Design on the Haus
This month, we’re giving AEC industry professionals tips on the best ways to improve their websites. In our first installment, nationally recognized architectural photographer Brad Feinknopf offers insight on investing in good photography. The Columbus-based photographer has been shooting architecture and commercial related images for over 25 years. His images have been published worldwide and over his career has done a wide variety of work for many of the world’s well-known architects and designers. Brad was recently selected by ArchDaily as one of the Top 13 Architectural Photographers in the World to Follow.
By Brad Feinknopf
We live in a visual society. People gravitate to the image. In Eric Bricker’s 2008 documentary film, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, narrator Dustin Hoffman quotes the renowned architectural photographer saying,
“Architects live and die by the images taken of their work; as these images alone are what people see. For every one person who visits a private house, there may be ten thousand who only view it as a photo.”
This quote – which I’ve proudly attached to my e-mail signature – was made before the advent of the Internet and those “ten thousand” people to which Shulman refers could now easily number in the hundreds of thousands or even millions when one considers the multitude of Design and Architectural blogs that publish imagery.
Digital newsletters and alerts from top architectural blogs like ArchDaily or Architizer show up in your inbox, largely as a series of images, and only when you click on them do you get the words. Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Stumbledupon and other image-driven social media platforms are growing exponentially. Even Twitter, which is a text-based platform, has become a popular vehicle for disseminating links to videos and images.
Would you maintain a subscription to Architect, Architectural Record, Interior Design or Contract if there were no photography? How many periodicals do you read that contain mere pontifications on design and present no images? Obviously, imagery is important and it’s not just important, it’s paramount.
I am an architectural photographer and I should know. When someone visits my website, I have one chance to grab their attention. I have tirelessly gone through my galleries to make certain that each one shows depth. I constantly update my online portfolios so they maintain their freshness, and I try to make sure my descriptions are strong, cohesive and grammatically correct. But in the end, it is the first handful of images – and these images alone – that will either compel the viewer to delve deeper into my website or move on.
As you market your projects, your challenge is exactly the same as mine. When a visitor lands on your website, you need the right photography to draw the viewer in or they will click away to someone else’s homepage.
The same is true for competitions and the press. I’ve spoken about the importance of imagery to numerous editors for prominent architecture and design publications, as well as jurors for AIA and other major competitions at every level. They all say the same thing: “The first cut is made entirely based upon photography. If the photography isn’t good, we move on. If the photography is good and the project looks interesting, we look deeper.”
Regardless, whether the material is your website, an awards submittal or a package for a print or online publication, it is the photography you are using that will ultimately move you beyond the first pass.
In light of this, try viewing photography not as an expense but as an investment. Like any investment, good photography should provide a return: it should garner you new work, help you win awards, and, hopefully, even get your firm and your projects published.
The way I see it, if my clients get new commissions, win awards, or get published, I have, in some small capacity, helped them to succeed through my photography. I’m not so arrogant as to believe that their success is solely due to my work and my images, but I will say that a good project with great photography will often go much farther than a great project with poor photography. Likewise, if you have a great project with equally great photography, the possibilities may be endless.
So, when you’re looking at your website and thinking, “How can we do things better? How can we win that next commission, or that next award? How can we get ourselves published?” You will almost always find the answer by looking to your imagery. Is it up to snuff? Could it be better? Investing in the right photography could very likely be one of the most critical factors in determining the level of success your firm may enjoy in the years ahead.
In our previous posts this month, we’ve covered using drawings and diagrams to communicate the design complexities of your projects and we’ve given you a strategic plan for writing your first book. In this post, we want to take you step-by-step through creating your own videos and using them to showcase your portfolio and your firm to the world.
Video can be an excellent vehicle for promoting your projects, people and ideas. Not only can you shoot a virtual tour of your latest building, you can also film any lectures or speaking engagements that you do. It can be a great way to share your expertise with students, colleagues, fans, and journalists. Video is also an effective medium to demonstrate your style and personality – important aspects of your overall brand – to potential clients or media outlets that may be interested in interviewing you. Best of all, with today’s technology, you can make your own video with a smart phone and peripheral microphone. Here’s how:
Develop your vision. Plan out your video scene by scene. For example, if you want to create a virtual tour of your newest building, map out in your mind what this virtual tour will look like when it’s finished. Identify the key elements of your design and what your audience – students? target media contacts? – will find interesting, innovative and unique.
Write it down. Based on your vision, write up a basic script for your video. Writing down a simple script will help you organize your thoughts and ensure you end up with a focused, effective video. Obviously, if you’re highlighting specific design features along your virtual tour, you’ll want to point those out and briefly mention any challenges or issues involved.
Plan your shoot. Make sure you schedule your shoot ahead of time and plan for the site to be camera ready and staged the way you want it to look on filming day. Put together your own crew for the shoot: someone to film you and someone to help keep interruptions or distractions away from “the set” during filming.
Lights, Camera…Action! The day of the shoot, make sure you have plenty of time to film your video, and don’t rush. Make sure to test the video for sound quality and light for best results. Try to film two or three takes so you’ll have more options when editing.
Edit your video. Upload your footage to desktop editing software – such as Apple’s iMovie or Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker – and edit your final video. Use transitions (fade in, fade out, etc.) and titles to make your video look more professional. Try to keep your final product to under 5 minutes. If you need more time, split your virtual tour into parts (Virtual Tour Part 1, Part 2, and so on).
Distribute your video via social media and your website. Once your video is complete, upload it to a YouTube or Vimeo channel. You can make the video private until you’re ready to show it to the masses. When you’re ready to share it, make the video public and e-mail a link to your channel to everyone you want to view it. This is much easier than trying to send out the actual video file – which will likely be too large to e-mail anyway.
You’ll also want to tweet the link of the video on Twitter and post it to your other social media profiles such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Don’t forget to use creative hashtags and key words to get your videos trending.
Finally, post the video on your website. Since your video actually “lives” on YouTube/Vimeo, you can easily have your web developer create a page on your website where the video will play directly.
When posted to your website and shared via social media, videos are an effective, dynamic – not to mention fun! – way to showcase your work and your brand to the world.
In this month’s series of posts, we’re exploring the effectiveness of materials outside of photography. We’ll give you tips on how to increase your outreach using materials from different mediums ranging from visual to printed. Take a look in the following post to see how investing the time to write a book can improve your integrated communications program and help you to build influence.
By Dr. Tami Hausman
So you’re an architect, and you design buildings, but you want to…write a book? Well, you’re in good company. Throughout history, architects have a rich tradition of writing and publishing. Think of The Ten Books of Architecture by Vitruvius or The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio. In more recent times, some of the busiest architects have been the most prolific – such as Le Corbusier or even Rem Koolhaas.
Writing a book is, admittedly, a big undertaking. In a world of texts and tweets, it can seem a bit anachronistic (you might be asking: does anyone actually buy books anymore, much less read them?). Well, they do, and the time that you put into writing a book can be well worth the payoff.
Books make a great part of your integrated communications program and help you to build influence by establishing your firm’s position in the marketplace. They can also increase your brand awareness, be a strong sales and marketing tool that generates new prospects, and set you apart from your competition – through your design, ideas, approach, people, etc.
We at Hausman LLC are big advocates for the printed page. We also believe that – for greatest effect – you must be strategic. So, before you get started, here are some of the things that you’ll want to have in place:
Your reason for writing the book. A book is a big investment in time, money and resources. So you need to be clear about why you’re doing it: do you want to celebrate a milestone, such as an anniversary, highlight an area of specialty, or talk about a proprietary approach or process? These are all good reasons, but you need to pick one, and then stick to that decision.
Your topic and format. Many books by or about architects are monographs. Monographs are extremely useful, as they can put you on the proverbial map. They are good ways to demonstrate that you have a strong portfolio of work, or that you have been in business for a specific length of time. But consider this: you also write a book about a particular project type in which you excel; one standalone, great project; or even an industry trend. You’ll also want to think about the size of the book and its format.
Your timeframe. Books can take a long time to write, design, edit, print and publish. So be sure that you plan ahead. Even if you assign one person to the project, you will invariably need a good, concentrated team of people to get the job done. You’ll also need to factor in a lot of principals’ time. Before you start, make sure you clear the decks.
Your authors. A book can be written by one person or many people. You may already have some content on hand but, in most cases, you’ll need to generate a lot of new text. Someone will have to fill in the gaps. You can enlist a team of people on your staff, write it yourself, or hire a ghostwriter.
Visual material, including – but not limited to – photography. Whatever kind of book you write, you’ll need visual material. It is best to have this on hand before you start. So, if you need to dig through your archives and scan old images, then don’t delay. If you need to create new presentation materials or new renderings, get them started before you set the wheels in motion. You don’t want the images to hold up production.
Your publisher. There are a number of different publishers from which you can choose. Some of the most common include: Images Publishing Group, Oro Editions, Princeton Architectural Press, The Monacelli Press, and Wiley. They all have different fee structures and conditions, so take the time and do your research to find which one is the best fit.
Last month’s theme explored the importance of incorporating a broad range of strategic tools to communicate about your firm. Another effective approach to promoting your projects is to use drawings, renderings, diagrams, and other visual representations.
You probably have lots of drawings, elevations, site plans, and diagrams you’ve created for projects to show to clients during the design process. These materials can also be effective tools to use when promoting your projects.
Photographs are essential tools for promoting projects, but sometimes they don’t completely capture a project’s design. To communicate a building’s function or to magnify the less obvious design features of a project, try using drawings and diagrams.
Cross-sections. A drawing that shows a cross section of your project is an effective way to show detail. Showing a cutaway view of the interior helps magnify specific design elements that might otherwise be hard to express with photography or in a press release. For example, if a journalist wants to describe the challenges of a staircase reconfiguration, a cross-section drawing can help illustrate the stair’s design.
Diagrams. Using an architectural diagram is beneficial for illustrating how your design works. If you pair a diagram to a description in a press release that uses more technical language, the language can become more digestible for a journalist. Visual clarification of the more complicated features of a project helps the press better follow along with what design challenges took place, and in turn convey the subtle aspects of your project more accurately. Just remember to keep your diagrams simple and easy to follow.
Renderings. As you know, renderings give a clearer picture of what your building will eventually look like and illustrate the complexities of your design. Use renderings as supplementary press materials to actively engage the media about your project even while your project is still under construction.
Site plans. As you are aware, sharing a bird’s-eye view of a building with the press can offer a glimpse into your design process by providing a more comprehensive view of a project. In contrast, a photograph captures only a specific part, so it is helpful to include a clear site plan that provides an additional perspective. Enhancing a site plan with colors to differentiate areas can help a journalist more easily understand a building’s layout and design.
Keep in mind that while drawings tend to sometimes be overshadowed by the conventional appeal of photography, they also serve as highly effective communications tools for your projects. Drawings are essential for your design process, but they are equally important to share with the press to highlight your project’s exceptional design features!
Brien McDaniel is the Director of Communications and Senior Associate of FXFOWLE Architects, a firm committed to innovative design inspired by urbanism, technology and sustainable strategies. He has over 20 years of communications, media relations, and special event management experience for higher education and cultural institutions, and architectural practices
by Brien McDaniel
Now that you’ve planned wisely and pinpointed your targets, you need to create a perfect pitch to engage your clients and audiences. Each new building, project win or milestone, and design award your firm receives can be a significant opportunity to increase your visibility and advance your brand – if you have the right story to tell.
Here are a few tips that can help you create a successful pitch:
Set-up the Pitch / Position the Story: Before you pick up the phone, send an email or draft a newsletter, you need ask some basic questions: “Is it newsworthy?”, “Does it have value and advance my brand?”, “What do I want to accomplish?” and “What about it will be of interest outside my firm, especially editors?” In order to create a more compelling and relevant story to pitch to the press, research your project to gather background information and material, develop a topical news angle and a few key messages, and then secure an expert spokesperson.
The Pitch: Now that you are ready to pitch, you should decide which publications and outlets to contact. Don’t forget to research what type of stories the publication publishes and the editor/reporter covers. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Create a personal account on Twitter and follow all of the publications you want to pitch, and don’t forget to follow editors and reporters. It will give you a good idea of the types of news and stories they pursue and publish. When you are ready to pitch, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Email your pitch, follow-up with a phone call or another email a few days later.
- While on the phone with the editor or reporter, be sure to resend your pitch – don’t make him/her search for the email you previously sent.
- Pitch the story, not the project (or your firm).
- Keep your pitch brief and focused; pitch only one idea or news angle.
- Once the article is published, don’t forget to say “thank you.”
Build Influence / Increase Visibility: Although the A/C/E industry is moving away from traditional press relations, there are many options for communicating your news and content across multiple platforms. From 140 characters, a 1,000-word press release, an e-newsletter, a personalized e-mail pitch, or self-publishing, you can use a variety of strategic approaches to effectively build your influence and increase your visibility across all media outlets.
Lessons Learned: Each publicist has his/her own approach, and there are no set rules or guidelines. But I keep the following in mind for each story, event, initiative and project milestone I pitch. I hope it just might help you pitch perfectly, too.
- Think 360° – Each project has multiple angles, don’t settle on just one.
- Do your homework – Read A/C/E publications; ask your clients what they read; follow your favorite editors and reporters on social media.
- Do most of the work for the editor/reporter. Be organized. Be available. Be thorough.
- Expand your communications team to include subconsultants, client PR consultants and, in some cases, the client. This will (1) strengthen your message (2) provide consistency in messages and images (3) broaden your reach (4) and add depth to your story.
- Let go of the control (i.e. social media). Once you put it “out there,” it’s “out there.”
- It takes a long time for things to happen quickly; opportunities don’t end when the milestone is over.
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.
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!
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!
You’ve taken on the challenge of planning your own event, now it’s time to look at effective ways to get the most out of the events that you attend. The weather is getting warmer, so there’s no excuse for you to be sitting at your desk all day. It’s time to be out and about! Events can be fun, and they can also help you connect with potential clients and build the visibility of your firm.
Here are our best tips for making the most out of networking:
Be prepared. Know the event and who is attending. Make a plan to connect with at least five people that you don’t already know that you’d like to potentially work with down the line.
Do your research. Given the short amount of time you have to meet with each person, it’s crucial to leave a lasting impression. If you aren’t great at thinking on your feet, write out your elevator speech that describes what you do in a way that’s informative and engaging – so it invites further conversation.
Show up early. By arriving early, you will be able to approach people and strike up conversations more easily. It’s more difficult to jump into conversations once the room has begun to get crowded and people form groups. It’s a lot easier to talk to the person standing alone next to the veggies and dip – he would probably welcome the company.
Circulate at the event. Make sure to circulate around the room, and meet and talk to as many people as you can. There is no substitute for strong professional relationships with new people that can bring lasting value. People like to talk about themselves (it’s true!) so be sure to ask a lot of questions.
Follow up. After the event, follow up the next day with a quick email to say hello and reiterate your contact info. Follow up in a reasonable timeframe of two days or less so they remember you. Always connect with them on LinkedIn and add new acquaintances to your contact list.
Don’t forget social media. Find the right moments to Tweet and Instagram during the event, or post the event to LinkedIn. This can bring you more followers and help you get the most out of your investment!
Once you start to network in a smarter, more productive way, you’ll see your firm and your professional network grow. Remember that the successful outcome of any professional event comes from learning new information and, most important, enjoying it as well!