Design on the Haus
Summer is the perfect time to do some strategic thinking, so we’ll continue our snapshot of “A Three-Phase Program to Fast-Track Your Design Business for Profit.” Dr. Tami Hausman participated in the panel at the 2015 AIA National Convention in May, along with Lisa Henry, CEO of Greenway Group, and Stephen Whitehorn, managing principal of Whitehorn Financial Group.
In this installment, “The Doctor” gives her prescription for communicating more effectively about your projects to win the next ones. And we’re particularly excited about this post because it’s the 200th for Design on the Haus. Go Team Hausman!
Communicate with impact!
Now that you have your strategic plan underway, you want to communicate more effectively. It’s essential to define your message(s) so you can differentiate your firm in the marketplace. Knowing your message or messages will point you in the direction that you want to go.
Mark Twain said that “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.” But, sarcasm aside, clear and precise communcations is the cornerstone to any business. It sounds obvious, but we all know the kind of people who talk on and on and on and don’t listen, don’t we? My father calls these people “Books on Tape.”
But really good communication is a conversation between people. So whether you’re networking or selling or publicizing your work, you need to engage your clients and audiences – not talk at them.
This is particularly important in the AEC industry, because many clients do not understand exactly what designers do. It’s your job to educate them. The best way to engage with your audience is to provide information that they don’t already know. In other words, you should “teach not preach.”
Who are you talking to?
Keep in mind that you will never have just one audience, you have many. So your messages must be targeted to different groups, which include potential clients, existing clients, decision makers, your peers, and your broad network, among others.
What do communications with all these audiences have in common? That’s the golden rule of outreach, which is: It’s about them, it’s not about you.
First, they want to know that you understand their business. And, second, if you want to connect with them, there is no substitute for clear language that’s free of jargon. You also have to customize your language to your audiences, because different audiences will want to hear different stories about your work. The good news is that you can tell plentiful stories about each of your projects. It’s a great way to get wide coverage.
Make it matter
No matter what kind of outreach you do, remember that you must first, number one, support your strategic business goals. Focus your efforts on the PR campaigns that are going to yield the greatest results for you and your firm.
Second, use your resources wisely. Say, for example, you just finished a private house, but you’re really interested in designing hospitals. You need to decide where you should spend your time and money. You may not want to do a big campaign that’s focused on your residential work.
Last, you need to be timely. When you’re getting started to launch an outreach campaign about a project, always think big and be relevant. Connect the project to a holiday, a trend, a topical news issue, or an event.
One more good reason
Still on the fence? Here’s another good reason to do outreach: in most instances, your competition is probably already doing it. And if they are not, and you start an outreach program, it will put you that much ahead of the game.
This post is the first in our new series “FunHaus” where we explore the people, places, and things we love. Enter the FunHaus!
“A new standard for online journalism,” commented Bencharif on the The New York Times’ review of the new Whitney Museum.
We couldn’t agree more. The review, if that’s still the right word for it, was a collaboration between writer Michael Kimmelman, a team of graphic artists, and the architect Renzo Piano – produced entirely without photography of the new museum. The goal was to “create a seamless experience that would leave readers with a greater understanding of the building than could be achieved in a more traditional story form,” wrote Graham Roberts, one of the graphic artists. Mission accomplished.
Architecture lends itself marvelously to video. It’s a visual medium, obviously, but also a kinetic one. Time is one of its components: buildings are designed to be moved through (see our recent post on architecture as experience by guest blogger and architectural historian, John Kriskiewicz). Designers looking to get their work published, even without photography, should consider creating similar fly-throughs with their existing 3-D models.
Kimmelman’s words are punctuated by several kinetic experiences. The reader/viewer passes through walls, zips backwards along an interior corridor, zooms in and out. The videos move fast, but one of the lovelier moments is a lingering slideshow of historic images of the uptown building.
No buttons to press, no links to follow; the experience is automatic. This curated approach is not to everyone’s taste. M Hagood in Brooklyn said, “I am giving up, because the design keeps hijacking my page and sending me off on a visual roller coaster. Look, I like design. I teach design. This is just a pain in the behind.” Overall, however, the reception was enthusiastic. Richard in Denver gets the last word: “The best review overall in decades.”
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!
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?
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.
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
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.
“Can you fix my backyard?“
If you’re a landscape architect, you’ve had to listen to this question a hundred times. Your friends think your job is to prune their roses and mow their lawn. You may also hear, “Oh, you live in New York? There can’t be much work for landscape architects there.” In reality, major urban centers attract landscape architects in droves. Or, “Frederick Law who? You mean Central Park did not spring fully formed into existence?”
What steps, then, can a modest landscape architect take to educate the world about the role she is playing in the community’s quality of life and physical well-being and promote her work, all at the same time? How can she shed light on her widely misunderstood profession, in the process positioning herself as a thought-leader (without coming across as an egomaniacal self-promoter)?
How would she explain that landscape architects design anything under the sky – or even, in the case of New York’s planned Lowline park — under the ground? That plants are not a requirement of a design? That landscape architects remove toxins from rainwater, sequester carbon dioxide, prevent floods, alleviate drought, create shade, produce food?
She could start by checking out the tips in our previous blog posts. If, like many gifted designers, she is more visual than verbal, she doesn’t have to reinvent the wheelbarrow. The ASLA’s Public Awareness page is chock-full of beautifully designed, clearly written materials prepared by journalists, marketers, PR professionals, and landscape architects. You’ll find fliers and buttons, posters and video, even certificates of appreciation. You’ll find “Designed by a Landscape Architect” signs to install in your local spaces, and guidance on how to organize a landscape rededication ceremony. Get involved with your local ASLA chapter.
In her own community, she can visit schools, and involve kids in designing playgrounds or urban agriculture. She can join her community board, or give talks at her church, garden club, or design week event. She can contribute op-eds on a topic in the news, such as her city’s flood prevention strategy; write letters to the editor. Participate in Parklet Day by creating a pop-up park in a vacant parking space. Donate her skills: organize an Earth Day tree planting or pruning, or a screening of Frederick Law Olmsted: Landscape Architect in April (Landscape Architecture Month). Sketch with a group of friends in a public place. Strangers will want to know what you’re up to.
The possibilities are endless, so use your imagination and grow some of your own. The better the profession is understood, the better it is for your business, the community, the planet.
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
- 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!
by Steve Whitehorn
The financial success of any firm is built upon its personal relationships. However, many firms often fail to realize this basic truth. The endless pursuit of new clients to expand market share is an outmoded, counterproductive strategy. You can spend an overwhelming proportion of your marketing budget trying to win new clients, but in the process you miss out on the bottom-line benefits that come from nurturing existing connections.
According to Donna Fenn, contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, acquiring new clients can be costly, while existing relationships are more reliable and profitable. In fact, repeat clients spend close to 70% more than new ones. By investing in existing clients, firms earn trust and fortify their alliances. For example, if you need to renegotiate a fee during the design phase of a project, a long-term contact is more likely to approve a higher fee than a first-time client.
Furthermore, adding a new client to make up for those that leave you is actually decreasing your profits and increasing your marketing costs. If you gain a new client, but lose an existing one because you were unable to give them the attention they need, you end up with the same number of clients as before. Except now, your profit margins will suffer because it costs more to get new customers than to nurture the ones you already have.
Sometimes, however, you need to shake off the dead weight. Just as you can benefit greatly from nurturing your best connections, you should let go of those that aren’t working in your favor. Parting ways with a client may seem counterintuitive. However, difficult clients waste resources and diminish profits. Assess your client list and separate them into three categories, identifying your favorite clients, those you like or need to get to know better, and then those that you would rather not have to deal with. Hopefully, you don’t have anyone in the third category but, if you do, take stock of why you don’t like dealing with this client. Do they always pay late? Do they consistently expect you to double your workload without adjusting your fee? Are they constantly eroding your time with incessant e-mails and phone calls for things that can be addressed at your regular meetings? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, it may be time to part ways.
As an architect or other design professional, you can’t afford to spend time on negative client relationships, especially since your business is subject to unique pressures that often result in diminished budgets and strained cash flow. Think of it this way: the Pareto Principle, also known as the “80/20 Rule,” cited here by Forbes contributor Dave Lavinsky, can demonstrate that 80% of a firm’s profits are generated by 20% of its clients. By keeping strong client relationships and discarding unprofitable alliances, firms free up time and energy to devote to their top 20% clients, resulting in greater financial stability overall.
By recognizing that client relationships directly influence your profitability and by nurturing these relationships as your best assets, you can create a solid foundation on which your business can grow.
Steve Whitehorn is the author of the upcoming book, Ensuring Your Firm’s Legacy, and Managing Principal of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc. The firm is the creator of The A/E Empowerment Program®, a three-step process that helps firms create a more significant legacy and empowers them to achieve greater impact on their projects, relationships, and communities.
I’m an architect with a strong professional network, including over 500+ connections on LinkedIn. I’m also a member of the AIA. But my network is predominately made up of other design professionals and colleagues in the AEC industry. I feel like it’s a new year, and I need to do something different. I’d like to broaden my reach and meet new people. And I was just promoted to associate, so I need to be able to bring new business into the firm. Can you suggest some ways that I can develop a presence beyond my immediate circle of colleagues and get to potential clients?
Off the Radar
Well, Off the Radar, you are certainly asking all the right questions. And you’re in luck, because the Doctor has answers. But, I have to admit, your timing may be off by just a teeny weeny bit, because it’s been a brutally cold winter – at least for those of us who live in the Northeast – and who wants to be running around proverbially knocking on doors to meet people in this cold? However, don’t you worry, because the Doctor has some ideas! And you don’t always have to brave subzero temperatures to make important connections.
Let’s start with LinkedIn. It’s great to have so many connections. But have you tried to take advantage of the people you know? I mean that in the best possible sense! For example, you may find that one of your LinkedIn connections knows someone who you want to meet. Maybe he or she can make an online introduction for you. Or, even better, you can all get together for coffee. Just make sure that you dress warm and wear plenty of warm clothes when you go out. (I know, I know, I’m not THAT kind of doctor, but I still care about you).
Another way to build your influence is to start a conversation about a topic on LinkedIn. If you don’t want to dip your toe in such deep water, at least you can start to post updates on LinkedIn on a regular basis. It’s good to show your network that you’re alive and kicking!
As for meeting new people, well it just means that you need to change up your surroundings and the company you keep. Other architects are great, but you can’t just hang around the same people all the time because, ya know, that just gets BOR-ING. And if you want to meet potential clients, then you need to start stalking professional events where you know those folks might be (ok, I’m not advocating the creepy kind of stalking, of course, just saying that you need to put yourself in the company of people who you want to do business with). When you go to events, make sure you get there early and actually talk to people. The great news about networking events is that…just like you, people are there to network! Imagine that! Even better, if you find an organization that you like, get involved in a committee or seek out a board position. You can attend as many breakfast meetings as you like, but there is no substitute for digging in your heels, really getting involved in an organization and forging strong relationships that really matter.
Remember, too, that you can meet potential clients anywhere. Get involved in a charity or do some pro bono work for a local community group. You never know where your next client may turn up. And you’ll feel gratified by helping others – a double win!
You could also consider writing some articles about your expertise. Many trade journals and other publications are always looking for good content. This can be a great way to start building up your visibility in front of potential clients. And, even better, you don’t have to go out in this freezing weather to do it!
However you decide to begin, Off the Radar, stay warm and try not to get “cold feet”…and remember to have fun!
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.