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Effective Strategies for Communicating Your Firm: Pitch Perfectly

Brien McDaniels

Brien McDaniel is the Director of Communications and Senior Associate of FXFOWLE Architects, a firm committed to innovative design inspired by urbanism, technology and sustainable strategies. He has over 20 years of communications, media relations, and special event management experience for higher education and cultural institutions, and architectural practices

by Brien McDaniel

Now that you’ve planned wisely and pinpointed your targets, you need to create a perfect pitch to engage your clients and audiences. Each new building, project win or milestone, and design award your firm receives can be a significant opportunity to increase your visibility and advance your brand – if you have the right story to tell.

Here are a few tips that can help you create a successful pitch:

Set-up the Pitch / Position the Story: Before you pick up the phone, send an email or draft a newsletter, you need ask some basic questions: “Is it newsworthy?”, “Does it have value and advance my brand?”, “What do I want to accomplish?” and “What about it will be of interest outside my firm, especially editors?” In order to create a more compelling and relevant story to pitch to the press, research your project to gather background information and material, develop a topical news angle and a few key messages, and then secure an expert spokesperson.

The Pitch: Now that you are ready to pitch, you should decide which publications and outlets to contact. Don’t forget to research what type of stories the publication publishes and the editor/reporter covers. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Create a personal account on Twitter and follow all of the publications you want to pitch, and don’t forget to follow editors and reporters. It will give you a good idea of the types of news and stories they pursue and publish. When you are ready to pitch, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Email your pitch, follow-up with a phone call or another email a few days later.
  • While on the phone with the editor or reporter, be sure to resend your pitch – don’t make him/her search for the email you previously sent.
  • Pitch the story, not the project (or your firm).
  • Keep your pitch brief and focused; pitch only one idea or news angle.
  • Once the article is published, don’t forget to say “thank you.”

Build Influence / Increase Visibility: Although the A/C/E industry is moving away from traditional press relations, there are many options for communicating your news and content across multiple platforms. From 140 characters, a 1,000-word press release, an e-newsletter, a personalized e-mail pitch, or self-publishing, you can use a variety of strategic approaches to effectively build your influence and increase your visibility across all media outlets.

Lessons Learned: Each publicist has his/her own approach, and there are no set rules or guidelines. But I keep the following in mind for each story, event, initiative and project milestone I pitch. I hope it just might help you pitch perfectly, too.

  • Think 360° – Each project has multiple angles, don’t settle on just one.
  • Do your homework – Read A/C/E publications; ask your clients what they read; follow your favorite editors and reporters on social media.
  • Do most of the work for the editor/reporter. Be organized. Be available. Be thorough.
  • Expand your communications team to include subconsultants, client PR consultants and, in some cases, the client. This will (1) strengthen your message (2) provide consistency in messages and images (3) broaden your reach (4) and add depth to your story.
  • Let go of the control (i.e. social media). Once you put it “out there,” it’s “out there.”
  • It takes a long time for things to happen quickly; opportunities don’t end when the milestone is over.

Effective Strategies for Communicating Your Firm: Successful Outreach

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This past spring, Dr. Tami Hausman participated in a panel at SMPS Northeast Regional Conference (NERC) that discussed the rapidly changing landscape for marketing in the A/E/C industry. The other panelists included this month’s featured guest bloggers, Kirsten Sibilia, Principal of Dattner Architects and Brien McDaniel, Director of Communications at FXFOWLE.

In this next post, Tami shares proven communications strategies that help firms effectively build influence in the A/E/C industry and attract new clients.

By Dr. Tami Hausman

Now that you have created your mission and vision, you’re ready to align your outreach program with your strategic goals. You want to give people information about your firm that highlights your expertise. Above all, you need to know your audiences so you can focus on where you want to get published and what you tell people about your firm, your projects, and your experience. The most successful outreach is proactive, compelling, and targeted to client groups.

Here are a few tips that can help get you moving in the right direction: 

  1. Drop the jargon: it’s really important to create messages that differentiate your firm. At the same time, you must be able to clearly explain what you do to potential clients who may not understand your field. Business expert Stanley Bing defines jargon as “a business-specific term that implies knowledge of the subject and also injects unnecessary complexity into the utterance for the purpose of 1) obfuscation and 2) showing off.” So, if you want to engage potential clients, don’t use it.
  1. Write a story: people remember stories much more easily than straight facts (let’s face it: did your parents read you the newspaper every night when they tucked you into bed, or a fairy tale?). Every firm has its own story that relates to its particular DNA. At the same time, every project that you work on has multiple stories as well. It’s easy to think of the design or technical story – that’s the most obvious, but there are many more! Get creative.
  1. Grab attention: Look, we’re all bombarded by media these days, from e-mails to voice mails to social media. Before you send out a press release – or any other news – ask yourself: what would grab the attention of the media? What is the one key idea behind your project? If you can’t come up with a good headline, then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board.
  1. Teach, don’t preach: Your goal is to engage your clients and audiences – not talk AT them. Good communication is a conversation between people. And the best way to do this is to provide information that your audience doesn’t already know. They will walk away with more knowledge and you will walk away with a captive audience interested in hearing more.

Finally, we at Hausman LLC feel that the way to gauge whether or not a public relations plan is working is if you’re no longer having to reach OUT to other people. You can tell that you’re getting your name in the right places when people hear about your firm and come to YOU.

 

Effective Strategies for Communicating Your Firm: Plan Wisely

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For our featured guest post this month, we welcome Kirsten Sibilia, Principal of Dattner Architects, a New York City firm known for design excellence and civic engagement. A vocal advocate for the value of design, the power of the built environment, and the importance of sustainability, Kirsten has dedicated her professional career to supporting the practice of architecture. 

By Kirsten Sibilia

Articulating your firm’s mission and vision is the starting point for any communications strategy. Your mission speaks to where your firm is today; it synthesizes your values. A vision statement projects where the firm wants to be in the next 5 to 10 years; it is aspirational and focuses on what you want to be known for, the firm you seek to become.

To be meaningful, your mission and vision should both be short statements crafted with sufficient specificity. These are internal resources that will guide your communications program and help you shape the messages that attract the type of work you want to do. For example, your firm may want to offer a broader range of services including program management, become a leader in a particular sector, or, perhaps, get international design commissions.

To be achieved, each of these goals deserves a strategy that includes communications, marketing, and staffing – and sometimes operations. With regard to communications, the messaging, the packaging, and the outlets that will support each goal is different. The vision of the firm’s future will inform pitches made about market trends, a specific project, or an organizational change; emphasis may be placed on one area over another. Each story can build upon each other to develop an understanding externally of the strengths you are trying to promote in your firm.

Whatever your goals, consider the broad range of tools available to your firm, including traditional media, your website, blogs and microblogs, Facebook and Instagram, e-blasts, etc. You can use each of these tools to strategically convey your message and express the values that define your approach, your expertise, and your culture.

 

 

 

 

Spring into Networking: Make the Most Out of Professional Events


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You’ve taken on the challenge of planning your own event, now it’s time to look at effective ways to get the most out of the events that you attend. The weather is getting warmer, so there’s no excuse for you to be sitting at your desk all day. It’s time to be out and about! Events can be fun, and they can also help you connect with potential clients and build the visibility of your firm.

Here are our best tips for making the most out of networking:

Be prepared. Know the event and who is attending. Make a plan to connect with at least five people that you don’t already know that you’d like to potentially work with down the line.

Do your research. Given the short amount of time you have to meet with each person, it’s crucial to leave a lasting impression. If you aren’t great at thinking on your feet, write out your elevator speech that describes what you do in a way that’s informative and engaging – so it invites further conversation.

Show up early. By arriving early, you will be able to approach people and strike up conversations more easily. It’s more difficult to jump into conversations once the room has begun to get crowded and people form groups. It’s a lot easier to talk to the person standing alone next to the veggies and dip – he would probably welcome the company.

Circulate at the event. Make sure to circulate around the room, and meet and talk to as many people as you can. There is no substitute for strong professional relationships with new people that can bring lasting value. People like to talk about themselves (it’s true!) so be sure to ask a lot of questions. 

Follow up. After the event, follow up the next day with a quick email to say hello and reiterate your contact info. Follow up in a reasonable timeframe of two days or less so they remember you. Always connect with them on LinkedIn and add new acquaintances to your contact list.

Don’t forget social media. Find the right moments to Tweet and Instagram during the event, or post the event to LinkedIn. This can bring you more followers and help you get the most out of your investment!

Once you start to network in a smarter, more productive way, you’ll see your firm and your professional network grow. Remember that the successful outcome of any professional event comes from learning new information and, most important, enjoying it as well!

 

 

 

Spring Into Networking: 5 Strategies to Plan Your Event

architecture-public-relations-eventsWhen it comes to marketing your firm, events mean networking. To put your business in front of new potential clients, get out there and attend industry events — like those we highlighted in our first post this month.

Ready to take your networking to the next level? It’s time to host your own event. This requires a significant investment of time and effort, but if you are willing to commit, it can pay off for you in a big way. Hosting your own event, whether on behalf of your firm or a professional organization, gives you positive exposure in front of your clients and potential clients.

Here are our top five strategies for planning your  event:

1. Define your objectives: The first step to hosting an event is to decide what you want to get out of it. Is your goal to fundraise for a professional organization, raise the profile of your firm in your industry, or celebrate a milestone like an anniversary? Be specific, because your goal will guide the rest of your decisions throughout the planning process, including your theme, venue, activities, and speakers.

2. Hire an event planner: An event planner will take charge of coordinating the details of the event. They’ll also be there at the event to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Choose an event planner who comes recommended from someone you trust, and be very specific when communicating your goals for the event to them.

3. Fill the room: Your guest list should be focused on your target list of contacts, including clients and potential clients. You should send a “save the date” announcement to your guest list at least 8 weeks in advance of the event, and follow it several weeks later with an official invitation. Make sure the invitation includes a deadline for RSVPs, which will encourage those invited to respond in a timely fashion.

4. Network: At the event, focus on networking. Make sure to connect with everyone you invited, but don’t get cornered by any one person or group. Without seeming rushed, you need to get in a few words with everyone you invited! Circulate throughout the room, and introduce your clients to each other — you might help them do business together. You should also make a short speech thanking guests for attending.

5. Document the occasion: A dedicated social media point person should post photos and tweets to your social media accounts in real time at the event, and a professional photographer should document it. Afterward, share the photos on your social media and website. Send a thank you e-mail to all who attended and include a link to your album on Facebook or Pinterest.

Posted by Beth Connolly

 

#GlobalArchitecture: 5 Tips for Communicating Across Cultures

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As we mentioned in our first blog post this month, Writing Around the World, a global marketplace is the norm in 2014. If you are about to journey around the world to win your next project, then be certain to board your flight completely prepared. Do your homework before you leave town, and your journey will be smoother and more successful.

Familiarize yourself with your destination, and your potential client. You’ve likely researched the company, their needs, and what they’re looking for in a design firm. But you should also consider the cultural context of the firm. Learn about the iconic and recent architecture at your destination, and do your best to avoid making any culturally insensitive comments. You never know how you might unintentionally damage a business relationship with an off-handed comment.

If you’re making a presentation to stakeholders, make sure they speak and understand English. If not, arrange for a translator. Choose someone local to you, and rehearse your presentation together. That way, you’ll get your rhythm and flow down to a science before you leave home, and you’ll feel confident about your presentation.

Take into account the differences in business etiquette that you’ll encounter in another country. For example, businessmen in Japan bow in greeting, rather than shake hands, while in China, it’s considered customary to drink heavily when bargaining over a deal. If you can, speak with an expat from your destination county, and ask them for some guidance. If that’s not an option, then scour the Internet for information — you’ll find it.

Keep in mind, though, that just because you’ve done your research, it doesn’t make you an expert on your destination. Let John F. Kennedy’s famous foible “Ich bin ein Berliner,” serve as a warning to you. Unless you’re a native or fluent speaker, address your potential clients in English; most likely, they are fluent speakers.

With new technology, architects and design professionals have gained access to new, global frontiers. Implement these strategies  to put your best foot forward and position your firm to win new, international clients.

Posted by Beth Connolly

#GlobalArchitecture: Test Your Knowledge, Part 2

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The wait is over. Here are the answers to our #globalarchitecture pop quiz!

  1. This is the Oscar Niemayer Museum  in Curitiba, Brazil. Designed by the renowned Brazilian architect in 2002, it was named in his honor — he completed the project at age 95. It is commonly known as “the Eye” and its shape is inspired by the Araucaria Tree, an indigenous species.
  2. The “Mushroom House,” a private residence in Perinton, New York, was designed to resemble the patterned flowers of the Queen Anne’s Lace plant. Architect Earl Young designed the 4,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home in the early 1970s.
  3. Titled “Building with Verandas,” this 250-unit apartment complex and children’s day care center in Vienna, Austria was designed by Rüdiger Lainer + Partner. It features private outdoor space for each apartment, a roof-top sauna, and inverted loggias.
  4. The distinctive traditional homes of Puglia, Italy, or trulli, are dry stone dwellings with conical limestone-tiled roofs, which flourished in the 19th century. The trulli of Alberobello, Puglia have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  5. The 28-bedroom Palais Bulles (or “bubble house”) was designed by architect architect Antti Lovag. It’s located ten kilometers outside of Cannes, France, and is owned by designed Pierre Cardin, who frequently hosts large events.

How did you do?

#GlobalArchitecture: Test Your Knowledge!

This month, we’re taking our readers on a trip around the world with our focus on #globalarchitecture. Last week, we introduced you to some of the best international design publications.

In this post, brush up on your international architecture trivia. Can you guess where these buildings are located? Answers will be posted later this week.

1.

two

2.

three

3.

four

4.

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5.

eight

 

Leave your guesses in the comments below, or tweet them to us @HausmanLLC.

#GlobalArchitecture: Writing Around the World

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In 2014, the world is expanding and shrinking at the same time. With new technologies, doing business with someone on a different continent is not so different from doing business with your next-door neighbor. As the market for your work grows larger, our instantaneous ability to connect with others around the globe brings home the old song “It’s a small world, after all.”

More now than ever before, a global marketplace for architecture has become the norm. When you’re communicating about your work in 2014, don’t think national — think international!

That’s why this month, we’re using the hashtag #globalarchitecture to share some of our favorite international projects, trends, and publications on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Here on Design on the Haus, we’ll be surveying our top picks for international publications, helping you brush up on your international architecture trivia, and offering strategies for communicating across cultures.

 

Here’s a short list of the best international design publications:

 

E-Architect

Based in the UK, E-Architect includes recent news and a directory of prominent buildings, architect profiles, and products.

Recent article we loved: House of Music Opening Aalborg (Denmark)

 

ArchDaily

ArchDaily bills itself as “the world’s most visited architecture website.” The site has English, Spanish, and Portuguese channels, featuring over 60 new projects from five continents published each day.

Recent article we loved: Where Do You Work? The Offices of ArchDaily Readers

 

ArchitectureLab

This online architecture magazine features news and projects from around the world. Its news editors curate articles from international sources, helping its visitors discover far-reaching global trends.

Recent article we loved: Chinese Villages Given Urban Look Through Design

 

Monocle

Published in the UK, Monocle is at the forefront of design and international affairs, covering everything from architecture to urban planning to travel to fashion to interiors. Its tastemaking editorial perspective highlights the issues high-level designers care about.

Recent article we loved: Towering Above It — Bogota

 

ArchNewsNow

Created and published by Kristen Richards, the Editor-in-Chief of Oculus, AIA New York’s quarterly journal, this website and e-newsletter includes both original content and the top architecture and design news from around the world. It also features Nuts + Bolts, a series that offers practical solutions for A/E/C businesses.

Recent article we loved: Drawing an Elegant Conclusion: Menil Drawing Institute by Johnston Marklee

 

Posted by Beth Connolly 

Inspiring Women in Communications: Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA

KristenRichardsAs Women’s History Month draws to a close, we’re wrapping up our March feature series, highlighting female professionals in the communications field. For our final installment of “Inspiring Women in Communications,” we’re pleased to feature Kristen Richards.

Kristen is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the international webzine and daily newsletter, ArchNewsNow.com. She is also editor-in-chief of the AIA New York Chapter’s quarterly publication, Oculus. Kristen has been involved in the A/E/C industry for many years as a journalist and photographer, including a 10-year tenure as news editor/feature writer for Interiors magazine.

 

What drew you to the field of communications?

As a field, it was more like I was thrown into rather than drawn to communications. I was a founding member of an Off-Off Broadway theater (Impossible Ragtime Theatre) back in the mid-70s, and somebody had to take on promoting it to audiences and critics (and sponsors and donors). Tag — I was it. Turned out I was pretty good at it — or so I’ve been told.

 

What did you think you would be when you “grew up” — and are you doing that now?

I wanted to grow up to be a director, an actor, and a writer. I’ve been/done all three. (I gave up wanting to be a baseball player early on.) Now, being at the helm of two publications is a bit like getting to be all three at once!

 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Having the opportunity to meet — and work with — some of the brightest and most creative and inspiring minds in the galaxy.

 

As a communications professional, what do you feel is your most important responsibility?

To be open to everyone and everything. One never knows when, where, or how a gem of a person, project, or idea might show up.

 

How have you seen women evolve in your profession since you started?

That’s difficult to answer. Women were prominent in the design press and communications when I started at Interiors magazine many, many years ago. I think they still are. If there’s been an evolution, I’d say it’s the growing number of — and respect for — female critical voices, especially in architecture and urban design.

 

Was there a woman who mentored you or inspired you with her success?

My mother most of all. And so many others too numerous to name…I’ve been so very lucky in that regard.

 

What career advice would you give to other women working in communications?

Be fearless.

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