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Effective Strategies for Communicating Your Firm: Plan Wisely

Kirsten-Sibilia-CMO1-154x154

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

By Kirsten Sibilia

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Hosting an Effective Media Event

Hand holding a megaphone promotion social media icons. Concept c

The day of your media event has arrived! It’s time to play cruise director, tour guide, and publicist. Don’t worry: in this post, we’re going to walk you through the event so that you’ll come out looking like you’ve got your own team of professionals who planned the event for you.

Here’s what you need to do to make the most of your media tour:

Arrange transportation. If your project is out of town, you’ll want to make arrangements for transportation to the project. A mini-charter can be a good choice because you’ll be able to control the departure and return of your group. If an editor or writer is coming from another location to meet the rest of the group at the project, offer to reimburse them for their travel. Coordinate one pick-up and drop-off location, with a specific time for everyone to meet. Have a list of everyone joining you for the tour, so you can check off their names as they arrive.

Feed the crowd. If you’re asking folks to give an entire day – or even a half-day – to see your project, you should make catering arrangements. Make sure to have water and other beverages and snacks available for your guests if the bus or train trip to your project will be an hour or more. A box lunch to be enjoyed on the bus, or a post-event reservation at a nearby restaurant is always a good idea. Sharing a meal with the journalists is a great way for you to get to know what they like to write about and for them to learn more about your work.

Guide the tour. Once you arrive at the project, it’s show time! Prepare to be tour guide extraordinaire and show off your work. Plan ahead of time what you will be saying and plan stopping points along the way. For example, if you’ve designed a new office building, think about the most interesting features and design aspects of the project. Mark the location of each of these on your project map and plan to stop and talk about these features. Remember, however, to be brief. Don’t turn the tour into a lecture!

Don’t forget social media. Find the right moments to Tweet and Instagram during the event, or post the event to LinkedIn. This is a great way to document your event and to show the folks that couldn’t make the event what they missed!

After the event, follow up. Following your event, send a quick thank-you to your guests. Even if they don’t write about your project, it’s good to show your appreciation for taking the time to see it.

A media event can help you promote a new project but, more importantly, it can be an effective way to strengthen your relationships with the media and the people you want to talk about your projects. The more they know you, the more likely they will be to write about your projects in the future.

Planning an Effective Media Event

Plan Media Event

This month, we’ve discussed phasing your publicity and communications outreach over the different stages of your project from ground breaking to ribbon-cutting. At last, the day you’ve been waiting for is finally here and your new project is ready to be shown to the press! A great way to do this is to organize a media event. It may sound daunting at first, but with a little planning you can host an event that will not only get you the attention you deserve, but it will be fun too!

Here’s what you need to do to plan an effective media event:

Make a guest list. Like any event, you need to decide who you want to be there. If you’ve followed our previous advice, you already have a well-defined list of media professionals – editors, freelance writers, and photographers – that you will want to invite. Choose the top 20 or so that you really want to visit your project. Remember that it’s good to have your top choices and then 2nd and 3rd choices because everyone will not be able to attend; a good rule of thumb is that you’ll get about 20% of the people you invite to actually join you for your event. Make sure all e-mail addresses and phone numbers on your list are correct and up-to-date.

Create a Save-the-Date and invitation. As soon as possible, create a save-the-date with the date of your media event and a professional photo of your project, as well as an invitation with more details of the event. Remember that first impressions mean everything, so the save-the-date and invitation should look professional. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on a graphic artist to make these materials; you can use PowerPoint or Photoshop to create your own. E-mail the Save-the-Date at least 30 days prior to your event and the official invitation at least 3 weeks prior. Be sure to include contact information where invitees can RSVP and provide a clear “RSVP by” date.

Make a press kit. A press kit is usually a folder of hard-copy materials or a flash drive with PDFs and photos, or both. Your press materials should always include the following: A contact sheet of professional photos of your project; a project fact sheet with the details of your project such as milestone dates, design team info, design challenges, special features, materials, etc.; a firm profile; and team biographies. A map, floor plans or drawings of the project are also good to include.

Make an itinerary. An itinerary will help you schedule out the day. It may seem rigorous but you’ll thank yourself for planning out every item of the day and coordinating it to a set schedule. You don’t have to herd everyone around and be a task master, monitoring every minute, but an itinerary is invaluable in making sure the event stays on schedule.

In our next post, we’ll cover everything you need to do to host an effective media event. If you plan correctly, your big day will be a huge success!

 Three Ways To Make Those Lazy Summer Days More Productive

Susan Murphy

For our featured guest post this month, we welcome Susan Murphy, Principal of Murphy Motivation & Training, which takes a rigorous approach to help clients learn proven successful ways to take their communication, relationship building, sales and presentation skills to a higher level. Susan is a woman with a mission: to teach and coach the same behavior that led her from being a timid girl to a woman whose feet hit the floor each morning in flame-throwing communication mode. 

By Susan Murphy

It’s summertime and the living is easy. Sometimes too easy. That can makes things more difficult when the Fall energy hits and everyone is raring to go after Labor Day.

Here are three things you can do to use your time well and become more productive during the lighter and slower days of this glorious season:

  •  Respect Nature: Get up with the sun. Consider opening your office an hour earlier than usual and getting out earlier. Yes, we know many of our clients (and we) don’t rule our lives by a meager eight-hour workday, but summer could be just the time to try that.   You might be surprised at how you and your people learn to prioritize work if you know that, come five o’clock, you can be by at the pool or the beach instead of on the subway.
  • Re-Connect: Although business is on the uptake, things do tend to slow down in the summer months. Use that time to see clients and friends in the business for breakfast or lunch. This time of year feels more festive. It is reunion time, too. Things are looser and connections are easier to make. Business Development never felt so good. Pick up a picnic lunch and meet a client by the river or in the park. They’ll think of you first all year long.
  • Re-think Space: Who says you have to meet or work inside? Just as that client picnic revs up the relationship, being outside gives you and your colleagues or partners a boost. If anyone in your office has access to a pool, meet there. Take breaks with a dive. Read and write reports sitting on your front porch. Have your conference call from the front lawn or terrace.

Sometimes becoming more productive and more organized is a function of being more relaxed. Put the time-tested tenets of summer to work for you. And, don’t forget the keystone of organization and time management: keep track of your progress so you can see what works. That dive into cool water might just be the management tool you were looking for!

 

 

#GlobalArchitecture: Test Your Knowledge, Part 2

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

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

How did you do?

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

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

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

 

What drew you to the field of communications?

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

 

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

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

 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Be fearless.

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