From IEEE Communications Magazine July 2017
IEEE ComSoc Marketing
In the past few years we have seen a significant decrease in ComSoc membership. As you have read in previous President’s Pages, we have developed and are in the process of implementing many ideas to reverse this trend. However, we still need the proper notifications and advertisements of our efforts to be displayed or sent to our prospective members. This is where our new marketing efforts come in. Last year we added a new Staff Director of Marketing, and this year a Volunteer Chief Marketing Officer. As you read this President’s Page by Stan Moyer and November’s by Daphne Bartlett, you will learn of our work to date to address the membership issue.
People use the word “marketing” to mean different things. To many, marketing is simply advertising. However, I believe marketing is more than that. In fact, I like the American Marketing Association’s definition:
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
The main reason I like that definition is that it contains the phrase “offerings that have value for customers.” One of the main functions of marketing is determining exactly what the customer values — what they need or want. So for the IEEE Communications Society, what does marketing mean? That is what I’d like to share in this column this month.
Before I delve into that, let me first explain who I am. My name is Stan Moyer, and I have been a volunteer member of the Communications Society (ComSoc) since 1990. I have served on the ComSoc Board of Governors in a variety of roles for the past 14 years, including chairing an ad hoc committee on marketing that was created by the ComSoc President, Harvey Freeman. Most recently I was appointed the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of ComSoc, a position that was approved by the ComSoc Board of Governors at its meeting in Paris in May 2017. The creation of this role is strong evidence of the Board’s support for marketing and the importance it has for ComSoc. Additionally, about a year ago, ComSoc hired a staff Marketing Director, Daphne Lee Bartlett, to fill a position that had been vacant for quite some time. The two of us have been collaborating this past year to assess ComSoc’s marketing needs and opportunities.
So now, let’s get back to what marketing means for ComSoc. If we want marketing to help ensure that our offerings have value for customers, then we need to understand more about ComSoc’s customers. Essentially, ComSoc’s customers are anybody that ComSoc provides with a service and/or product, so that list includes ComSoc members, publication subscribers, conference attendees, and recipients of other ComSoc services. Most current ComSoc members have advanced educations, postgraduate degrees in EE, physics, mathematics, computer sciences, business or related fields, and we can assume that ComSoc’s non-member customers have similar backgrounds.
The offerings that ComSoc provides can be grouped into several major areas: membership, publications, conferences, standards, and education and training. It should not come as a surprise that these areas align fairly well with the five ComSoc Vice Presidential (VP) areas:
- Technical and Educational Activities
- Member and Global Activities
- Industry and Standards Activities
The fact that products and services come out of all the VP areas is the major reason that the volunteer marketing position was elevated to the level of CMO, so that the CMO could report directly to the President and not favor any one of the VP areas in particular.
As ComSoc products and services relate to the five VP areas, the people doing the marketing are the volunteers and the Com- Soc staff who serve each of those VP areas. Additionally, the ComSoc marketing department, led by Daphne Bartlett, supports the VP areas by facilitating marketing activities; and the ComSoc marketing committee, chaired by the CMO, coordinates and communicates with the VP areas.
The increased emphasis on marketing in the past year has resulted in several major marketing efforts, which will be explained in more detail in the remainder of this article. These efforts encompass:
- Social media audit and consolidation
- Website redesign
- Brand identity toolkit
- Marketing collateral
- Marketing strategy
A social media audit was completed early this year which consisted of an analysis of all ComSoc social media channels and accounts. The channels included Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, and more. The different accounts included those managed by ComSoc staff, local chapters, and different conferences. The result of the audit was a recommendation for consolidation that will “clean-up” the social media channels and accounts that are outdated and/or have low activity, and a plan to improve effectiveness. For example, before the audit a large percentage of Com- Soc’s conferences had their own Twitter account, so ComSoc’s Twitter followers were “following” different Twitter accounts, which could not all be easily reached. Basically, we had too many accounts, which left our audience confused and not knowing where to go for official ComSoc information. ComSoc will consolidate all of the different social media accounts into a few ComSoc core accounts and use hashtags to promote conferences, events, and other topical areas. By implementing these recommendations, ComSoc should see a more effective and efficient use of social media, with a better return on investment for its efforts, and an ability to promote Com- Soc and its products and services to a wider audience.
The website redesign should have the largest impact on ComSoc “customers” as the website is typically the main “window” for viewing, finding, and/or utilizing ComSoc products and services. The main goal of the website redesign is to make the website user-friendly, easy to navigate, and provide a consistent voice and messaging. We want the website to be the “go-to resource” for ComSoc members, potential members, and other customers of ComSoc products and services. ComSoc has engaged with an outside web design agency to assist with the website redesign and has already completed several phases of this work, including discovery (user interviews and needs assessment), definition (content and technical audit), and delivery of a Needs Assessment document that outlines their findings from this research. Currently a brand voice and content strategy is being developed, which will lead into the site build and launch phase. The targeted launch of the redesigned site is the fall of 2017.
A brand identity toolkit will be developed to ensure a more consistent brand identity for all ComSoc events and chapters. This toolkit will explain the basic usage rules for the different corporate identity elements, such as the ComSoc name and logo, and how to best utilize them. The toolkit will include brand guidelines for the logo, typography, and imagery. In addition, the toolkit will have templates and tools such as a PowerPoint template, banner stands, posters, and flyers. The result should help foster ComSoc brand recognition and integrity across local chapters, ComSoc conferences, and other ComSoc sponsored activities.
ComSoc’s reserves of marketing collateral has been depleted, so an effort is underway to create new collateral such as brochures, flyers, and ComSoc-branded items such as pins and pens. This collateral is utilized by ComSoc staff and volunteers at various ComSoc events, and other events where ComSoc has a presence. This collateral is a good mechanism for communicating with existing and potential ComSoc customers.
Having a ComSoc marketing strategy is important, as it serves as a guide in framing marketing decisions toward a common set of goals and objectives that correspond to all products and services. The efforts described above were determined to be high priority items, but ComSoc is also developing an overall strategy, in addition to marketing plans for specific events and programs, that will allow ComSoc to be more proactive in its planning and execution of marketing programs. A better understanding of the resources required and available for implementing these programs, and anticipating potential issues, will enable ComSoc to more effectively provide offerings of value to its customers. Finding the time to do this long-range thinking and planning is often challenging in the face of near-term activities and issues, but creating this plan is one of the most important efforts the marketing committee and staff are undertaking this year.
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about ComSoc marketing. We welcome anyone who would like to become more involved and/or provide input. If you are interested in either (or both), please feel free to contact Stan Moyer, the Chief Marketing Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Daphne Bartlett, the Marketing Director, at email@example.com.