Better communication

Making standards and standardization work more accessible to potential customers

By Zoë Smart

The third joint ISO IEC Marketing and Communication Forum took place in Geneva on the 22-23 February 2012, bringing together more than 150 marketing and communications specialists from 56 national standardization bodies. The theme of the forum was ‘What can we do for our future?’ and participants were invited to reflect on a variety of issues ranging from social media best practice to making standards more accessible through mobile apps and a range of new products and ways for effectively communicating to stakeholders. Break-out sessions followed by group presentations allowed for the consolidation of the ideas discussed and a social media ‘clinic’ was in place for those participants wishing to receive guidance from a social media specialist. Four external speakers also gave participants food for thought with presentations on issues as diverse as information overload and what the future could hold for financial services.

The third joint ISO IEC Marketing and Communication Forum took place on 22-23 February 2012 The third joint ISO IEC Marketing and Communication Forum took place on 22-23 February 2012

Social media – helping the standardization community connect

The first panel discussion of the forum was moderated by Sylwia Presley, social media specialist at Voice who is helping the IEC with social media outreach and activities. Members of a number of international and national standards bodies discussed the different social media channels and extent to which they are used in their organizations. There was consensus in the need for standards organisations to actively make use of social media platforms so as to further engage with customers as well as professionals, although the point was made that social media was used as a complement to, rather than a replacement of, traditional marketing strategies.

Social media it was agreed also help organisations to be seen as transparent, while allowing to monitor both positive and negative comments and react accordingly. A big advantage mentioned by everyone was an increase in traffic to the respective websites which ultimately results in more sales.

Making standards more accessible through mobile apps

David Roessli, whose company Cybermedia Concepts builds web platforms that are able to satisfy traditional needs as well as those of the increasing number of mobile devices, opened the afternoon session on mobile applications with a presentation on best practice for web design. He made the point that with mobile browsing soon expected to overtake desktop-based access to the internet, flexible designs that adapt to different devices are key, allowing access to larger audiences. Responsive web design, he said, should take mobile devices as their starting point which, because of the limited screen space, help focus on key tasks and messages to engage audiences. And his final word of advice: “design from the content out rather than from the canvass in”.

During the second panel discussion of the day panelists shared their experience and expertise in regards to new formats for presenting information, including mobile and web applications. In this context, the IEC presented the Electropedia app which will allow professionals to translate electrical and electronic terms on the go into a multitude of languages. 

Following the breakout session, participants explored the financial aspect of developing applications. There was general agreement on the need for market research in order to define potential customers.

Products to better navigate standards

For the first session of the second day, representatives of IEC, ISOABNT (Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas) and BEC (Belgian Electrotechnical Committee) presented the latest products developed by their respective organisations to help users navigate through the often complex world of standards. Everyone felt there was a need to provide frameworks that would allow users to more easily search for, find and aggregate information on standards.

With an increasing amount of standards and standards-related information available on the web though, an issue faced by all standards bodies is copyright infringement. The session focused on how to identify websites selling standards illegally and ways of tackling piracy, including sharing information between organizations and, if needed, taking coordinated legal action.

Tailoring messages to different audiences

The final panel discussion of the forum focused on ways of communicating to stakeholders and presenting the benefits of standardization to audiences who are not necessarily familiar with standards and how they work. Panelists presented campaigns their organisations had rolled out which aim to emotionally connect with audiences and make standards more relevant to their everyday lives.

On the other side of the coin, and just as important, is fostering awareness of standardization among industry leaders and approaches encompassed campaigns specifically targeting executive leaders. Participants agreed that stakeholders are often unaware or confused about what standards really are and what they can offer their businesses and the word ‘standards’ often only heightens their misunderstanding. It was pointed out that it is important to “tailor messages to different audiences” and talk to people in their own language, helping them to understand how standards can benefit their particular business.

Insights into the past and future

The ISO IEC Marketing and Communication Forum took place in parallel with the Lift12 conference and three of the speakers were generous enough with their time to accept an invitation to talk at the Forum.

Anaïs Saint-Jude, Director of the BiblioTech Program at Stanford University gave a speech on ‘information overload’. Often considered a very modern condition and linked to the rise of the internet, Saint-Jude showed how, starting in ancient times and throughout the ages humans have felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available, each time considering it a ‘new’ phenomenon, despite it being pretty constant in every era. She argued, however, that far from being a cause for concern, information overload has been and continues to be a force for innovation.

In a similar vein, J.P. Rangaswami, Chief Scientist at talked about how new technologies have helped to speed up evolution. While social media for example often get bad press in regards to invasiveness or privacy issues, Rangaswami pointed out that new technologies evolve in order to fill a gap or need and that sharing information can, and in many cases has, been used for good causes. His message: “we spend too much time questioning new technologies rather than focusing on how value can be generated from them”.

On the second day David Birch, Director at Consult Hyperion gave participants an insight into what financial services, and in particular money, might look like in 2050. His belief that in the not-too-distant future national borders will become meaningless in economic terms as “power shifts away from nations and the ‘west’ towards cities” and different communities begin issuing their own currencies captivated everyone’s attention and sparked many questions from attendees.

The third joint ISO IEC Marketing and Communication Forum took place on 22-23 February 2012 The third joint ISO IEC Marketing and Communication Forum took place on 22-23 February 2012
A wealth of information was conveyed through panel discussions and presentations A wealth of information was conveyed through panel discussions and presentations
The Forum provided participants with an opportunity to network and exchange ideas The Forum provided participants with an opportunity to network and exchange ideas