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CONCLUSIONS AND 4 RECOMMENDATIONS The purpose of this project was to look beyond the engineering com- munity and to change the longstanding pattern of self-initiated, ad hoc communications. To make this goal, the committee needed both an independent analysis of the situation and the advice of experienced, creative market-research professionals. One unanticipated benefit of engaging outside professionals was that committee members were encouraged, indeed obliged, to become educated about the processes, benefits, and limitations of message development and testing. Another was that our many interactions with Bemporad Baranowski Marketing Group/Global Strategy Group led to a relationship of trust and mutual respect that facilitated our dialog about complex, sometimes difficult, issues. Market research is as much an art as a science. Although it is desir- able, and often feasible, to gather data via focus groups and surveys, gathering the right data, and doing it effectively, requires a professional approach based on judgment, experience, and common sense. Market research provided direction and a rationale for helping us allocate time, money, and human resources in developing our positioning statement and messages. 97
98 CHANGING THE CONVERSATION Happily, our research revealed that the public does not have a negative image of engineers. In fact, the public has a much more posi- tive view of engineers than engineers seem to have of themselves. Most adults and teens in our samples respect engineers and believe that their work is both rewarding and important, although they also have a poor idea about what engineers do on a day-to-day basis. They also have a strong sense that engineering is not âfor everyone,â especially not for girls. The public understanding of engineering is strongly linked to just one aspect of the disciplineâthe need for mathematics and science skills. Other vital aspects of engineering, such as creativity, teamwork, and communication, are largely unknown. Based on the results of our research, we can make a strong case that effective messaging will require different messages for different target audiences (see Table 3-10). For example, when branding engineers or marketing engineering to teens, we must take into account how their ideas of engineering and their interests differ from those of adults. In addition, messages for teens will have to be adapted to take into account gender, because girls and boys have different perspectives on engineer- ing and different connections to it. In the sections that follow, the committee presents conclusions and recommendations that will lead to strategic as well as tactical changes in the way the engineering community communicates with the Âpublic. In the first section, the committee addresses how the positioning statement, messages, and taglines should be used. The second section includes an argument for a centralized public relations âtool kitâ for the engineering community. In the third section, the committee proposes an ambitious, long-term initiativeâthe development and implementa- tion of a large-scale communications âcampaign.â Using the Positioning Statement, Messages, and Taglines We live in a society inundated with information and messages. More than 25 years ago, advertising experts Al Ries and Jack Trout lamented, âThereâs a traffic jam on the turnpikes of the mindâ (Ries and Trout, 1981). Since then, the situation has gotten even worse. Publishers
Conclusions and Recommendations 99 in the United States put out hundreds of thousands of books every year, viewers can choose from hundreds of television channels, and Internet users can instantaneously search billions of web pages via a variety of search engines. To help break through the communications clutter, the committee recognized that it would be necessary to use modern mass-marketing techniques, which are commonly used in the commercial and Âpolitical sectors but rarely used by the engineering community for public out- reach. Up to now, efforts to promote a positive image of engineering have largely been based on opinions and educated guesses about the kinds of messages that will work. Decisions have been made by leader- ship and staff of engineering organizations that rarely reflect the make- up of the target populations of these messages (i.e., young people, girls, and underrepresented minorities). Although some individuals may have training in public relations or marketing, as far as the committee could tell, few engineering organizations have relied on the services of professional creative or market-research firms. One of the most important findings of this study is the strong asso- ciation in the minds of the public between engineering and competency in mathematics and science. âMust be good at math and scienceâ was by far the most frequently selected attribute of engineers in our online surveys, indicating that messages emphasizing ability in mathematics and science as a prerequisite to the study of engineering have been absorbed by both adults and teenagers. Our testing also showed that the least appealing of five tested messages was the one that portrayed engineers as âconnecting science to the real world.â From this, we concluded that, if we continue to overly emphasize math and science in marketing or rebranding engineering, we are likely to alienate or scare off youngsters, rather than attract them to engineer- ing. We believe the same can be said about messages that focus on the practical benefits of being an engineer rather than the inspirational, optimistic aspects of engineering. Recommendation 1. To present an effective case for the importance of engineering and the value of an engineering education, the engineering community should engage in coordinated, consistent, effective com-
100 CHANGING THE CONVERSATION munication to ârepositionâ engineering.Â Specifically, the engineering community should adopt and actively promote the positioning state- ment (Box 4-1) in this report, which emphasizes that engineering and engineers can make a difference in the world, rather than describing engineering in terms of required skills and personal benefits.Â The statement should not appear verbatim in external communications but should be used as a point of reference, or anchor, for all public outreach. Of course, mathematics and science will continue to be necessary skills for engineers. Math and science skills can last a lifetime and can also provide a springboard for careers in many fields. At this point, an analogy with the medical profession might be instructive for show- ing how a change in messaging might work. The medical profession, which depends heavily on science skills, does not market itself to young people by emphasizing that they will have to learn organic chemistry. Physicians are promoted as people who cure disease and relieve human suffering. In marketing engineering, we too ought to appeal to the hopes and dreams of prospective students and the public. This approach will not only appeal to the higher aspirations of young people, but will also place math and science skills, correctly, as one of a variety of skills and BOX 4-1 A Positioning Statement for Engineering No profession unleashes the spirit of innovation like engineering. From research to real-world applications, engineers constantly dis- cover how to improve our lives by creating bold new solutions that connect science to life in unexpected, forward-thinking ways. Few professions turn so many ideas into so many realities. Few have such a direct and positive effect on peopleâs everyday lives. We are counting on engineers and their imaginations to help us meet the needs of the 21st century.
Conclusions and Recommendations 101 dispositions necessary for successful engineers, including collabora- tion, communication, and teamwork. In addition to developing a new, powerful positioning statement, we created and tested several messages. Our research does not, and should not, preclude others from pursuing additional message devel- opment, but the committee believes that the rigorous process we used to generate our messages justifies their widespread use. In February 2008, the National Academy of Engineering launched a new website, Engineer Your Life (www.Âengineeryourlife.org), which aims to interest academically prepared high school girls in careers in engineering. The site used our message âEngineers make a world of differenceâ on its homepage and adopted other key words vetted in our research, such as creativity and problem-solving. Recommendation 2. The four messages that tested well in this p Â rojectââEngineers make a world of difference,â âEngineers are c Â reative problem-solvers,â âEngineers help shape the future,â and âEngineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safetyââshould be adopted by the engineering community in ongoing and new public outreach initiatives. The choice of a specific message should be based on the demographics of the target audience(s) and informed by the qualitative and quantitative data collected during this project. Finally, the committee notes that, because of money and time constraints, we were not able to carry out a full creative process in the development of taglines, which would have led to many more pos- sible taglines, presentations of the taglines in context, and testing of the contextualized taglines in focus groups. Nevertheless, the positive responses via online testing to several of the taglines suggest that they may be able to be effectively used for engineering-outreach projects. The committee believes the taglines should be further tested to iden- tify and validate which ones might be appropriate for a broad-scale national campaign. Recommendation 3. More rigorous research should go forward to identify and test a small number of taglines for a nationwide engineer-
102 CHANGING THE CONVERSATION ing-awareness campaign. The taglines should be consistent with the positioning statement and messages developed through this project and should take into account differences among target populations. In the interest of encouraging coordination among outreach activi- ties, the results of this research should be made widely available to the engineering community. Creating a Shared Public-relations Resource Engineering societies, universities, technology-based firms, federal laboratories, museums, and other organizations currently spend more than $400 million annually to promote public awareness of engineering (Davis and Gibbin, 2002). These ad hoc efforts, although praiseworthy in their intentions, have not succeeded, largely because their messages are not consistent. In addition, because of the discontinuous nature of these efforts, it has been impossible to develop effective metrics to measure their effectiveness and refine the messages accordingly. The committee concludes that, in the short term, consistent messages, even by a modest number of these organizations, could be a huge step for- ward in promoting a positive, appealing image of engineering. Recommendation 4. To facilitate deployment of effective messages, an online public relations âtool kitâ should be developed for the engineer- ing community that includes information about research-based mes- sage-development initiatives and examples of how messages have and can be used effectively (e.g., in advertising, press releases, informational brochures, and materials for establishing institutional identity). The online site should also provide a forum for the sharing of information among organizations. Launching a Campaign Although making current messages more consistent is an impor- tant short-term goal, the committee concludes that a more explicit, coordinated approach is likely to yield better results in the long term. Thoughtful targeting of the messages and further refinement of the taglines for public outreach about engineering will be necessary, but
Conclusions and Recommendations 103 not sufficient. Outreach efforts must be embedded in a larger strategic frameworkâa communications campaign driven by a strong brand positioning statement and involving a variety of communication m Â ethods. A campaign must include diverse messengers and be sup- ported by dedicated resources. Finally, the campaign must include met- rics for determining the effectiveness of its components and, equally important, must be given enough time to succeed. In short, a campaign must reach multiple audiences in creative ways, using the following tools and techniques: â¢ traditional and online advertising; â¢ corporate partnerships/sponsorships; â¢ pop-culture initiatives (e.g., contests, games, books, TV s Â pecials, documentary projects); â¢ educational initiatives (e.g., curricula); â¢ outreach to young people, parents, educators, guidance coun- selors, and the media; and â¢ media training for ambassadors or spokespersons. A campaign of the size and duration that will have a measurable impact on the public understanding of engineering will require sig- nificant resources. Our consultants proposed a âconservativeâ price tag of $12 million to $25 million per year for two or three years. This may be enough to launch a campaign, but the long-term costs could easily be higher. The recent âGot Milk?â campaign targeting teenagers cost $20 million annually (Levere, 2006), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anti-obesity campaign, âVerb: Itâs What You Do,â targeting young people ages 9 to 13, had a budget of $59 million in 2005 (Beirne, 2006). Resources of this magnitude are not likely to be forthcoming from government or foundations. Thus the question arises as to whether the engineering community, particularly large and influential technology- focused corporations, will be willing to support such an initiative. A second concern is how the campaign would be organized and carried out. Some degree of centralized planning will be necessary to ensure coordination and communication, which will require agree-
104 CHANGING THE CONVERSATION ment by the major participants. There is already one cooperative out- reach venture in engineering, National Engineers Week, which might be leveraged for this purpose. We might, however, need a new structure to coordinate a campaign. A final concern relates to the need for metrics to determine the effectiveness of messages and projects. Although measuring the out- comes of public outreach efforts is notoriously difficult, a campaign of this scope must include a substantial evaluation component to ensure that we can determine what works and improve upon elements that are not as effective as anticipated. Recommendation 5. A representative cross section of the engineering community should convene to consider funding, logistics, and other aspects of a coordinated, multiyear communications campaign to improve the public understanding of engineering. A Final Word The project described in this report was conducted according to a carefully designed process for developing messages to improve the pub- lic understanding of engineering. The approach included the services of professionals in the fields of communications and market research and required both quantitative and qualitative research methods. To ensure balance and accuracy, the report and the findings and recom- mendations were carefully vetted by outside experts, whose comments and suggestions led to improvements in the final document. The rigor of the study process should reassure the engineering communityâand others interested in this important topicâthat a tested set of tools is now available to promote a more positive image of engineering and engineers. As suggested in Recommendation 4, we know that more work will be necessary to enrich, expand, and disseminate messaging resources, and, as noted in Recommendation 3, more research on taglines will be necessary. Neither of these requirements, however, should delay or discourage action by the engineering community. Even if the national campaign described in Recommendation 5 is not immediately forth-
Conclusions and Recommendations 105 coming, creative implementation of messages and taglines can have an immediate impact. Combined efforts by multiple organizations following the same âplaybookâ can create positive momentum toward increasing the appeal of engineering to students, educators, parents, policy makers, and society at large. The most significant outcome of this project is the recasting of engineering as articulated in the positioning statement. If this state- ment were adopted by the engineering community, as urged in Recom- mendation 1, we can not only reshape the self-images of engineers, but also empower engineers to communicate more confidently with the public. In this way, we may truly change the conversation. REFERENCES Beirne, M. 2005. CDC tries to take a bite out of childhood obesity. Ad Week. October 24, 2005. Davis, L., and R. Gibbin. 2002. Raising Public Awareness of Engineering. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Levere, J.L. 2006. Body by milk: More than just a white mustache. New York Times, Section C, p. 3, August 30, 2006. Ries, A., and J. Trout. 1981. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. New York: Warner Books.