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Hausman: Still the Champ


Hausman_LLC_architecture_pr_AIAAt last month’s National AIA Convention in Philadelphia, Hausman president and PR champion Tami Hausman delivered another powerhouse presentation on fusing traditional and digital marketing tools. Sharing the stage with Brien McDaniel (FXFOWLE) and David Roccosalva (EverGreene Architectural Arts), she coached the audience of architects on crafting winning strategies for effective integrated communications. If you missed the lecture and want tips on how to develop and deliver your message, you haven’t lost out—click HERE to view clips of the presentation (and other winning videos) on Hausman LLC’s YouTube channel.

Creating a Monograph That's Not Monotonous, Part 2

Continuing his look at the creation of an architectural monograph and managing a multi-media publicity campaign, Brien McDaniel, Communications Director, Senior Associate of FXFOWLE, reveals the details of publicizing Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (ORO Editions, 2015), the latest publication from FXFOWLE.

 

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A select number of copies of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (representing about 300-350 of our contacts in New York City) were packaged in custom tote bags and hand-delivered by messenger. All of these bags included a personal note from a member of the FXFOWLE leadership. The remaining 1,200 monographs were mailed via a specially designed box, with or without personal notes. Only once we knew that everyone on our list had received a copy of the book, did we publicly announce that the monograph was published.

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Why did we reverse the typical sequence of events for the book launch? We wanted to get the biggest bang for our buck—meaning no one really knew we were publishing a book and we wanted harness that element of surprise. This was achieved via an e-blast to our entire database and a press release (yes, this form of communication is not yet dead). To raise the monograph’s visibility across all of our social media channels and to give it an identity at all of our events, we created a logo inspired by the book’s design.

 

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Every piece of communication about the launch—whether a press release, an e-blast, or social media post—included a link to an announcement of the monograph on the FXFOWLE website. This not only increased traffic to our site over the course of a year, but it also gave us the opportunity to tailor our online message, highlighting the firm’s culture and services. The announcement was featured on all seven of the website’s landing pages and on the News page. Reveal Filter Evolve Effect also lives in its entirety in ISSUU format on the Profile and Publications pages. However, we did wait to upload the book until after the launch was completed—a period of almost nine months.

 

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As part of the launch promotion, we developed a series of panel discussions (open to the public, as well as invited guests) to connect with our audience in fresh ways. These talks also posed strategic opportunities for business development, press relations, and to initiate new partnerships or strengthen existing relationships. Such was the case with the AIA|DC Chapter, the National Academy Museum & School, and Open House New York. We teamed with these organizations to host events and programs, which helped us reach new, diverse groups.

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For example, our exhibition at the National Academy gave us a chance to share with our audience a unique firm initiative over several months. Throughout the run of the exhibit, FXFOWLE partners conducted personal tours of the show for colleagues, clients, and potential clients, allowing them to enhance existing relationships as well as cultivate new contacts by presenting a personalized, inside perspective on the firm’s work and mission. An invitation-only dinner was staged at the gallery, making for a truly extraordinary evening.

 

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We also collaborated with leading publications, such as Architect, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Preservation, and The Architect’s Newspaper, in innovative ways. While this didn’t generate any major coverage (nor was that expected), the experience served to deepen the editors’ knowledge of FXFOWLE and the culture of the firm.

 

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The results of our campaign were a revelation, and truly gratifying. We had overwhelmingly positive responses from all corners—even though it didn’t translate into work (which we knew it wouldn’t). We developed new partnerships; expanded our press coverage to include art, book publishing, and general publications; and received not one, but two reviews of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect. We also saw significant spikes in website traffic each time we posted news about the monograph; overall, our social media traffic increased more than 20% for 2015. Something we didn’t think about at the beginning of our planning was that preparing for the book launch was the perfect opportunity to update FXFOWLE’s contact database; after doing that, our bounce-back rate dropped from 20% to 2% within three months. And finally, the monograph drove internal conversations about our brand, from project reviews and presentations to discussions about our website and marketing messages.

While creating a monograph and orchestrating a year-long multi-media campaign is certain to raise the visibility of your brand, there are plenty of ways ways to achieve that goal. Here are a few ideas—adaptable for any scale or budget—about how your firm can connect with targeted audiences:

If you have space in your office for an exhibit (it doesn’t have to be a large area), consider curating an art show highlighting your in-house talent; many architects sketch, paint, or are passionate photographers. You could also feature study models and drawings to pull back the proverbial curtain on your firm’s working process. Plan an opening reception and invite key contacts to build one-to-one relationships in a setting outside of meetings and industry-related events.

 

Team up with your AIA chapter, AEC colleagues, or even a local publication to self-produce a topical event or panel discussion. Don’t forget that your clients and consultants can be partners, too.

 

Seize the opportunity presented by a holiday, or a project-oriented or company milestone, to create a one-of-a-kind announcement. Because we’re all saturated with emails, e-blasts, and other electronic input, you might consider using a hard-copy format in order to stand out. There are many online self-publishing companies (such as Lulu and Blurb) that offer inventive products and designs to promote your brand at any price point.

 

If none of these strike a chord with you, be creative. And despite their ubiquity, e-blasts are still a great vehicle to connect quickly with your audiences…just make sure all of the information on your website is current and correct before you hit that Send button!

 

September success strategies

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Four steps for creating a powerful communications plan

If you read our previous blog post regarding re-calibrating your brand, you’ve taken the first step towards long-term success.

Ok, so you’ve gone through the mini-branding evaluation. You’ve identified the specific types of clients you want, clarified your direct and indirect competitors, defined your differentiators, aligned your business goals with the marketplace, and evaluated your visual identity. Ready for the next steps?

Here at Design of the Haus, we’re taking it further and we’re going to give you an exclusive look at the components of a good communications plan, a document that helps our clients target their messaging, find opportunities to raise their companies’ profiles, promote projects and their firms, and create a calendar of immediate action steps.

Step One: Target your messages

Create your firms’ key messages by answering these sample questions. What differentiators set your firm apart from your competitors? What types of work do you do or aspire to do? Does your firm have a rich history or milestone that you would like to highlight? What special value do you bring to your clients? To create consistent and impactful messaging, create statements that address the questions above and use them for all of your firms’ marketing and outreach material.

Step Two: Raise your company’s profile

To increase your firm’s visibility in the media and get in front of prospective clients, your firm should get involved in professional networks.

  • Research and join relevant professional organizations that can help your firm build valuable relationships. Involvement in these types of organizations is an effective way to reach decision makers, gain networking and introduction opportunities, and open new avenues for different types of potential work.
  • Seek speaking opportunities at professional events and conferences. This will further establish your firm as experts in a specific industry or market.
  • Submit for awards, because winning awards is an excellent way for your firm to get press and impress clients and potential clients. Awards also give your firm credibility and further enhance its reputation that may lead to interviews, speaking engagements, and invitations to panel discussions.

Step Three: Promote your projects and people

It is critical to maintain visibility in your industries and markets. Consistent outreach in a variety of media outlets will keep the company mainstream and “buzzworthy”. Review your recent projects and come up with story or trend ideas to pitch to editors. For example, say your firm is designing the first passive house in Florida. Capitalize on the trend of how passive house technology is crossing over from Europe and becoming mainstream in the US. So you could pitch a story about fitting passive house design into any American landscape, from the hot climates of Florida to the icy winters of Michigan (where its already been applied).

You can also keep your company in the news by having a member of your leadership team write a by-lined article for a professional trades publication, for example, describing your firm’s innovative approach to combining modern technology and traditional materials.

Step Four: Initiate an immediate actions calendar

Plan for the next four to six months and end 2015 strong. First, figure out your immediate, mid-and long-term activities. Include pitch ideas, potential editor meetings, competition deadlines, social media implementation dates, etc. While creating a calendar is the last step of this communications plan, this is not a static document. You will need to review and update it on a consistent basis. In fact, this plan should serve as a starting point for an in-depth communications program for the end of 2015 and well into 2016.

Virtual Architecture: Use Digital Media and Share the Experience

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The “experience” of architecture is multi-sensory. Visiting a building in person can evoke a complex set of stimuli and sensations, from how light enters the space to the way a stone floor “feels” beneath your feet. When it comes to promoting your work and trying to share this experience with the media, you can invite editors and journalists to visit in person. But how can you convey a similar experience of your project through other means?

Conducting a “virtual” tour of your project using video can be a great way to allow your audiences to experience your project. Even though your “guests” won’t physically inhabit the space, a virtual tour can provide an effective facsimile and may even entice them to visit in person.

Social media platforms that use video and live streaming can bring your projects to life and share them with a global audience. Users can virtually experience your project, and you can tell the building’s story in a three-dimensional way; this is something two-dimensional photographs can’t do.

Let’s look at a few ways you can share the experience of your projects with your fans, the media, and other audiences using digital and social media together.

Promote your project via a “virtual tour” using social media

Shoot a short video walkthrough of your project. Take the opportunity to highlight special features of the building. Next, post it on social media to give your audience an inside perspective of your project. This way, anyone can “visit” your project no matter where they are in the world. You can also send the video out to editors and writers as a way to introduce them to your project or even invite them to visit the project in person.

Online design publications love to post video because it generates clicks, so send them your virtual tour via direct Tweet; it’s a great way to get an editor’s attention. If you’ve planned a grand opening, in-person media tour, or other live event, a 30-second video posted to Twitter or a 15-second clip on Instagram can be an effective teaser to build interest in that event. Posting your video to all of your active social media platforms can generate broader interest in your project and give your firm greater exposure to a larger audience.

Use video to demonstrate special features

Using video, you can also highlight – and even demonstrate – important features of your project. For example, let’s say you your new project has a special daylighting system that adjusts windows and blinds to maximize the amount of natural light in the space. You can shoot a 30-second time-lapse video to show the movement of light within the space and how it changes throughout the day. This gives viewers a sense of what it’s like to visit and can encourage them to experience it first hand.

Hold a “virtual” media tour event via live streaming

Your favorite editor can’t make it to your live event? Then bring your live event to her! Using live-streaming apps like Periscope, you can share your media tours and grand openings with a wide online audience. Periscope blossomed from an idea that there is no better way to virtually experience a place in real-time than through live video. The best part is, you can download the app to your smart phone and carry it around with you during your event to share the experience of your new space with your viewers. Your viewers get to see what you want to show them, hear your thoughts about the design process and share in the live event; it’s as if they are there in person with you for a private tour.

While nothing will ever match what it’s like to inhabit a space first hand, experiencing architecture is no longer limited to visiting it in person. Because of new technologies, we can share and experience buildings, landscapes, and open spaces with anyone who can connect to the Internet from the comfort of their laptop or mobile device. So what are you waiting for? Get filming!

Communicate Your Work with Strong Architectural Photography

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Photography is an essential marketing tool for architects, but too many firms fall short on photographically documenting their buildings. Architectural photography has the ability to show a building “in action” — demonstrating how people use and live in it, showing off programmatic elements and telling the building’s story. But you should take care that the images you show to prospective clients, as well as those you post on your website and share on social media, communicate both your project’s success and your strengths as an architect.

Many of your prospective clients may never visit your projects in person, and they may never see your space alive, filled with human interaction, and performing as programmed. Nor will they experience the sensibility of the space: the sculptural height of a room, the carefully conceived wash of light against plaster, steel, or stone. They may not witness firsthand the painstaking detail of a stair. Words can describe, and your enthusiasm can excite, but it’s excellent photography that will truly help you tell the story of your project — and thus create more opportunities for your firm.

The success of your practice lies in the photographer’s ability to translate your architectural craft into vivid images that reflect your aspirations and bring your vision to life. You are paying for a photographer’s experience to interpret the geometry of a space, to combine proper equipment and post-production savvy to get that final, sublime still image. The art of a good architectural photographer lies in her translation of how the eye reads the lightness and shadow, foreground and background and the sensual detail of texture. Although the iPhone takes great photos, you would be selling your work short by relying on snapshots for project documentation. So there is real value in hiring the right photographer to document your work.

Take a moment to review the photographs you are using to represent your work. Look at them as if you are seeing your projects for the first – or only – time, solely based on these images. Are they strong, vibrant, as-if-you-were-there images? Or are they too dark, blurry, or have an off-color cast? Furthermore, do these images show the technical beauty of your space or building, yet fail to capture the human side of what happens there, leaving images that read cold and lifeless, devoid of people and activity?

 

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For me, what makes architectural photography really special is its potential to narrate a building’s story. Architecture has the capacity to affect society: to create better, more livable places and, thus, to improve lives. The challenge for the photographer is to reveal the building’s functionality and the social interactions of its users in a way that’s authentic and spatial. A good architectural photographer is not only a master technician, but also an excellent storyteller: she combines aesthetics with a journalistic eye so that captions are unnecessary.

When I shoot, I seek out spaces and places where people congregate, live, and work. To best capture the social side of the building, I try to inhabit the space for a while and watch the building function. From there, the challenge (and fun) is to capture a moment in the building’s life that represents how it looks every day, and to represent — to an individual who may never experience the project first-hand — how the architect and client envisioned it to function.

 

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Hiring a photographer is how you close out a project. The space has been realized, the fees received and the creative energy of the architect is leaning towards the next project. In some cases, you may never step back into the spaces that you’ve designed. Your future work depends on how your past projects market your architectural skill. So before you leave your space finished, hire a talented photographer who can accurately document your work, the energy with which you have imbued it and your vision that created it.

Aislinn Weidele is the Director of Creative Services for Hausman LLC and an expert in architectural photography and graphic design. Top image © Aislinn Weidele/Gotham Projects; second image © James Ewing Photography; bottom image © Michael Moran/OTTO

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!

The ROI of Relationships

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by Steve Whitehorn

The financial success of any firm is built upon its personal relationships. However, many firms often fail to realize this basic truth. The endless pursuit of new clients to expand market share is an outmoded, counterproductive strategy. You can spend an overwhelming proportion of your marketing budget trying to win new clients, but in the process you miss out on the bottom-line benefits that come from nurturing existing connections.

According to Donna Fenn, contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, acquiring new clients can be costly, while existing relationships are more reliable and profitable. In fact, repeat clients spend close to 70% more than new ones. By investing in existing clients, firms earn trust and fortify their alliances. For example, if you need to renegotiate a fee during the design phase of a project, a long-term contact is more likely to approve a higher fee than a first-time client.

Furthermore, adding a new client to make up for those that leave you is actually decreasing your profits and increasing your marketing costs. If you gain a new client, but lose an existing one because you were unable to give them the attention they need, you end up with the same number of clients as before. Except now, your profit margins will suffer because it costs more to get new customers than to nurture the ones you already have.

Sometimes, however, you need to shake off the dead weight. Just as you can benefit greatly from nurturing your best connections, you should let go of those that aren’t working in your favor. Parting ways with a client may seem counterintuitive. However, difficult clients waste resources and diminish profits. Assess your client list and separate them into three categories, identifying your favorite clients, those you like or need to get to know better, and then those that you would rather not have to deal with. Hopefully, you don’t have anyone in the third category but, if you do, take stock of why you don’t like dealing with this client. Do they always pay late? Do they consistently expect you to double your workload without adjusting your fee? Are they constantly eroding your time with incessant e-mails and phone calls for things that can be addressed at your regular meetings? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, it may be time to part ways.

As an architect or other design professional, you can’t afford to spend time on negative client relationships, especially since your business is subject to unique pressures that often result in diminished budgets and strained cash flow. Think of it this way: the Pareto Principle, also known as the “80/20 Rule,” cited here by Forbes contributor Dave Lavinsky, can demonstrate that 80% of a firm’s profits are generated by 20% of its clients. By keeping strong client relationships and discarding unprofitable alliances, firms free up time and energy to devote to their top 20% clients, resulting in greater financial stability overall.

By recognizing that client relationships directly influence your profitability and by nurturing these relationships as your best assets, you can create a solid foundation on which your business can grow.

Steve Whitehorn is the author of the upcoming book, Ensuring Your Firm’s Legacy, and Managing Principal of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc. The firm is the creator of The A/E Empowerment Program®, a three-step process that helps firms create a more significant legacy and empowers them to achieve greater impact on their projects, relationships, and communities.

 

Little Things Mean A Lot: How to Strengthen Your Professional Relationships

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Whether you follow-up after a meeting with a brief, friendly email, send a client a card for their birthday, or simply pick up the phone to check-in and say hi, every “little thing” that you do to reach out to clients, colleagues, and journalists can help strengthen your professional relationships. These seemingly small actions place you top-of-mind not only with people that you want to do business with, but also with those who can help build your influence. Here are some “little” tips to help build your relationships and get larger returns as a result.

Use a personal touch. In today’s world of e-mails, texts and tweets, don’t underestimate the value of a personal phone call. Take time every so often to pick up the phone to say hi to a prospective client or to catch an editor up on your latest project. You can also stop by a client’s office to say hello or drop off a small token of appreciation you’ve picked up during a recent trip. The idea is that you let people you know know that you’re thinking about them and that they are important to you.

Perfect your timing. Reaching out is important, but don’t forget to factor in when you should be reaching out. Don’t just get in touch with writers and editors when when you want them to write about you or cover your project. Instead, suggest meeting for a coffee to talk about the stories they are covering, your treat. Make a friendly introduction to a third party that shares common interests with your writer friend. Send a thank you note and connect on social media by sending a LinkedIn invitation within 24-48 hours after your meeting. On the other hand, if you know the person is swamped, don’t pester them to meet or call them, they probably don’t have time to talk to you. People appreciate it when you have a sense of their schedule and you work around it.

Socialize on social media. Social media is an essential tool for successful marketing. You can share your work and ideas in real time, while simultaneously making connections with other design pros. Maintain an active Twitter and LinkedIn account and open up communication channels with writers, peers, and potential clients. Connect with, or ask for an introduction to, those folks you want to know. Familiarize yourself with journalist’s Twitter handles and say hi once in awhile. Of course, don’t forget to mention your latest project, too!

Really get to know them. If you take the time to find out what’s important to the people you want to connect with, your chances of establishing professional relationships with them will increase. That means understanding who the journalist is and not just what publications they write for. Make a list of personal as well as professional data about each person, ranging from their alma mater to their extra-curricular accomplishments to what non-work-related subjects in which he or she is interested. If you demonstrate that you know details about the person’s life outside work, it shows you’re interested in building a mutually beneficial relationship.

Strong professional relationships don’t happen overnight. It’s worth investing the time to develop real, lasting relationships with editors, writers, potential clients and peers because it builds a foundation that’s beneficial for your business in the long term.

 

 

Public Relations – Are You an Innie or an Outie?

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Dale Walker is the Director of Communications at Francis Cauffman, a Philadelphia and NYC based architecture firm that has supported its clients since 1954 with innovative architecture, planning, and interior design services. With close to three decades of experience in marketing and communications for the AEC industry, Dale’s expertise includes marketing and proposal strategies, positioning, competitor analysis, collateral development, budget development and administration, as well as networking training.

By Dale A. Walker, CPSM, Director of Communications at Francis Cauffman 

You made it through the first hurdle and agreed that you need a PR program. Your next big decision involves how to implement the program. There are a couple of different approaches: you can assign the task to an internal staff member and/or hire a new staff member, or you can hire an outside PR firm. Each has pros and cons. I will give you my experience with both.

PR as an internal function

The internal staff member will have access to all the latest and greatest as it relates to the inside information you are hoping to publicize. This includes images, descriptions and direct access to your key team members. The internal staff person can multitask, giving you expanded options, because he or she can also help out with other roles in your communications department. Just a word of caution here: this same pro can be a big con. If the team member is pulled into too many additional duties, then the PR program can wind up taking a back seat and your desired goals will suffer. Remember, if the effort is not consistent, the same will be said for your results.

One other note, most publications know that you want your information to be published. They may dismiss an internal effort on your part as self-promotion versus, say, getting the same information from an expert in the field.

PR as an outsourced service

If you have made a wise selection, the PR firm that you hire will already have solid industry contacts and can help guide you through development of your specific plan. Together, you will create and establish a budget based on the activity level that your plan requires. This can begin small and grow until you feel you have found the right balance between results and desired exposure.

The outside PR firm will be able to make this a consistent effort: this is what they do, and there will be no interruptions or loss of momentum.

Next, you need to make all your resources, images, descriptions, and experts available to your outside team. Your outside consultant will help give you more credibility in the marketplace since their team will work their relationships to promote your firm, and results will usually happen on a more accelerated scale.

In summary, don’t worry about how big or small your budget is. This is just the beginning and, regardless of the direction your take, this will be the starting point. Even if you just have a small budget, I recommend working with an outside consultant. Their energy and effort will maintain a consistent level of exposure and credibility. You will achieve much more in a shorter time frame.

 

 

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