November 19, 2019 / Larry Sloan

“What Do You Do, Again?”

AIHA members are a diverse group, with a variety of opinions and priorities. But one thing every member I know agrees with is the need for AIHA to build awareness—not only awareness of the association, but of the industrial hygiene profession. Most members have a story about the difficulty of explaining industrial hygiene to their friends, acquaintances, and even their own children, partners, and parents. And who among you hasn’t been mistaken for a dental hygienist?

The issue of awareness is key to everything else we want to accomplish, so we’ve incorporated it into AIHA’s strategic plan for 2019–21. Awareness is one of the plan’s five “domains,” along with community (which I discussed last month), advancement and dissemination of knowledge, integrity of IH practice, and advocacy. Today, I’ll dig into the awareness domain to shed some light on what AIHA is doing in this area.

First Impressions Matter

When laypeople want to know more about industrial hygiene, the first thing they’ll do is Google the term, and one of the first results they’ll find is AIHA.org. For a large portion of the public, then, our website is the face of industrial hygiene. It’s therefore vital that the website makes a good impression.

And making a good impression was one of several reasons why, last month, AIHA launched a reorganized, reimagined, and redesigned AIHA.org. AIHA’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Sue Marchese, previously explained some of the benefits of the new website, including its superior performance on mobile devices—an important concern given that phones account for a large share of all web traffic. For the layperson coming to AIHA.org for the first time, the site’s bold graphics, spare but purposeful use of text, and intuitive navigation convey a clear idea of who industrial hygienists are and why their work is important.

The website redesign was the first step in AIHA’s Brand Refresh Initiative. While it’s a little early yet to go into detail about next steps, I can say that we’ve been taking stock of public perceptions of AIHA and have a plan to reimagine the way we present our association to the world. More information will be forthcoming over the next several months.

Reaching Communities Affected by Disasters

One often-overlooked aspect of industrial hygiene is its role in protecting first responders and communities during and after disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. The website redesign has made it easier for visitors to find our Disaster Response Resource Center, a hub for publicly available resources related to preparedness and response. The Disaster Response Resource Center points to authoritative information from OSHA and other reputable sources about keeping workers safe during hurricane cleanup and recovery efforts, protecting workers from heat stress, dealing with natural disasters, and other similar guidance.

Recently, we launched our “Think and Act Fire Smart” campaign to inform the public about the hazards that linger long after a wildfire is extinguished. As part of this campaign, we’ve released a series of videos featuring industrial hygienists talking about steps the public can take to protect their health in a fire’s aftermath, such as having their property tested by a certified professional. The videos and accompanying information on our website emphasize that hazards from wildfires can extend hundreds of miles from the burn zone. Related efforts from our Government Relations department are helping organize our members to influence state governments to launch or strengthen public awareness campaigns on urban wildfire cleanup hazards.

Informing the public about wildfire hazards is the type of effort our strategic plan calls for to raise awareness about the profession. We are meeting an urgent need, and, in the public’s mind, identifying industrial hygienists as part of the solution to the growing threat of wildfires.

Working Together

Throughout AIHA’s history, we’ve often partnered with like-minded associations around the world to achieve common goals. This strategy has served us well over the years, and the strategic plan calls for its continuation. As one recent example, AIHA joined five other international associations to form the Indoor Environmental Quality Global Alliance. This group will facilitate the exchange of indoor environmental knowledge and information, promoting related education and research for indoor environmental quality and health in buildings. In addition to serving AIHA’s mission, these kinds of collaborations open new markets for our books, courses, conferences, and other educational products.

Measuring Awareness

To measure our success in raising awareness, the strategic plan identifies metrics such as membership growth and retention, as well as sales and advertising revenue. But maybe the true measure of success lies elsewhere: you may find, over time, that you’re explaining what you do a little less often.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.

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