'Alive, exciting, wonderful and energetic' are ICE communications director, Alan Smith's buzz words for the new direction he is taking member services.
Smith joined the Institution in midNovember 1999. Since starting in his new role he has already begun a campaign to promote the profession and the ICE.
Smith says: 'The new focus is to get the tools and the mechanisms in place to facilitate the members (through their local association, regional liaison officers or individually) to do their own public relations - not just to promote civil engineering as a profession but to promote the membership qualifications of the Institution.'
Smith comes from a PR background with UK contractor Edmund Nuttall. 'I worked for 10 years as head of public relations, evolving and reinforcing the image of the company. It was already a very professional company, very focused on civil engineering but it was a question of packaging that image.
'The most important element was involving every employee to be a public relations ambassador for the company. This is one of the fundamental things that I hope to bring to the Institution. Every member of the Institution has a role in PR. We can't do it from Great George Street by ourselves but we can facilitate it.'
As Smith comes from a civil engineering contractor background he has knowledge of how the industry thinks.
Smith says 'There is a perception among civil engineers that they are not valued in society. I personally believe that there is a better perception than they think there is. Having said that they want the Institution to be able to boost up that image.
'We need to increase our coverage in the national newspapers, television, radio etc. We will be redoubling our efforts to advertise ourselves in the national media. But more importantly we need to give members the tools to go out and talk openly.'
Smith intends to provide members with materials such as a pack of presentation material on CD-Rom which can be edited to fit the audience. They will then be able to promote the profession themselves to anyone from local schoolchildren to people in their local pubs. He has other plans such as providing all members with a three page leaflet the size of a business card explaining exactly what civil engineering is, to flash to friends and business acquaintances.
'This is one of the strongest things the institution can give its members - the wherewithall to show off their profession, ' Smith believes. 'Civil engineers want to have more self-respect and I think we can facilitate that.'
Smith also wants to convince clients and employers of civil engineers of the value of their employees being qualified and chartered civil engineers.
'Employers need to be encouraged to have the ICE routes to qualification as an integral part of their training scheme.'
Membership growth will also be targeted in the long term. 'There are several quick fix solutions but I think the long-term growth of membership is inevitable. I would expect some quantifiable growth from the new initiatives such as the new routes to membership.'
Smith is keen to receive ideas on how to improve member services from the members themselves. 'My door is always open. I sincerely want that to apply to all members. It is only by telling us what they want that we find out!'
Email Alan Smith at email@example.com