Archive for: Public Relations
April is Landscape Architecture Month, and the profession is in the spotlight. What can landscape architects do this Spring and throughout the year to get the attention of the media?
Landscapes take a long time to design and a long time to grow. Unless you’re Michael Van Valkenburgh, you probably don’t have a ribbon cutting every month. What can you do in between major milestones to stay in the news?
You don’t have to start a project campaign from scratch. If you’re working with an architect or engineer, then piggyback on their PR efforts. Engage with all members of your project’s design team to collaborate on press releases, award submissions, and project updates on participating firms’ websites and social media.
If your client is the owner or owner’s rep, suggest the same sort of collaboration to promote your project. This can be a sensitive area, so it may be helpful to set down the PR terms in the contract. If your side of the project is getting surprise media coverage, give your collaborators a chance to share the glory. Your generosity will strengthen your professional relationships with other team members.
But what if you’re on your own? Here are some specific ways to raise your visibility in the landscape design press and beyond:
Watch for trends and jump on the bandwagon. Three instances constitute a trend. For instance, a survey conducted by the ASLA revealed that sustainable, low maintenance designs are rated the most desirable. If you have any such projects in your portfolio, use the survey as the news hook to spread the word.
Grow your presence on social media. It’s not going away, and it’s not that hard. You may not land a project through a Tweet, but Twitter is where news breaks today. It’s where the journalists are. Pinterest is a great showcase for your residential work.
Connect your project with current events. Hillary Clinton’s announcement to run for president may not, on the surface, have much to do with placemaking – until you read this elegant commentary in ARCHITECT.
Become an expert for local news sources. Is there a flood or a drought in your town? Journalists will be looking for quotes from an expert on stormwater management or xeric landscapes. Make sure you’re their contacts list.
Create your own newsworthy event. Curate an exhibition on landscapes or design at the local library or gallery. Organize a fundraiser for an earth-friendly charity. Do a pro-bono project for a school, center of worship, or charitable organization.
Don’t forget to use the resources of the ASLA and its amazing team of public relations professionals who, like you, are out to promote the profession. If you’re not a member, join. Call and introduce yourself. Ask for advice. Ask if they have a media list they could share with you. Are they working on a pitch that your firm could contribute to?
Above all, if you’re getting coverage, don’t sit back and bask: mine it! News begets news. Email links to other journalists, clients, would-be clients, colleagues. Send newsletters. Update your website. Post to social media. Shine your light!
Some of the most needless words in press releases are also the most common.
Many wasted words are holdovers from the early days of PR, when press releases were written on stone tablets. Others are borrowed from the corporate jargon that emerged since the advent of the corporate website.
It’s not just the words but also the number of them that are strung together to say so little. The elements of a bad press release are so familiar that they seem obligatory. And therein lies the problem. Like a virus, they never die.
Here are five common flaws to avoid.
For immediate release. Stop the presses! A company just issued a press release. This line often tops releases. In most cases, the sense of urgency is a bit overblown. It’s an old joke in newsrooms to hold a printout as if it’s hot coal, saying “hot off the press” or something silly like that. You can get off to a better start by removing this piece of old furniture.
We are excited. We’ve all seen the “we are excited” quote so many times that it is easy to fall into the trap of sounding just like all the other excited people quoted in press releases the world over.
Whether you are thrilled, delighted or ecstatic is beside the point. Instead, make an appeal to the emotions of your readers. Why is your news interesting, important or beneficial to them?
Innovative solutions. This corporate phrase has done its duty and has earned its retirement. It conjures stock images of smiling office workers pointing at computer screens in a brightly lit office on the homepage of a once stylish website that’s due for an update.
If you think about it, all companies are in the business of providing solutions. Except for companies that are in the business of creating problems. And we know how well that goes. Instead, tell people what your company does and why it is good for them.
The self-aggrandizing quote. “We are thrilled about our exciting innovation, which is just the latest example of our company’s preeminent position in the solutions industry. It is no wonder we are the market leader in the thing that we do,” said Brag Toomuch, CEO of Boring & Bland.
Don’t be that guy. Use quotes as an opportunity to explain the big-picture significance of your announcement. Why does it matter to the world outside of your headquarters?
Continued on page three. There is no page three. The optimal length of a press release is one page. Two pages is a pardonable offense. Press releases are often written by committee. Passages get added as the work moves up the chain. Aim for one page. Accept the reality of two. Save page three for the “urgent, exciting, solutions” that you’ve “proudly” avoided.
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?
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!
When you give reporters what they need, you get more and better media coverage.
It sounds simple. But we become so focused on what we want from the media that we sometimes forget to consider their needs. If you help them do their job, yours will be easier, too.
You can’t cater to every request. Reporters often want access to information they cannot have.
What they need is a good story.
Every day, sometimes every hour, journalists must “feed the beast.” It could be a magazine article, a news story, a blog post or a tweet. They are forever filling an empty space.
Here are five ways you can help journalists cover your organization.
Be a Source. Reports rely on sources for several aspect of their job. A source can be someone who keeps journalists informed of the latest developments on the topic they cover. A source can also be someone who offers background information, or shows a reporter where to find it. Or, a source can be a subject matter expert they call upon to provide analysis and commentary for their stories.
Offer News Tips. There is a difference between a news tip and a pitch. It comes down to intent and delivery. If the information is valuable and its publication would be mutually beneficial, you are providing a news tip. If you push a self-serving story that is of no use to a journalist, it shows a lack of concern or respect. As an analogy, a professional sales person helps customers make wise choices. And then there are the cold callers. Don’t be a PR telemarketer.
Provide Quotes. Every news story needs quotes. They are hard to get. A reporter has to find someone with something to say and then convince that person to speak on the record. Quotes are statements that journalists hear with their ears, in person or over the phone. Or, in some cases, quotes can be taken from a digital conversation. Press release quotes don’t count; journalists have no easy way to verify that the person quoted actually said that. Let your people talk.
Share Your Data. Reporters always need facts to back up stories. Data-driven journalism is on the rise. Data you gather on industry trends, for example, could be repurposed for media consumption. Not everything is a trade secret. Sometimes, it is worth more to share information than to hoard it. Being the source of valuable data, builds your influence as an industry leader.
Facilitate News Gathering. Facilitators are the people who help reporters get all of the above. They come in many forms: the mayor’s press secretary, a friendly courthouse clerk, a CEO’s administrative assistant, a political operative or a corporate communicator. You can be that person.
Don’t be a palace guard, but don’t become a concierge either. Your relationship with journalists should be a strategic alliance: mutually beneficial, sometimes guarded, and always professional.
To borrow from the Rolling Stones, you can’t give reporters everything they want. But if you try, you can give them what they need.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
There’s no better way to start the New Year off than perfecting your firm’s PR strategy. The first step to improving your firm’s communications plan is developing a clearer understanding of what PR is and what it can do for you. We’ve put together a mini pop quiz of several common misconceptions of PR. How well do you think you’ll score? Take our quiz below to find out.
True or False: Use as many social media platforms as possible to promote your projects.
FALSE. Social media may appear daunting at first, especially when it seems like new platforms are launching everyday. It may be tempting to set up as many profiles as possible in the hopes of reaching a wider audience. However, there’s a reason the phrase “less is more” can be applied to most situations and social media is no exception. It’s important to choose the platforms that will best reach your target audiences. Factors to consider include the amount of time you will spend updating your profiles and also which ones your target audience will be using most frequently. For example, Instagram would be ideal for showing your firm’s creativity through images or short videos as a way to engage with your audience. Remember that it’s the way you use your social media platforms that matter, not how many you use.
True or False: Designing a great building means your firm will get noticed immediately.
FALSE. Your latest project may be the best work your firm has ever done, but that doesn’t guarantee that you will get top press coverage overnight. Quality press coverage requires solid strategy. Developing an effective PR campaign for your firm and projects takes time and starts months before the actual completion date. Getting the word out about your work should start long before the project is finished, so it is helpful to establish a schedule for all press related activities. For instance, update your social media profiles regularly with photos of the project on its way to completion or alert the press to key milestones during the construction process. Sending out a media alert or press release about your project’s topping out or groundbreaking can be an effective way to getting media attention well in advance of the project’s completion.
True or False: If an editor doesn’t answer your follow up about a project, it’s helpful to reach out again.
TRUE. If an editor hasn’t answered your follow up about your latest project, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re not interested. Editors are extremely busy people, and many receive hundreds of emails a day. The key to grabbing an editor’s attention is to find new ways of pitching your project; don’t just repeat the content of your last email. Remember to keep your emails concise. Make the most important information easy to find by leading with it or putting it in the first few sentences.
True or False: Social media is impersonal and time consuming.
FALSE. Social media offers a great advantage in showcasing your firm’s personality by engaging your target audiences with a quick “behind the scenes” look at your firm. You can offer brief and personable updates—providing insight into your firm and work—that don’t need to follow the formalities of press releases or media alerts. For example, tweet about what stage your latest project is in or update your LinkedIn with a status on the latest conference at which you’ll be speaking. Updating your profiles just once a day or a few times a week takes only a couple minutes out of your day, but can help keep your firm’s name top-of-mind with clients and target audiences.
True or False: Developing relationships with the media is not as important as sending out lots of press releases.
FALSE. To create meaningful exposure for your projects, quality content is essential, not the number of press releases you send out. It’s important to keep in mind that while reporters might not cover a story the first time you pitch to them, maintaining regular contact with them can help lead to an exclusive story down the line. That’s why building a professional network of media contacts is so important if you want to get the right kind of press. By establishing a solid rapport with an editor, it will increase the odds that he or she will remember you the next time they’re looking for a story on a specific type of project.
The New Year is only days away! While you’re making your list of personal resolutions, why not take this opportunity to think about what you can do to improve your business next year? Since our theme for December was branding, we’ve put together some resolutions that you can enact in 2015 to strengthen yours. To take your brand to the next level in the coming year, resolve to:
Analyze. Conduct a one-day workshop with your firm’s key leadership to analyze all available information about your company. Review everything from your mission statement and core values, to your list of services and marketing initiatives to date.
Use this workshop to help define/re-define your brand. For example, through discussion you may find that being a trusted advisor is an important value to you, your team and your clients, but your published list of core values doesn’t mention it. Try to find other areas where your messaging and branding do not accurately portray your firm’s values or identity.
A review of your website and other visual marketing materials, such as your logo, may also be helpful. Are they effective? Do they express your firm’s identity? Pinpoint what could be improved upon or changed entirely. After this meeting, use the information you have gathered to tweak, adjust, and further define your brand, messaging, and marketing materials.
Discover. Perform some in-depth research and analysis to understand your firm’s respective markets and services, including interviews with your firm’s key leadership and clients, audits of your visual marketing materials and website, and a review of your competition’s brands.
Internal interviews help you better understand how your team is talking about your firm, and how they are presenting your brand to clients and prospects. Client interviews will help you understand how they perceive your firm and services in the marketplace.
Finally, take a look at what your competition’s brands are like and how they are perceived in the marketplace. What are successful elements of your competition’s brands? How can you present your firm in a different, more effective way than they do?
Communicate. Following your brand analysis, interviews and audits, reconvene your team to discuss what you’ve learned about your firm, your competition, target audiences, and internal/external perceptions of the company. Use this information to develop new internal and external messaging, including a new or revised mission statement for your firm, a tagline, and key messages for different audiences and regions. Decide what you’re going to do to strengthen your firm’s visual brand identity – including changes or updates to your website, logo, and marketing materials. (If you don’t have the services in-house, consulting a graphic designer can be very helpful at this stage.)
Strategize. Next, develop a new strategy for your new brand. Determine which clients and market sectors you are going to target with your new branding. Maybe you find that your target audiences have changed over time, and the majority of your work is coming from a different sector than you had originally targeted. Develop a strategy to adjust your marketing focus and reach your new target audiences through revised messaging, social media, visual marketing, and other business development initiatives.
Activate. Take action with your new brand! Make sure your new mission statement and core values are prominently displayed on your website. Launch a new digital marketing campaign to announce your new branding with an e-blast newsletter series. Start a blog and focus your posts on topics that are of interest to your target audiences. Display your tagline on all company e-mails and marketing. Reinforce your key messages in all your correspondence, social media, and marketing materials.
While defining your brand is not a simple task, it is essential to your long-term success. Just as with all New Year’s resolutions, if you’re consistent and take our suggestions step-by-step, you’ll be well on your way to a strong, effective brand and a prosperous 2015. Happy New Year from all of us at Hausman LLC!
As Andy Williams’ iconic holiday song goes, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” once again! This month, our topic is branding, so we thought we’d discuss one of the strongest brands ever – Santa Claus. We can all learn a lot about branding from Ol’ St. Nick and we’re going tell you why.
What makes Santa so special? Certainly, his enchanted sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer– make that nine, including Rudolph – is one sweet ride. He’s obviously got his logistics and technology in sync, with throngs of magic elves to staff his manufacturing and deliveries. UK ad agency, Quietroom, has produced a fantastic spoof brand book, outlining the formula and guidelines the jolly old elf might have developed to solidify his magnanimous brand power. But there’s more to Santa than all those jingle bells and whistles, and all joking aside, there are several reasons why Santa Claus really is a strong brand.
First off, let’s define what a brand is. In a recent article, Forbes contributor, Jerry McLaughlin writes that a brand is “the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea.” To build a solid brand, he explains, you need three key components: what, how and feeling.
With Santa, the “what,” or in his case “who,” isn’t hard to define. In the most basic, perfunctory of definitions, he brings gifts to good children on Christmas Eve; he’s a service provider. But beyond that, it’s very clear who he is, what his mission is and the values he stands for.
Santa is the embodiment of generosity, goodwill, and the spirit of giving. He’s tirelessly dedicated to his mission, and he consistently exercises fairness in judgment. These qualities clearly express who he is and what he stands for and they define his identity. As a result, his brand resonates with people from all over the world.
And how does he accomplish this solid brand identity? Well, one way he does it is by being consistent. With Santa, you always know what you’re going to get: a jolly, happy, loving, giving, magical old guy. He’s friendly to everyone and everyone wants to be his friend; not just because he brings gifts, but because he’s, well, authentically himself. He’s eternally both child-like and fatherly at once, a character whose warmth and charm are gifts in themselves. And no matter what the temperature outside, he wears the same signature uniform that’s instantly recognizable from Sydney to San Francisco, Bombay to Buenos Aires, or Milwaukee to Moscow. Even celebrities understand the benefit of mimicking his brand. When was the last time you saw Mariah Carey – the undisputed Queen of Christmas – dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Future? Even in fishnet stockings and a short skirt, a Santa hat can make any dicey diva seem wholesome.
Lastly, his brand is palpable and it creates a positive feeling in his target audiences – parents, little kids, teens, old folks, everyone. His image is the ultimate warm-fuzzy-inducer to kids of every age, for a range of reasons from naïveté to nostalgia. It’s no surprise that commercial companies and charitable organizations from Coca-Cola to The Salvation Army use his image to sell their products and raise billions in charitable funds. And even though you rarely see him in person – and even then, only once a year – you know you can count on him. He’s dependable and that creates a sense of security and a feeling of familiarity and deep satisfaction.
So the next time you see him at the mall, or lit up by a million lights on someone’s front yard, contemplate the notion that Santa may very well be the world’s most effective brand. Then, think about how you can become more like him: Define who you are and what you stand for. Differentiate yourself from your competition. Be dependably consistent with your messages. Build emotional connections with your target audiences that will, in turn, create a positive feeling that they will associate with you and what you do. We always knew Santa was a great role model. Who knew he was a great brand model too! Happy Holidays and happy brand building in 2015!