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Change is in the Air: PR Today and Tomorrow

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To say that this past week has been a time of change is quite the understatement. While not as roiled as the current political arena, the PR industry is evolving, too. Following up on last week’s post, here’s more insight from the latest Global Communications Report, compiled by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations.

Most of the PR executives surveyed for the report anticipate change in the structure of their agencies and departments to better address changes in the communications landscape over the next five years, primarily driven by the adoption of new technologies and increased demand for content delivery across more channels. There is universal agreement that over the next five years, executives will be expected to deliver more strategy, more creativity and more measurement.

Relationships also are shifting. Corporate communications clients acknowledge that they value agencies more for their strategy and creative prowess than for their “arms and legs.” Meanwhile, agencies disclose that about 30% of the time they report into marketing or brand management, versus 34% into corporate communications.

By 2020, agency leaders expect to see their revenue streams shift away from earned media, but it will still be the dominant revenue driver at 36%. Meanwhile, all of the other media categories will grow—owned to 24.6%, shared to 24.2% and paid to 12.9%. In total, PR executives predict 63% of all media outlets will offer paid placement opportunities in five years. Ironically, only 8% rank media-buying skills as an important staff skill for the future.

“The pace of change in public relations has never been faster than it is today, but at the same time, it will likely never be this slow again,” added Paul Holmes, editor of The Holmes Report, which partnered on the research. “Both agencies and their clients recognize that change is occurring, but it is not clear that they appreciate the extent, when it comes to finding non-traditional talent or developing non-traditional services, particularly outside of earned media channels.”

Looking to the future, it is clear that PR as a profession is changing. All survey respondents agree that in five years their jobs will become more complex, challenging, and strategic. Only 27% of agency leaders believe by the year 2020 the term “public relations” will clearly and adequately describe the work they do.

PR: An Industry Snapshot

 

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To best serve our clients in the architecture and engineering fields, we keep on top of the evolving state of the PR industry. The 2016 Global Communications Report, a comprehensive survey of senior public relations executives by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations, predicts the worldwide PR agency business will grow from its current estimated size of $14 billion to $19.3 billion over the next five years. To accommodate this growth, agency leaders anticipate their headcount will increase over the same period by about 26%.

Industry leaders, both in agencies and in-house, believe future growth will be driven by content creation and social media, as well as more traditional activities such as brand reputation, followed by measurement and evaluation. Earned media still ranks relatively high for both corporate and agency leaders. Paid media ranked last of 18 possible growth drivers.

“Overall, we are sensing a continued optimism about the direction the industry is headed, which is good news for people entering the field,” said Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public Relations. “But questions remain about the industry’s ability to attract the right talent, adapt to new technologies, and increase the level of investment required to capitalize on these opportunities.”

Both agency and corporate executives strongly agree that the ability to attract and retain the right talent is their greatest challenge, and the majority of both groups believe the PR industry is not good at sourcing talent from outside its ranks, citing salary levels as the major obstacle.

Traditional expertise still tops the list of skills communications departments and PR firms view as key to success over the next five years. Written communications is the skill ranked most important by client and agency respondents. When asked what personal traits they felt were critical for the future, industry leaders ranked traditional values of teamwork and hard work near the top—but they also believe their teams are already strong in these areas. They say more horsepower is needed in curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.

When asked about diversity, only 45% of agency heads and 44% of corporate executives believe their ranks are as diverse as their clients’ customers or stakeholders. Both groups cite lack of access to diverse talent at senior and entry levels as the primary challenge.

“It’s clear that finding the right talent is by far the most critical factor in the PR industry’s future growth,” said Cook. “The more complicated question is what skills should this talent possess. Industry leaders still value traditional communications skills but are searching for more strategy, creativity and diversity.”

In a follow-up post, we’ll take a more detailed look at what’s in store for public relations pros.

Doctor in the Haus: Millinery-Maddened Millennial

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Dear Doctor,

At our mid-sized architecture office, I wear many hats: My official title is marketing coordinator, but I’m also administrative whiz, technology trouble-shooter, and webmaster. Our partners recently decided to commit to working with a public relations firm, but I’m not quite sure what they’re looking to accomplish. Can you advise me on where, oh where to begin? How do I figure out what that means, and then find the company that’s right for us?

Signed,

Millinery-Maddened Millennial in Minneapolis

Well, Millinery, it’s good to know that someone else has not skipped off to the beach for the summer! Otherwise, the Doctor would get very lonely in the office—talking to the plants is good for a little while, but inanimate objects are not always the best office-mates. So, I’m glad you are reaching out, and you have come to the right place!

There’s nothing that I like more than a good strategy, which is the first item on your PR agenda. Most important, from the outset, you need to establish some goals. Just think about it: you can’t run a race without knowing where the finish line is! So, when your partners say they want to hire a firm, what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Many people think that public relations is press, and that’s a big part of it. If that’s your goal, then you have to determine what kind of press you want: local or national; business press, trade, or design press; project-related articles or trend stories.

Now, the Doctor tries to make it easy for you, of course, but she also wants to give you a lot of options! And, don’t forget, it’s probably some combination of all these things. Some people are “either/or” types, but I like to think of myself as a “both/and” person when it comes to outreach. On that note, going beyond press, you should also think about other ways of building your influence. Let me be clear: we love press—yes, we think it’s the bees’ knees—but you can also get a lot of buzz through speaking engagements, professional organizations, and being active on social media.

See, Millinery, I bet there’s a lot more than you bargained for! But the Doctor wants to point you in the right direction. I suggest that you try to get as many specifics as you can from the partners, and that will help you figure out what kind of firm you need to bring on board. When you have your goals, you can look for the right partner.

On that note, it’s low tide, and I’m off to the shore to stick my toes in the sand….

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Design on the Haus' 200th Post: Communicate with impact!

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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.

Get engaged

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.

FunHaus: A New Way to (Re)View the New Whitney

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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 Timesreview 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.”

Virtual Architecture: Use Digital Media and Share the Experience

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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!

Communicate Your Work with Strong Architectural Photography

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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?

 

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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.

 

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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

Worth a Thousand Words: Make a Photographic Impact on Social Media

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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.

Raise Awareness of Landscape Architecture and Promote Your Work

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“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.

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