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A Quick PR Quiz for AEC Professionals

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To help you perfect your communications strategy in 2017, we’ve put together a pop PR quiz highlighting some common misconceptions about public relations. How do you think you’ll score?

True or False: Use as many social media platforms as possible to promote your projects

FALSE. It may be tempting to set up as many profiles as possible in the hopes of reaching the widest audience, but it’s more effective to selectively choose the channels that will reach your target audiences. For example, image-centric Instagram is ideal for showing your firm’s creativity through photographs; more text-heavy postings on LinkedIn will connect with executives. Remember “Less is more”: It’s the way you use your social media platforms that matters, 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 editorial requires solid strategy. Developing an effective PR campaign for your firm and projects takes time. 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. Update your social media regularly with photos of the project to alert the press to construction milestones.

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 responded to your follow up about your latest project, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re not interested. 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. Tip: Keep your emails concise. Make the most important information easy to find by putting it in the first few sentences, or use bullet points to call out key ideas.

True or False: Social media is impersonal and time consuming

FALSE. Social media offers a great advantage in showcasing your firm’s personality by providing a “behind the scenes” look at your firm and its work. You can offer brief, personable updates that don’t need to follow the formalities of press releases. Updating your accounts daily or a few times a week takes only a couple minutes, and 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 critical. 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.

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

Worth a Thousand Words: Make a Photographic Impact on Social Media

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May is National Photography Month, so we are going to explore how you can use professional and snapshot photography to promote your firm and projects on social media.

Using photos and imagery in your social media will boost your company’s virtual presence, promote your projects, and engage your audience. In fact, Tweets with images get 2 times the engagement rate of those without them. The following are a few strategies for using photography to communicate about your work.

Tell a story with your photographs. Social media platforms allow you to take your audiences – clients, colleagues, potential clients, fans – on a story-telling journey. Your followers want to see snapshots of your projects at every stage, from design concept through completion. Showing them your process through photos is a great way to show them your personality as a designer, what your office culture is like, who your employees are, and so on. Tell them a story with the photographs that you upload on social media channels like Instagram and Twitter. For example, you can choose a collection of project photos that represent your firm’s signature style and post them as #signatureproject. Or you could choose a different photo every day of projects, people, and places that tell a story about your firm and its work as #photooftheday. Whatever you post, choose photos that tell a story and share them!

Build your virtual portfolio. You probably already have a portfolio of your projects on your website. But you can also use platforms like Pinterest or Instagram to create a virtual project portfolio on social media and use it as an active way to engage your audiences. For example, you can create a Pinterest board to show off all of your projects in one typology such as healthcare or cultural buildings. In fact, the more boards you create the more opportunities you create for other users to pin your photos to their boards. Showcase your projects, from renderings to final photography. Optimize all the images that you upload and remember to link back to your website.

Take control of your firm’s existing presence on platforms like Pinterest, where users may already be pinning images of your projects. Photos of your projects may already exist on other people’s Pinterest boards. Take control of those images by re-pining to your board and expand your audience by following other users who admire your work. This will not only increase your exposure but it will also build your network.

You can also create a virtual gallery on Twitter. You can tweet links to your gallery and use it as yet another way to engage your audience and promote your projects.

Show the evolution of a project. You do not have to wait until the completion of a project to promote it. The power of social media, specifically Instagram, allows you to keep the conversation going, from planning to completion. Instagram is a good platform that delivers informal snapshots to your audience and gives them the opportunity to follow, share, and comment as a project progresses. Use Instagram to take your audience through the journey of your project and capture moments throughout the life of the project to tell a story. Choose a project in the beginning stages of design and show it’s progress by posting photos as the project progresses from concept to construction through opening day. Your audience wants to see photos of behind-the-scenes (you could use a hashtag like #bts), events, and people. Always remember that it’s important to use hashtags because they allow your tweets to trend on other users Twitter feeds, sparking new conversations and re-tweets.

So, whether it’s an informal snapshot of your team hard at work on your next design or a professional photo of a completed building, remember that using photography on social media has huge potential to engage and grow your audience.

Design Your Social Media Landscape

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Editor’s Note: April is World Landscape Architecture Month #WLAM2015. In recognition of this month-long celebration, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) held numerous events to bring greater awareness to the discipline. As part of that effort, Dr. Tami Hausman, president of Hausman LLC, participated on a panel about social media for the ASLA NY Chapter. The following is based on her presentation.

One of the most important keys to marketing and PR, even social media, is that it’s about developing relationships. In fact, unlike traditional media where information is presented without interaction, with social media you can start and participate in conversations.

To be effective, however, social media must be part of an overall, integrated communications strategy. Integrated communications is a holistic approach that can help you in three ways:

  • First, it’s proactive. Take clear steps to disseminate messages about your service and products.
  • Second, it’s targeted. Focus on building relationships with people who are receptive to your messages.
  • Third, it’s strategic. Articulate your value proposition and talk in your clients’ language so you connect with them.

So how can an integrated communications approach help your social media efforts?  Keep the following strategies in mind when you’re writing your next LinkedIn post or drafting your next Tweet:

Address your various audiences. You will never have just one audience; you have many. So it’s important to remember that your messages must be targeted to different groups, which include:

  • Potential clients
  • Existing clients
  • Decision makers
  • Peers
  • Your own broad network of people

Focus the information you share and target it to each audience. Give them new information about your firm that will be useful for their business and what they do. And, if you really want to connect with them, you must use clear language that’s free of industry jargon.

Define your messages. It’s really important to craft your messages so you can differentiate your firm from your competition and define your identity in the marketplace. What makes you different from the other firms in your area? Are your firm’s principal’s hands-on and accessible? Are your designs traditional or cutting-edge?

Above all, remember that you’re selling landscape architecture services. So you need to be able to explain what you do to potential clients who may not have the knowledge of your field – or even what the difference is between LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS and LANDSCAPERS. Don’t assume that your audience already knows your message. Be clear!

Get Visual. Visually based social media platforms are the places where landscape architecture firms can really excel. You can use Instagram or Pinterest, but now Twitter and even Linked In have added photo send capabilities, and Twitter is even adding the ability for you to tweet short videos. Statistically, it’s been proven that Tweets with images get the highest response.

The other reason that these social media platforms are so useful is that you can start a conversation about a project even while it’s in process. We all know it takes a long time for landscape projects to be designed, built, and then developed. But you don’t need to wait until your project is finished to start a Pinterest board or launch a campaign on Instagram.

Video is also really important because it allows you to actually describe a project in real time. It’s also a good way for people to get a sense of your “on-camera” style if you are trying to book speaking engagements or get interviewed on broadcast TV, for example.

Above all, remember to keep it brief. With social media, less is more. You have to be able to say what you want to say in just a few words or pictures. Make sure your message is focused, you know your audiences and you use all available channels for communication, as we’ve mentioned above.

Grab their attention and excite them with your dynamic projects and ideas. And, above all, be true to yourself: just as nothing beats good work, sincerity is the most effective tool you’ve got in your social media arsenal. Don’t forget to use it!

Make your Landscape Architecture PR Bloom in 5 Easy Steps

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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!

Raise Your Professional Profile from the Dead

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It’s October once again; when bumps in the night and creepy creatures can rattle even the bravest folks. But the scariest thing that can happen to you this season is when you realize you’ve let your professional profile slip into the darkness! Here are a few tips to help you change from an industry ghost into a highly visible professional and raise your profile from the dead.

Jump-start your presence on social media. We know that social media can be a scary prospect for those of you who have yet to become actively engaged in using it to promote your business. In fact, in our next post, we’ll lay out a detailed plan for how you can conquer your social media fears and get with the rest of the cyber-verse. But for those of you already on social media – and who may have let their activity fall into oblivion – a focused approach is the best way to get back into the land of the living.

If you haven’t already, you can create a blog that’s connected to your website. Write about topics that demonstrate your expertise, current projects, or design trends.  Try to post to your blog at least three times per month.

Next, use Twitter and LinkedIn – probably the two most important social media tools you can use to raise your profile – to further augment your exposure to current and past clients, potential clients, and the media as well as to other architects, engineers, and designers. Use Twitter to lead audiences to your website, blog, and vice versa. A LinkedIn profile will help you maximize your professional connections. Additionally, A/E/C industry networks like Architizer, Honest Buildings, Houzz, Porch, and others are excellent ways to network with other industry professionals, build relationships, and get more work. Set a goal to post at least three times per week.

Get involved with professional organizations. Participation in key professional organizations can help you build and maintain valuable relationships, be more accessible to potential clients, and get in front of the right types of clients. For example, if you want to reach developers and other real estate industry leaders to get more commercial work, then participating in pro organizations where they are involved is an effective way to reach these decision makers. For greatest impact, you need to attend events on a regular basis, and participate in committees or join boards, in order to gain access to the most valuable networking opportunities.

Share your expertise and thought leadership at conferences. Another thing you can do to pull your low profile out of zombie land is to begin participating in panels and speaking opportunities. These can be excellent ways to share your experience, expertise and personality with your target audiences. If public speaking scares you to death, start off small and practice with colleagues in your firm. For your presentations, focus on topics that demonstrate your expertise in particular building typologies or industry sectors such as healthcare. Once you get more comfortable speaking, participate in a panel discussion at your local AIA chapter. If you find you’re good at it and you enjoy it, you can start submitting yourself to speak at bigger meetings and conferences for greater exposure.

Just because the daily grind has caused you to let your exposure slip into an early grave, doesn’t mean it’s dead. All it takes is a strategic, steady approach to social media, networking, and speaking opportunities to revive yourself and get the professional exposure you deserve. Your audiences will be screaming “it’s alive!”

Share the #SocialMediaLove

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On February 15, couples around the world breathed a sigh of relief. Whew – another 364 days until you have to shower your partner with material displays of affection! You may be off the hook in the romance department, but when it comes to developing your professional relationships, you’re on call year-round.

We think February is a great time to re-focus your attention on and re-direct your efforts around your professional relationships. That’s why our theme for this month’s installment of Design on the Haus is Build Relationships, Build Influence. Your network of professional relationships is a pipeline that brings you new business, new partnership opportunities, and recognition in your field. Overall, it enhances your credibility, and can make your job a bit more pleasant, to boot!

In 2014, building relationships involves more than just facetime and power lunches. If you harness the power of social media, you can truly make your relationships work for you.

Relationships that bridge both the online and offline worlds are the most valuable assets in today’s social landscape. In order to create these relationships in real life, start from the first point of contact. For example, whenever you meet someone in person at an event, follow up online the next day. Connect on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, like their company’s page on Facebook, and follow them on Pinterest.

Then, take it a step further by actively engaging. You can retweet, favorite, or respond to their tweets, comment on their LinkedIn updates, or repin their pins on Pinterest. Be creative! These little touches take only a few moments of your time, but they’ll remind your new contact that you are thinking of him or her. As we mentioned in our first post on relationships, it takes three to five touch points, on average, to build a strong relationship. Social media engagement is an efficient way to hit some of those touch points.

But social media is not enough to solidify the relationship. As you probably know, just because you’re Facebook friends, doesn’t mean you’re friends in real life. By the same token, connecting to someone on LinkedIn doesn’t mean that you have a viable professional relationship with that contact.

In order to do that, we recommend you meet any new contact in person. If you’re in the neighborhood, suggest a coffee date or offer to drop by his/her office. If he or she is too busy to meet that day, follow up a few weeks later with another invitation. If you’re attending a conference together in a different city, set up a time to catch up over dinner or breakfast. Setting aside the time for a face-to-face meeting shows that you are serious about developing the relationship. The best connections are memorable ones, and people are far more memorable than screennames!

This month, commit to getting outside your comfort zone as you develop your relationships, whether that means engaging in person, or online. We think you’ll find that when online and offline intersect, the result is a relationship that’s twice as strong.

Posted by Beth Connolly

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