Design on the Haus
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Brien McDaniel, Director of Communications, Senior Associate, for FXFOWLE, has over 23 years of communications, media relations, and special event management experience for higher education, cultural institutions, and architectural practices. At FXFOWLE, Brien is responsible for ensuring that all communication strategies are integrated with the overall vision, values, and strategic business goals of the firm. He also leads the FXFOWLE’s social media initiatives and secures press coverage across all international media outlets.
Today, Brien gives an overview of the planning process behind the release of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect, the latest monograph from FXFOWLE. Next week, he’ll go into the details of producing and publicizing the book, and the results of the outreach.
A brand is worthless if it doesn’t connect with the right audiences in a relevant way.
I came across the above quote while preparing a presentation on FXFOWLE’s monograph, Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (ORO Editions, 2015) for the 2016 AIA convention. I was immediately drawn to it because it encapsulates everything I try to accomplish in marketing and communications, but in particular, it’s a “hit the nail on the head” description the strategic approach I took in planning the book’s release.
My presentation on the FXFOWLE monograph launch was part of a panel discussion (along with Tami Hausman and David Rocosalva of EverGreene Architectural Arts) which focused on the advantages of combining traditional and digital marketing. If you are planning a multi-media campaign, whether for a new monograph, a project announcement, or marketing initiative, I hope my recent experience might inform your efforts when promoting your brand.
A little background about Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (since I’m talking about a book, think of it as a prologue of sorts) will give a bit of perspective on the project. Since the firm’s founding in 1978, FXFOWLE has published three monographs. The two previous books are very traditional and follow a structure common to many monographs: a look back at a body of completed works. For Reveal Filter Evolve Effect, we wanted to break away from the conventional and place more emphasis on the firm’s philosophy and practice. This was a strategic opportunity to be memorable and unique, and, like the aforementioned quote, to connect in a relevant way.
Who is your audience?
With a limited press run of 1,500 copies, we knew we couldn’t send a book to everyone in our database, nor could we afford to do so. The initial edit of the list was easy; staff, colleagues, clients, potential clients, and of course members of the media would receive a copy. But who else should we reach? Well, since we wanted to better connect with academia, we added deans and professors from prominent architecture schools to the list. And then we thought to include influential people—specific individuals such as real estate developers, business professionals, and industry experts who are persuasive, admired, opinionated, and have their finger on the pulse (It didn’t hurt if they had huge Twitter followings, too, which would help our launch announcement go viral). These were people with whom we had little or no existing relationships, but wanted to connect or engage with them further.
What are your goals?
We identified four objectives for our launch campaign:
- Initiate strategic partnerships and build new relationships with potential clients, organizations, and key influencers.
- Strengthen our reputation as a design firm or even reshape that perception.
- Promote our firm culture.
- Last and not easiest: Get Reveal Filter Evolve Effect reviewed in at least one architecture/design publication.
How do you shape your approach?
Because we wanted to approach the monograph’s launch consistent with the manner in which we developed its concept and design—to be different, set ourselves apart from other firms, to be super-heroes (like my good friends and colleagues at Hausman Communications)—we opted not to go the traditional route with a firm-wide party or a one-off event. We brainstormed (yes, that meant a lot of meetings!) and came up with three concepts:
- Create strategic opportunities to share big ideas.
- Find the most effective, thoughtful, and surprising ways to connect with our audience.
- Whenever possible, elevate the design dialogue.
How are you going to accomplish everything?
To follow through on these approaches, in the six months preceding the release of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect, our team of three partners, two marketing/communication coordinators, a graphic designer, and myself laid the groundwork for a series of special events that would provide simultaneous opportunities to publicize the book and the FXFOWLE brand. Panel discussions, invitation-only dinners to facilitate one-to-one connections with VIPs (we called them ‘salon dinners’), traditional book signings, college lectures, and an art exhibition that highlighted the firm’s creative process allowed us to reach a diverse, targeted audience in memorable ways.
Next week: We look at the details of producing and publicizing the book, and the results of the outreach.
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!
Recently, our partners told me that they want to refresh our brand. We’re a 53-year-old architecture firm. I’ve heard a lot about branding, but I’m not sure what that means. Do we have to design a new logo, create a new website, change our name? It sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t even know where to start. Please help!
Need Some Brand-Aid
Well, look Brand-Aid, it’s the holidays, so you have a little time to relax and think about your big moves for 2015. The Doctor is not such a Scrooge that she doesn’t think that you need a few days off to recharge, just like your smartphone.
But! It will be a new year very soon, and that’s the perfect time to refresh your brand. Ok, so let’s get down to some specifics, because different people define branding in different ways. For example, some consider your logo and graphics to be your brand – the things that we simply used to call your “corporate identity.” And that’s part of it. We’ve all seen outdated logos and graphics, and it’s not a pretty sight. Think about it: you wouldn’t wear a Santa suit on July 4th, so you don’t want to start 2015 with a logo that’s stuck in the 1980s! But there’s more to branding than just your visual identity.
Here at Hausman, we define “brand” as the core values that distinguish your firm. Let’s be clear about this: you’re a professional services firm, not Heinz ketchup! So while you want to promise and deliver great architecture, it’s not just the quality of your product (i.e. buildings) that help you build your brand, it’s also the quality of your services and the level of knowledge that you bring to clients. You need to know what your clients want and need, and then figure out a good way to give them what you want. Hotels here are a good analogy – are you the kind of firm that provides room service and has a spa, or do you have a breakfast buffet and Internet service? Your firm has to figure out what it wants to be. After that, you need to reinforce that brand in every way possible. This includes your “look” or corporate identity (including your website), how you describe yourself, and any proactive communications, such as articles and press releases.
It’s critical to have unified messages about your firm when you talk about how your design process operates and how you pitch the firm to targeted client groups. Just as you are all using the same logo and the same font, make sure you are all making the same promise to clients – and meeting that promise. Most important, branding is about building a strong, solid reputation, and there’s no better selling point than that.
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!