ComSoc Marketing Programs and Information Technology
ComSoc’s Marketing Standing Committee oversees the marketing programs and works in collaboration with the Marketing staff for strategizing, planning, and implementing the BoG-approved marketing plan. ComSoc’s Information Technology Standing Committee is to steer, plan, and oversee ComSoc’s IT initiatives and projects to ensure that any current and future IT activities are well planned and are consistent with ComSoc’s membership and financial interests. In this issue of the President’s Page, I am pleased to introduce Fambirai Takawira, the ComSoc Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), and Rose Qingyang Hu, ComSoc Chief Information Officer (CIO), to share with you ComSoc ongoing activities and plans on IT and marketing.
Fambirai Takawira is a professor in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from Cambridge University in England. He has been an active volunteer in IEEE and ComSoc, as an Editor of IEEE Transaction on Wireless Communications (2008–2010), Director of Europe, Middle-East, and Africa Region (2012–2013), member of the ComSoc Nominations and Elections committee (2012–2017), member of ComSoc GLOBECOM/ICC Management & Strategy (GIMS) Committee (2013–2017), and ComSoc Treasurer (2019–2021). He has also served as General Co-Chair of IEEE-AFRICON 2015, Executive Co-Chair of IEEE ICC 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa, and a member of Technical Committees of several other conferences.
The ComSoc Marketing Standing Committee is chaired by the CMO and is charged to guide the direction and oversee the operations of ComSoc’s Marketing Department. The committee works in collaboration with the Marketing Director and other ComSoc staff to strategize, plan, and implement ComSoc marketing activities. In the next two years the goals of the Marketing Committee and that of ComSoc’s Marketing Department are to:
- Develop a strategic roadmap for innovative marketing.
- Drive the society toward data-driven marketing.
- Focus on marketing that improves user experience.
With respect to the strategic roadmap, a comprehensive marketing plan is under development. Ultimately, the goal is to transform the ComSoc brand tone from transactional to relational in nature and improve the user experience by questioning how our interactions serve the member and non-member alike. The success of this plan relies heavily on using data to inform decision making about marketing strategies and tactics, while also educating our business units on what marketing-related data is available to direct future decision making. The plan first defines the ComSoc customers and products and then the promotional strategy that will be employed going forward. This is followed by a series of marketing activities. For each activity, the goal, key actions, success criteria, timeline, and team are detailed.
The second goal of data-driven marketing is to facilitate ComSoc to focus its resources in both manpower and finance on marketing channels that drive results. In the last two and a half years, ComSoc has diversified its marketing outreach beyond email marketing to include organic and paid social media, display and retarget paid advertising, volunteer outreach campaigns via “invitation tools,” and more. Jointly, the marketing team, the ICT team, and the IEEE enterprise have put in place tracking mechanisms to help determine what channels are effective in driving paper submissions vs. registrations vs. memberships. Using these tracking tools on our websites, in emails, in social media, and across the various shopping carts, we collect data about our members and potential customer “purchasing” or “conversion” behaviors in aggregate. Each month, we review the data to determine successful channels, make adjustments in our marketing to experiment with new ideas or segments, while identifying new opportunities for targeted marketing. The data ultimately indicates where we should spend our time and money in our marketing efforts.
ComSoc members and non-members who access our products expect a seamless user experience that surprises and delights, while instantaneously explaining why one’s time or money is worth spending with an organization, service, or product. This is particularly important in societies when there is competition from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations for one’s time, attention, and budget. Our goal next year is to spend more time creating a better user experience on our website, simplifying the navigation, and getting people to what they are looking for quickly. In doing so, we hope to use the time we have with them personalizing via key messages. Key messages are a library of talking and writing points to be used in communicating with target audiences. Consistent and repetitive use of key messages contributes greatly for staff, volunteers, and other supporters to be effective communicators on behalf of ComSoc. More importantly, the key messages remind target audiences of the exceptional opportunities they have to be part of creating tomorrow’s improved capabilities in our ComSoc community.
The main immediate activity for the marketing committee is an upgrade of the Comsoc.org website. The goal is to refresh the Comsoc.org site for better user engagement, creating a welcoming environment for those not familiar with ComSoc and an infrastructure to capture more user data for personalization while upgrading the back end of the site to Drupal 9, our website’s backend system. A user experience project completed in 2021 revealed that users find the current website to be dated, hard to use on mobile devices, and difficult to navigate and search for content. The upgrade project will commence by the end of 2022 and be completed before the end of 2023.
Rose Qingyang Hu [F’20] is a professor with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Associate Dean for research in the College of Engineering at Utah State University. She has been a member and active volunteer of IEEE and ComSoc for many years. She is currently serving on the IEEE ComSoc GIMS Committee, Conference Council, and IEEE VTS Fellow Evaluation Committee. She is also serving as the Associate Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Communications Magazine, an Editor of IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology, and IEEE Wireless Communications, as well as TPC Co-Chair for IEEE GLOBECOM 2023 and IEEE ICC 2018. She received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Kansas.
The CIO chairs the ComSoc Information Technology (IT) Standing Committee. The committee’s mission is to steer, plan, and oversee ComSoc’s IT initiatives and projects to ensure that any current and future IT activities are well planned and are consistent with ComSoc’s membership and financial interests. The committee shall develop and maintain an up-to-date BoG-approved IT strategic plan. The committee shall prioritize and oversee the implementation of ComSoc’s IT initiatives and special projects in ways that are timely, cost effective, efficient, and compatible with the interest and evolution of ComSoc and IEEE.
The plan and goals of the IT committee are to:
- Launch and complete the Constituent Relationship Management System (CRM) Phase 2 project.
- Improve the ComSoc media center content and design.
- Redesign IEEE ComSoc conference websites.
ComSoc’s constituents include members, prospective members, volunteers, subscribers, students, lecturers, authors, sponsors/boards/councils/committees, and IEEE Chapters. The CRM can help with informed strategic and operational decisions related to marketing engagement, membership, and product sales opportunities. At present, gathering basic information about these constituents, such as which events a member has attended or what committees a volunteer has served on, is an arduous task, with three key challenges:
- Identifying where key data is stored across a highly fragmented and siloed data ecosystem
- Analyzing and storing the data lacks appropriate database and business intelligence tools. The challenges in accessing, compiling, and reporting on data have resulted in serious productivity roadblocks for ComSoc staff and volunteers.
The CRM Phase 1 project has been completed. It has provided education training to ComSoc leadership team and volunteers, helped the review of IEEE data landscape, and facilitated the recommendation of possible CRM platforms. The Phase 2 project is anticipated to start in the second half of 2022 by first selecting the CRM vendor and the implementation partner. Via the project, we plan to explore partnership with big IEEE data projects to share on reliable data sources as well as build consensus on the governance rules and structure. The ComSoc IT team will also work with the CRM consultant Sage 70, who will help with business analysis, specification of features and requirements, technical liaison to the implementation partner, and ongoing guidance in CRM change management.
Another important IT goal in the next two years is to improve the Media Center contents and design. The Media Center is a new website at www.comsoc.org with the latest video contents from different ComSoc events including keynotes, forums, workshops, and panel sessions. The site is searchable by keywords, type of video, and speaker name, and is easy to navigate. The Media Center offers ComSoc members an added membership value with free access to the video content. We will expand the content in the Media Center to include distinguished lectures, ComSoc Summer School recordings, and training. The Media Center will potentially serve as a source of revenue generation for ComSoc by charging non-members for content. The IT committee is working with the ComSoc Online Content Board (OCB) to expand the content and add a shopping cart for the next phase of the Media Center.
The ComSoc conference websites are the gateway to get more information about a specific conference, whether it is a flagship event, such as GlobeCom, or a regional conference, such as LatinCom. An opportunity to refresh the website look and feel arose when a technical upgrade in Drupal was required. The new website will take advantage of the entire valuable real estate of the screen by using its full width, and bring clarity to call-to-action buttons, such as “Submit a Paper” or “Register Today.” The refreshed designs are also expected to greatly improve the experience for end users.
We can accomplish these goals by communication, transparency, and openness in collaboration with ComSoc members, volunteers, and staff. Together, we will keep IEEE ComSoc growing with technical excellence and prestige. Thank you.