Design on the Haus
Photographed by Sabrina Ahern
Jessica Wyman is principal and creative director of Wyman Projects, a graphic design and web development consultancy based in New York City. As a graphic designer with a degree in architecture, she has ten years of experience collaborating with architects, interior designers, engineers, and A/E/C consultants, to create meaningful print and web experiences that communicate professionalism and integrity. Jessica is currently art director for Oculus, AIA New York’s quarterly publication; and she regularly presents at the Chapter’s annual Fellows Workshop for FAIA candidates.
By Jessica Wyman, Wyman Projects
Have you ever visited a website where the copyright or blog posts date back to 2006? I have, and it saddens me to think that those companies spent a small fortune designing a website that quickly became stale and forgotten.
Thankfully, website development has come a long way since then. With out-of-the-box Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Drupal, building dynamic online experiences that are easy-to-use and easy-to-manage is within every design professional’s budget.
Still, building an effective website that will showcase your portfolio, communicate your expertise and get you new projects requires a thoughtful, strategic approach. Before you begin designing your new site, here are some things to think about:
Design Smart. One of the first things you should determine before designing your new website is its purpose. Who are you trying to reach with this new site? Potential clients? The media? Fans? All of the above? For most AEC professionals, a website is a tool to communicate your expertise and to convince prospective clients to take action and connect with you.
While your new site should reflect your firm’s personality and culture, its format, content, and design will need to appeal to prospective users. Unfortunately, design professionals often make the mistake of designing a site that they like rather than designing one that will be effective in reaching their target audiences.
So how do you do this? Understanding your company’s mission – and which clients you want to serve – is key to pinpointing the needs and habits of your target audiences.
Will your visitors be using a computer or mobile device to view the site? Is there anything you can learn from your current website’s analytics, such as pages with the highest bounce rate? What information does your target audience need most and how will you shape the user’s journey to satisfy those needs?
Think Big. Gone are the days of table-based layouts and small browser sizes, which resulted in small-scale images on the user’s screen. You are a design professional with beautiful project photography; so don’t be afraid to go full bleed. Consider using a full browser slideshow on your home page or project pages to make an impact and to define a mood.
Less is More. The impulse to feature or list every single project on your website is a mistake many design professionals make. A website should have enough curated content to communicate expertise and personality, while leaving the visitor curious enough to contact your firm for more information.
Cross-Pollinate. Create relationships between content and pages on the website to engage visitors. Curiosity keeps users clicking and strategies such as suggesting links to “Related Content” or crosslinking press items or bios will retain visitors and improve site analytics.
Don’t hide your contact information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many company websites hide contact information under submenus. Include a phone number and email address on the home page; and consider designing a special splash page with contact information and a map for mobile visitors.
Launch Strategy. Once you’ve designed and launched your website successfully…now what? Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Create a content strategy that includes a schedule for updating your new website with new projects, news items, blog posts, and links to your social media platforms.
Clients and prospective employees want to work with design professionals who are active and innovative thought leaders; providing these visitors with fresh content monthly, if not weekly, is key to engaging, and ultimately working with, your ideal clients.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!