Design on the Haus
“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!
April is Landscape Architecture Month, and the profession is in the spotlight. What can landscape architects do this Spring and throughout the year to get the attention of the media?
Landscapes take a long time to design and a long time to grow. Unless you’re Michael Van Valkenburgh, you probably don’t have a ribbon cutting every month. What can you do in between major milestones to stay in the news?
You don’t have to start a project campaign from scratch. If you’re working with an architect or engineer, then piggyback on their PR efforts. Engage with all members of your project’s design team to collaborate on press releases, award submissions, and project updates on participating firms’ websites and social media.
If your client is the owner or owner’s rep, suggest the same sort of collaboration to promote your project. This can be a sensitive area, so it may be helpful to set down the PR terms in the contract. If your side of the project is getting surprise media coverage, give your collaborators a chance to share the glory. Your generosity will strengthen your professional relationships with other team members.
But what if you’re on your own? Here are some specific ways to raise your visibility in the landscape design press and beyond:
Watch for trends and jump on the bandwagon. Three instances constitute a trend. For instance, a survey conducted by the ASLA revealed that sustainable, low maintenance designs are rated the most desirable. If you have any such projects in your portfolio, use the survey as the news hook to spread the word.
Grow your presence on social media. It’s not going away, and it’s not that hard. You may not land a project through a Tweet, but Twitter is where news breaks today. It’s where the journalists are. Pinterest is a great showcase for your residential work.
Connect your project with current events. Hillary Clinton’s announcement to run for president may not, on the surface, have much to do with placemaking – until you read this elegant commentary in ARCHITECT.
Become an expert for local news sources. Is there a flood or a drought in your town? Journalists will be looking for quotes from an expert on stormwater management or xeric landscapes. Make sure you’re their contacts list.
Create your own newsworthy event. Curate an exhibition on landscapes or design at the local library or gallery. Organize a fundraiser for an earth-friendly charity. Do a pro-bono project for a school, center of worship, or charitable organization.
Don’t forget to use the resources of the ASLA and its amazing team of public relations professionals who, like you, are out to promote the profession. If you’re not a member, join. Call and introduce yourself. Ask for advice. Ask if they have a media list they could share with you. Are they working on a pitch that your firm could contribute to?
Above all, if you’re getting coverage, don’t sit back and bask: mine it! News begets news. Email links to other journalists, clients, would-be clients, colleagues. Send newsletters. Update your website. Post to social media. Shine your light!