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Effective Strategies for Communicating Your Firm: Successful Outreach

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This past spring, Dr. Tami Hausman participated in a panel at SMPS Northeast Regional Conference (NERC) that discussed the rapidly changing landscape for marketing in the A/E/C industry. The other panelists included this month’s featured guest bloggers, Kirsten Sibilia, Principal of Dattner Architects and Brien McDaniel, Director of Communications at FXFOWLE.

In this next post, Tami shares proven communications strategies that help firms effectively build influence in the A/E/C industry and attract new clients.

By Dr. Tami Hausman

Now that you have created your mission and vision, you’re ready to align your outreach program with your strategic goals. You want to give people information about your firm that highlights your expertise. Above all, you need to know your audiences so you can focus on where you want to get published and what you tell people about your firm, your projects, and your experience. The most successful outreach is proactive, compelling, and targeted to client groups.

Here are a few tips that can help get you moving in the right direction: 

  1. Drop the jargon: it’s really important to create messages that differentiate your firm. At the same time, you must be able to clearly explain what you do to potential clients who may not understand your field. Business expert Stanley Bing defines jargon as “a business-specific term that implies knowledge of the subject and also injects unnecessary complexity into the utterance for the purpose of 1) obfuscation and 2) showing off.” So, if you want to engage potential clients, don’t use it.
  1. Write a story: people remember stories much more easily than straight facts (let’s face it: did your parents read you the newspaper every night when they tucked you into bed, or a fairy tale?). Every firm has its own story that relates to its particular DNA. At the same time, every project that you work on has multiple stories as well. It’s easy to think of the design or technical story – that’s the most obvious, but there are many more! Get creative.
  1. Grab attention: Look, we’re all bombarded by media these days, from e-mails to voice mails to social media. Before you send out a press release – or any other news – ask yourself: what would grab the attention of the media? What is the one key idea behind your project? If you can’t come up with a good headline, then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board.
  1. Teach, don’t preach: Your goal is to engage your clients and audiences – not talk AT them. Good communication is a conversation between people. And the best way to do this is to provide information that your audience doesn’t already know. They will walk away with more knowledge and you will walk away with a captive audience interested in hearing more.

Finally, we at Hausman LLC feel that the way to gauge whether or not a public relations plan is working is if you’re no longer having to reach OUT to other people. You can tell that you’re getting your name in the right places when people hear about your firm and come to YOU.

 

Hosting an Effective Media Event

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The day of your media event has arrived! It’s time to play cruise director, tour guide, and publicist. Don’t worry: in this post, we’re going to walk you through the event so that you’ll come out looking like you’ve got your own team of professionals who planned the event for you.

Here’s what you need to do to make the most of your media tour:

Arrange transportation. If your project is out of town, you’ll want to make arrangements for transportation to the project. A mini-charter can be a good choice because you’ll be able to control the departure and return of your group. If an editor or writer is coming from another location to meet the rest of the group at the project, offer to reimburse them for their travel. Coordinate one pick-up and drop-off location, with a specific time for everyone to meet. Have a list of everyone joining you for the tour, so you can check off their names as they arrive.

Feed the crowd. If you’re asking folks to give an entire day – or even a half-day – to see your project, you should make catering arrangements. Make sure to have water and other beverages and snacks available for your guests if the bus or train trip to your project will be an hour or more. A box lunch to be enjoyed on the bus, or a post-event reservation at a nearby restaurant is always a good idea. Sharing a meal with the journalists is a great way for you to get to know what they like to write about and for them to learn more about your work.

Guide the tour. Once you arrive at the project, it’s show time! Prepare to be tour guide extraordinaire and show off your work. Plan ahead of time what you will be saying and plan stopping points along the way. For example, if you’ve designed a new office building, think about the most interesting features and design aspects of the project. Mark the location of each of these on your project map and plan to stop and talk about these features. Remember, however, to be brief. Don’t turn the tour into a lecture!

Don’t forget social media. Find the right moments to Tweet and Instagram during the event, or post the event to LinkedIn. This is a great way to document your event and to show the folks that couldn’t make the event what they missed!

After the event, follow up. Following your event, send a quick thank-you to your guests. Even if they don’t write about your project, it’s good to show your appreciation for taking the time to see it.

A media event can help you promote a new project but, more importantly, it can be an effective way to strengthen your relationships with the media and the people you want to talk about your projects. The more they know you, the more likely they will be to write about your projects in the future.

Planning an Effective Media Event

Plan Media Event

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!

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