India), and The Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily (United States).

IEEE members recognized as thought leaders in their fields discussed pressing technical issues at a series of forums and roundtables with members of the media. Such events serve as showcases for IEEE experts to discuss, for example, innovations that could lead to new industries, technological advances to meet the world’s challenges, and, ultimately, new jobs for engineers.

One such event, Fortune magazine’s annual Brainstorm Tech held in July, brought together leading icons of the digital world to consider the future of business and technological innovation. As Fortune’s program partner, IEEE helped develop the meeting’s content. In addition, several IEEE members had prominent roles, including 2007 IEEE President Leah Jamieson, Fellow John McDonald, and Fellow Saifur Rahman, who served on the “Smart Grid: Making It a Reality” panel. Susan Hassler, editor in chief of IEEE Spectrum, moderated a session with futurist, author, and inventor Ray Kurzweil on “Technology’s Accelerating Power” [see photo].

Other venues pursued by IEEE included innovation roundtables, which explore hot topics such as biomedical engineering, sustainable energy, and security issues. These meetings with media groups around the world are aimed at positioning IEEE as a trusted “voice” for engineering, computing, and technology information, Michel notes.

Two roundtables took place in September at the annual conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) in Minneapolis. At one round table, six IEEE technical experts in neuro engineering, including IEEE Member Andrew Schwartz, professor of neuro biology at the University of Pittsburgh, discussed ways to identify key locations in the brain where electrodes can be placed to control external devices such as robotic arms and prosthetic devices.

Senior Member Paolo Bonato, director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in Boston, talked about combining wearable sensors and Web-based applications to monitor patients with Parkinson’s disease. Fellow Bin He, 2009 president of IEEE EMBS and professor and director of the Center for Neuroengineering at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, covered noninvasive brain-computer interfaces for thought-driven devices aimed at restoring motor functions in disabled patients.

The second media roundtable featured four technical experts discussing the latest advances in rehabilitating patients who have nervous system injuries. You can watch both sessions on IEEE.tv.

A number of IEEE societies worked with the Public Visibility team to give their technical experts greater exposure. So far, more than 60 have been interviewed, quoted, or profiled in the media.

Check IEEE’s online newsroom to see examples of media coverage and read feature stories.

IEEE Positioning Statement

IEEE is the world’s largest professional association advancing innovation and technological excellence for the benefit of humanity. IEEE and its members inspire a global community to innovate for a better tomorrow through its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities. IEEE is the trusted “voice” for engineering, computing, and technology information around the globe.


IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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