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Doctor in the {Haunted} Haus: Frozen in Fear

prescription-notepad-2Dear Doctor,

I’ve recently noticed that a number of my peers are being recognized by our profession, and have been accepted as Fellows to the American Institute of Architects. I feel that I’m at the appropriate stage of my career to be elevated to this honor, but when I looked into the application process found that it’s really complicated, intimidating—even scary! Do you have any advice on how I can overcome these jitters about professional development?

Signed,

Frozen in Fear

 

So, you want your name in lights? That’s terrific! Well, ’tis the witching season, so let’s hope your name isn’t lit up in lights like a jack-o’-lantern! Of course, we like Halloween (the candy part, not the ghosts and skeletons part). Eek—the Doctor shouldn’t prescribe candy, because it’s not good for you! So in the spirit of the season, let’s confront our demons, shall we, Frozen in Fear? Here’s what I think you need to do to thaw yourself out.

 

First, it’s essential to remember that no one else is going to toot your horn unless you do it. I know, I know—you want to think that if you design great buildings, people will see them and just call you up to design a new project (the Doctor has talked about this elsewhere, and she’s pretty sure that it’s possible for that to happen. But realistically, you can’t always rely upon that as a strong outreach strategy.)

 

Here’s what does work. Halloween is all about putting on a costume, right? If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of pursuing personal recognition, then the Doctor advises you to try on a new outfit. Look, this is all about your reputation, and we want to help you grow it. There are many ways to do this—getting press, winning awards for your work, and getting professional recognition for you, yourself! You—and you alone—can build your reputation. There, I said it, and it wasn’t so scary. As some of you architects know, applications for Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) are due on October 14. Similar professional recognition programs include the Royal Institute of British Architects’ international fellowships (FRIBA) and the American Society of Civil Engineering Fellows. Let me encourage you to start pursuing a fellowship or honorary fellowship in architecture, or whatever your field may be. There’s just no substitute for being recognized by a jury of your peers for your hard-earned work (I know, that sounds much more like a walk through a cemetery than a stroll through the roses, but bear with me!). Also, make sure you get advice from your colleagues who have been through the process—you don’t want to have to find your way in the dark. These can be time-consuming projects, but if you start early, they’re a lot, lot less scary.

Doctor in the Haus: Millinery-Maddened Millennial

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Dear Doctor,

At our mid-sized architecture office, I wear many hats: My official title is marketing coordinator, but I’m also administrative whiz, technology trouble-shooter, and webmaster. Our partners recently decided to commit to working with a public relations firm, but I’m not quite sure what they’re looking to accomplish. Can you advise me on where, oh where to begin? How do I figure out what that means, and then find the company that’s right for us?

Signed,

Millinery-Maddened Millennial in Minneapolis

Well, Millinery, it’s good to know that someone else has not skipped off to the beach for the summer! Otherwise, the Doctor would get very lonely in the office—talking to the plants is good for a little while, but inanimate objects are not always the best office-mates. So, I’m glad you are reaching out, and you have come to the right place!

There’s nothing that I like more than a good strategy, which is the first item on your PR agenda. Most important, from the outset, you need to establish some goals. Just think about it: you can’t run a race without knowing where the finish line is! So, when your partners say they want to hire a firm, what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Many people think that public relations is press, and that’s a big part of it. If that’s your goal, then you have to determine what kind of press you want: local or national; business press, trade, or design press; project-related articles or trend stories.

Now, the Doctor tries to make it easy for you, of course, but she also wants to give you a lot of options! And, don’t forget, it’s probably some combination of all these things. Some people are “either/or” types, but I like to think of myself as a “both/and” person when it comes to outreach. On that note, going beyond press, you should also think about other ways of building your influence. Let me be clear: we love press—yes, we think it’s the bees’ knees—but you can also get a lot of buzz through speaking engagements, professional organizations, and being active on social media.

See, Millinery, I bet there’s a lot more than you bargained for! But the Doctor wants to point you in the right direction. I suggest that you try to get as many specifics as you can from the partners, and that will help you figure out what kind of firm you need to bring on board. When you have your goals, you can look for the right partner.

On that note, it’s low tide, and I’m off to the shore to stick my toes in the sand….

Doctor in the Haus: High-Riser

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Dear Doctor,

 

Our firm just completed one of the highest profile projects in our 15-year history – it’s a 30-story residential tower – and it’s also one of the best projects that the firm has ever done. As the design partner on the project, I want to get as much coverage in the press as we can. In particular, I’d like to get the project on the radar of architecture critics and the design press. So, my question is, how do we make these connections? Do we go to one person first, or should we submit it to everyone and see who writes about it? Our internal marketing and PR team has varying opinions on our best approach, and I need to make a decision. Can you help?

 

Signed,

High-Riser

 

Well, Mr. High-Riser (or Ms. High-Riser, as the case may be!), first, I want to congratulate you on a job well done! As you know, the Doctor is not an architect, but she knows how hard you and your teams work on your buildings. It is no small feat. Look, I am currently renovating my apartment, and you would think it was as complicated as building the Burj Khalifa – and it seems to be taking just as long (sigh!). Ah, but I digress. The good Doctor wants to talk about YOU.

So, look, there are a number of ways to connect to the design press. It’s important to have a good project, as you do – so, you are already starting off on the right foot! Also make sure that you invest in good photography, because you want to show your project to best advantage. For more tips on that subject, check out architectural photographer Brad Feinknopf’s post on our blog.

As for reaching out to the press, you should certainly send out a press release, which can get you great coverage. Put together a smart, targeted list of contacts in the design press (print and online) and also make sure you include all your different audiences. For example, you want to send out the release to residential publications and real estate reporters as well as design reporters. If there is a sustainability story, put those publications on your list as well.

But! Remember that press are people, too. How would you like to get a mass e-mail? Believe me, the press gets tons of them. It’s like getting a recorded phone message from a political candidate right before an election. That fools no one! So, if you really want to connect with a critic, then the Doctor suggests that you handpick your favorite or favorites. And I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that all critics are not created equal. For example, you will want to reach out to local critics who have written about tall buildings and/or residential buildings – these will probably be most receptive to your project. Target one person first. Give the writer a quick overview of the project and highlight the most important things. Be clear, compelling and succinct. I mean, in this day and age, who has time to read?

If he or she doesn’t bite (give your first choice a reasonable amount of time to consider the project), then go onto the next. You don’t want to promise the same project to two publications. I know this can be tough, but it’s really the right thing to do. It’s often the same with design magazines, such as Architectural Record and Metropolis: they’ll want an exclusive story – and you can’t blame them for that, especially if you have a great project! On the up side, make sure you build a good relationship from the start and then keep the good work coming!

Doctor in the Haus: Off the Radar

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Dear Doctor,

I’m an architect with a strong professional network, including over 500+ connections on LinkedIn. I’m also a member of the AIA. But my network is predominately made up of other design professionals and colleagues in the AEC industry. I feel like it’s a new year, and I need to do something different. I’d like to broaden my reach and meet new people. And I was just promoted to associate, so I need to be able to bring new business into the firm. Can you suggest some ways that I can develop a presence beyond my immediate circle of colleagues and get to potential clients? 

Signed,

Off the Radar

 

Well, Off the Radar, you are certainly asking all the right questions. And you’re in luck, because the Doctor has answers. But, I have to admit, your timing may be off by just a teeny weeny bit, because it’s been a brutally cold winter – at least for those of us who live in the Northeast – and who wants to be running around proverbially knocking on doors to meet people in this cold? However, don’t you worry, because the Doctor has some ideas! And you don’t always have to brave subzero temperatures to make important connections.

Let’s start with LinkedIn. It’s great to have so many connections. But have you tried to take advantage of the people you know? I mean that in the best possible sense! For example, you may find that one of your LinkedIn connections knows someone who you want to meet. Maybe he or she can make an online introduction for you. Or, even better, you can all get together for coffee. Just make sure that you dress warm and wear plenty of warm clothes when you go out. (I know, I know, I’m not THAT kind of doctor, but I still care about you).

Another way to build your influence is to start a conversation about a topic on LinkedIn. If you don’t want to dip your toe in such deep water, at least you can start to post updates on LinkedIn on a regular basis. It’s good to show your network that you’re alive and kicking!

As for meeting new people, well it just means that you need to change up your surroundings and the company you keep. Other architects are great, but you can’t just hang around the same people all the time because, ya know, that just gets BOR-ING. And if you want to meet potential clients, then you need to start stalking professional events where you know those folks might be (ok, I’m not advocating the creepy kind of stalking, of course, just saying that you need to put yourself in the company of people who you want to do business with). When you go to events, make sure you get there early and actually talk to people. The great news about networking events is that…just like you, people are there to network! Imagine that! Even better, if you find an organization that you like, get involved in a committee or seek out a board position. You can attend as many breakfast meetings as you like, but there is no substitute for digging in your heels, really getting involved in an organization and forging strong relationships that really matter.

Remember, too, that you can meet potential clients anywhere. Get involved in a charity or do some pro bono work for a local community group. You never know where your next client may turn up. And you’ll feel gratified by helping others – a double win!

You could also consider writing some articles about your expertise. Many trade journals and other publications are always looking for good content. This can be a great way to start building up your visibility in front of potential clients. And, even better, you don’t have to go out in this freezing weather to do it!

However you decide to begin, Off the Radar, stay warm and try not to get “cold feet”…and remember to have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor in the Haus: Lost in Translation

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Dear Doctor,

I just started working at an architecture firm, after spending many years in the financial industry. It’s been an exciting career change. As part of my business development activities, I have been attending rehearsals with the partners and project teams as they prepare for interviews. Since I’m a newbie to this industry, I’m struck by the way the architects talk about their work and how they describe it to clients. Most of the time, I have no idea what they’re saying, and I’m concerned that our clients don’t either. Maybe this is the way that architects sell their work, but it seems that there must be a way to communicate that resonates better with potential clients. Any ideas?

Signed,

Lost in Translation

 

Dear Lost in Translation,

Well, I certainly relate to your frustration! Don’t worry, the Doctor assures you that what is lost can certainly be found. And it’s not just design professionals who have a hard time communicating their expertise. Believe me, when our IT guy tries to explain what’s wrong with my computer, I think we are talking a different language – and that’s because we actually ARE. I am just glad that he is fluent in Macs, because certainly I am not.

Okay, so back to you, Lost. You are not lost, by the way, you’re on the right track. It’s critical for you, your principals, or indeed anyone in your firm to clearly describe what you do for your clients, how you do it, and why you’re the best at it. Design language isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, your experts will do themselves a disservice if they can’t speak in a way that clearly explains their vision and value to their clients. So what can you do about it? Keep these things in mind.

  1. First, know your strengths! Call it an elevator pitch or whatever you want. You need to know why you’re the team that the client needs to hire and how your design will make your clients’ businesses soar. You need to be able to articulate your value proposition in a snap. Show how you have done this for other clients in the past. This is why your partners became architects in the first place, so show your expertise to your best advantage.
  1. Keep it simple! Look, you’re architects, and you’re all about design. That’s a great thing. But you shouldn’t have to bring a translator to a client meeting. It is your goal – and it’s also a great opportunity – to educate your clients and bring them on board. They need you, but they may not understand your industry. They may be anxious about the look of the building – not to mention the process, fees, and schedule. You can navigate them through uncharted territory. Describe the experience that they will have in your new building, not just the architectural details. Talk about your working process. Focus on how you will help them achieve their goals. These are all keys to a winning communications strategy.
  1. Speak your client’s language! Make sure, above all, that you do your homework and know what’s important to a client. A meeting or interview should not be a monologue; it’s a conversation. For example, do they want to be sustainable? Have big private offices or collaborative workspaces? Look traditional or hip? Find out their priorities and internalize them. They will use the building every day – you won’t – so demonstrate that you have listened to them and can deliver what they need.

 

 

 

Doctor in the Haus: Brand-Aid

PRESCRIPTION NOTEPAD 2Dear Doctor,

Recently, our partners told me that they want to refresh our brand. We’re a 53-year-old architecture firm. I’ve heard a lot about branding, but I’m not sure what that means. Do we have to design a new logo, create a new website, change our name? It sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t even know where to start. Please help!

Need Some Brand-Aid

 

Well, look Brand-Aid, it’s the holidays, so you have a little time to relax and think about your big moves for 2015. The Doctor is not such a Scrooge that she doesn’t think that you need a few days off to recharge, just like your smartphone.

But! It will be a new year very soon, and that’s the perfect time to refresh your brand. Ok, so let’s get down to some specifics, because different people define branding in different ways. For example, some consider your logo and graphics to be your brand – the things that we simply used to call your “corporate identity.” And that’s part of it. We’ve all seen outdated logos and graphics, and it’s not a pretty sight. Think about it: you wouldn’t wear a Santa suit on July 4th, so you don’t want to start 2015 with a logo that’s stuck in the 1980s! But there’s more to branding than just your visual identity.

Here at Hausman, we define “brand” as the core values that distinguish your firm. Let’s be clear about this: you’re a professional services firm, not Heinz ketchup! So while you want to promise and deliver great architecture, it’s not just the quality of your product (i.e. buildings) that help you build your brand, it’s also the quality of your services and the level of knowledge that you bring to clients. You need to know what your clients want and need, and then figure out a good way to give them what you want. Hotels here are a good analogy – are you the kind of firm that provides room service and has a spa, or do you have a breakfast buffet and Internet service? Your firm has to figure out what it wants to be. After that, you need to reinforce that brand in every way possible. This includes your “look” or corporate identity (including your website), how you describe yourself, and any proactive communications, such as articles and press releases.

It’s critical to have unified messages about your firm when you talk about how your design process operates and how you pitch the firm to targeted client groups. Just as you are all using the same logo and the same font, make sure you are all making the same promise to clients – and meeting that promise. Most important, branding is about building a strong, solid reputation, and there’s no better selling point than that.

Doctor in the Haus: Behind Schedule

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Dear Doctor,

Our firm finished a great project six months ago, and I feel like we missed the boat in terms of getting PR. Although it’s a great project, we never told anyone about it. We didn’t send it out to a lot of publications, and we didn’t do a press release when it finished, even though the client was very happy with our work. One magazine wanted to do a feature story, but they never followed through. However, there is a great story that we could tell about sustainability, among other things. I am afraid that we are too late to fix this. At this point, is there anything we can do?

Sincerely,

Behind Schedule

  

Dear Behind Schedule,

A lot of people don’t like to go see the Doctor, but this Doctor never judges, she is just here to assess your symptoms, make a diagnosis, and then come up with a cure. And, never fear, this is a fairly common ailment with a pretty fast recovery. We can help!

You need to act quickly, but you can definitely get press for your project. Most print publications will still publish a project up to about one year after it’s completed – after that, you might have a tougher time, but you’re still in the game! Although it’s no longer hot-off-the-press “news,” consider sending the project to architecture publications and green/sustainability publications that might want to write about its unique design features. If you do a post-occupancy survey about the performance of your sustainable systems (hopefully, they meet your anticipated goals and projections), that is another great opportunity to reach out to the press or even invite a local editor or writer for a site visit. Look at editorial calendars that might be featuring green projects or specific project typologies (schools, hospitals, commercial buildings) that might be a good fit. Remember that there are a lot of online publications that are constantly looking for good content. Finally, don’t forget awards programs – there are a ton of them and, if you win, you can get a lot of exposure and bang for your buck. Good luck!

Doctor in the Haus: Social in SoHo

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Dear Doctor,

I am a 40-something marketing director at a mid-sized architecture firm in New York City. Our firm works with many of the city’s top developers, and we seem to be on the radar of most of the editors and journalists that cover architecture.

Here’s my dilemma: our partners are do not naturally gravitate towards digital marketing tactics, and they don’t think we need to engage in social media. However, I believe that participation on these platforms is necessary for success in today’s marketplace. How can I convince my bosses that social media is not just a fad or only for younger firms? Help!

Sincerely,

Social in Soho

 

Dear Social in Soho,

I’ll start by telling you a little story: the Doctor does not generally consider herself a luddite, but I myself had reservations when e-mail first came around (yes, the Doctor is old enough to remember fax machines, telexes, and even ditto machines!). I couldn’t remember why anyone would send an e-mail when it was so much easier to pick up the phone. For the record, though, I thought cell phones were a great invention! So go figure.

Look, you’re right, there’s no question that we communicate much differently than we used to. The way I see it, social media does not replace all the good things you’re probably doing already: print publications, conference papers, professional organizations, and let’s not forget the all-important lunches with potential clients and key people in your network! On the other hand, it does offer you more avenues for getting your name out there than ever before.

There are all sorts of reasons why you need to invest time in social media (and I mean hours, not days). Your competition is doing it. Even if you don’t do anything about it, your firm is going to show up on social media. By being proactive, you put yourself in the driver’s seat and determine the messages about your business and the stories that you want people to know about your firm. Journalists are trolling social media for people and ideas, so it’s another way to make connections with the people who you want to know. But if this doesn’t convince your bosses, see our recent blog post. If they’re still scared, call a real (medical) doctor and get a prescription.*

*The Doctor is not a real medical doctor and does not purport to give medical advice.

 

Introducing Doctor in the Haus

 

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Editor’s Note: Introducing a brand new column by our very own Dr. Tami Hausman, where she offers practical integrated communications advice to AEC professionals. If you have questions for the Doctor, don’t hesitate to send them to hausman@hausmanllc.com. The Doctor is in!

Dear Doctor,

I am an architect with ten years of experience who recently opened my own architecture firm with three colleagues. Each of us comes from large, well-known firms with very high profiles, so getting press for our projects was relatively easy. 

Now that we have our own firm – although we have strong connections – we are relatively unknown. Going forward, how can we best approach the media to get noticed and get more work?  While we have set some funds aside for marketing and publicity, as a small firm we do not have unlimited resources for these activities at the moment.  Where should we start?

Thanks,

Building from Scratch

 

Dear Building from Scratch,

Well, the first thing I have to say to you is: Congratulations! Starting your own firm is a big leap, and it’s not always easy. It’s important that you recognize the need for outreach to make a name for yourself. Building your reputation, and your influence, is key to building a healthy practice.

So what is the prescription for success? There are a number of things that you can do immediately. First, make sure that you and your partners are speaking with one voice. That’s critical, because you need to communicate clearly about what kind of projects you want to do and where you want to practice (regionally, nationally, globally). Get that elevator speech down pat so you can explain to a potential client why they should hire you, not your competition. And don’t forget to throw a small party to celebrate your new office and make sure everyone knows about it!

Young start-ups don’t always have a portfolio of built work, but there’s no need to worry: editors are always on the lookout for news stories, so send out those renderings even before a project is complete (make sure you have client approval, of course!). If you have some really good projects in the works, set up a meeting with a design editor and show them what you’ve got. You can also take advantage of social media to build a following for your ideas and projects – it’s free and doesn’t need to monopolize all your time. And, finally, make sure you get out and about by attending events where you may meet potential clients. Even in this digital age, nothing beats the opportunity to connect with people face to face.

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