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Creating a Monograph That's Not Monotonous, Part 2

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.

 

7A

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.

7B

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.

 

8A

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.

 

9A

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.

9C

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.

 

8C

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.

 

10

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!

 

Creating a Monograph That's Not Monotonous

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.

 

1

A brand is worthless if it doesn’t connect with the right audiences in a relevant way.

—Cory Torrella

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.

 

2A

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.

 

3

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.

 

4

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.

 

5

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.

 

6

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.

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