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Resolutions for Better Branding in 2015

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The New Year is only days away! While you’re making your list of personal resolutions, why not take this opportunity to think about what you can do to improve your business next year? Since our theme for December was branding, we’ve put together some resolutions that you can enact in 2015 to strengthen yours. To take your brand to the next level in the coming year, resolve to:

Analyze. Conduct a one-day workshop with your firm’s key leadership to analyze all available information about your company. Review everything from your mission statement and core values, to your list of services and marketing initiatives to date.

Use this workshop to help define/re-define your brand. For example, through discussion you may find that being a trusted advisor is an important value to you, your team and your clients, but your published list of core values doesn’t mention it. Try to find other areas where your messaging and branding do not accurately portray your firm’s values or identity.

A review of your website and other visual marketing materials, such as your logo, may also be helpful. Are they effective? Do they express your firm’s identity? Pinpoint what could be improved upon or changed entirely. After this meeting, use the information you have gathered to tweak, adjust, and further define your brand, messaging, and marketing materials.

Discover. Perform some in-depth research and analysis to understand your firm’s respective markets and services, including interviews with your firm’s key leadership and clients, audits of your visual marketing materials and website, and a review of your competition’s brands.

Internal interviews help you better understand how your team is talking about your firm, and how they are presenting your brand to clients and prospects. Client interviews will help you understand how they perceive your firm and services in the marketplace.

Finally, take a look at what your competition’s brands are like and how they are perceived in the marketplace. What are successful elements of your competition’s brands? How can you present your firm in a different, more effective way than they do?

Communicate. Following your brand analysis, interviews and audits, reconvene your team to discuss what you’ve learned about your firm, your competition, target audiences, and internal/external perceptions of the company. Use this information to develop new internal and external messaging, including a new or revised mission statement for your firm, a tagline, and key messages for different audiences and regions. Decide what you’re going to do to strengthen your firm’s visual brand identity – including changes or updates to your website, logo, and marketing materials. (If you don’t have the services in-house, consulting a graphic designer can be very helpful at this stage.)

Strategize. Next, develop a new strategy for your new brand. Determine which clients and market sectors you are going to target with your new branding. Maybe you find that your target audiences have changed over time, and the majority of your work is coming from a different sector than you had originally targeted. Develop a strategy to adjust your marketing focus and reach your new target audiences through revised messaging, social media, visual marketing, and other business development initiatives.

Activate. Take action with your new brand! Make sure your new mission statement and core values are prominently displayed on your website. Launch a new digital marketing campaign to announce your new branding with an e-blast newsletter series. Start a blog and focus your posts on topics that are of interest to your target audiences. Display your tagline on all company e-mails and marketing. Reinforce your key messages in all your correspondence, social media, and marketing materials.

While defining your brand is not a simple task, it is essential to your long-term success. Just as with all New Year’s resolutions, if you’re consistent and take our suggestions step-by-step, you’ll be well on your way to a strong, effective brand and a prosperous 2015. Happy New Year from all of us at Hausman LLC!

 

 

 

Why Santa Claus is the best brand ever – and what you can learn from him

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As Andy Williams’ iconic holiday song goes, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” once again! This month, our topic is branding, so we thought we’d discuss one of the strongest brands ever – Santa Claus. We can all learn a lot about branding from Ol’ St. Nick and we’re going tell you why.

What makes Santa so special? Certainly, his enchanted sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer– make that nine, including Rudolph – is one sweet ride. He’s obviously got his logistics and technology in sync, with throngs of magic elves to staff his manufacturing and deliveries. UK ad agency, Quietroom, has produced a fantastic spoof brand book, outlining the formula and guidelines the jolly old elf might have developed to solidify his magnanimous brand power. But there’s more to Santa than all those jingle bells and whistles, and all joking aside, there are several reasons why Santa Claus really is a strong brand.

First off, let’s define what a brand is. In a recent article, Forbes contributor, Jerry McLaughlin writes that a brand is “the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea.” To build a solid brand, he explains, you need three key components:  what, how and feeling.

With Santa, the “what,” or in his case “who,” isn’t hard to define. In the most basic, perfunctory of definitions, he brings gifts to good children on Christmas Eve; he’s a service provider. But beyond that, it’s very clear who he is, what his mission is and the values he stands for.

Santa is the embodiment of generosity, goodwill, and the spirit of giving.   He’s tirelessly dedicated to his mission, and he consistently exercises fairness in judgment. These qualities clearly express who he is and what he stands for and they define his identity. As a result, his brand resonates with people from all over the world.

And how does he accomplish this solid brand identity? Well, one way he does it is by being consistent. With Santa, you always know what you’re going to get: a jolly, happy, loving, giving, magical old guy. He’s friendly to everyone and everyone wants to be his friend; not just because he brings gifts, but because he’s, well, authentically himself. He’s eternally both child-like and fatherly at once, a character whose warmth and charm are gifts in themselves. And no matter what the temperature outside, he wears the same signature uniform that’s instantly recognizable from Sydney to San Francisco, Bombay to Buenos Aires, or Milwaukee to Moscow. Even celebrities understand the benefit of mimicking his brand. When was the last time you saw Mariah Carey – the undisputed Queen of Christmas – dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Future? Even in fishnet stockings and a short skirt, a Santa hat can make any dicey diva seem wholesome.

Lastly, his brand is palpable and it creates a positive feeling in his target audiences – parents, little kids, teens, old folks, everyone. His image is the ultimate warm-fuzzy-inducer to kids of every age, for a range of reasons from naïveté to nostalgia. It’s no surprise that commercial companies and charitable organizations from Coca-Cola to The Salvation Army use his image to sell their products and raise billions in charitable funds. And even though you rarely see him in person – and even then, only once a year – you know you can count on him. He’s dependable and that creates a sense of security and a feeling of familiarity and deep satisfaction.

So the next time you see him at the mall, or lit up by a million lights on someone’s front yard, contemplate the notion that Santa may very well be the world’s most effective brand. Then, think about how you can become more like him: Define who you are and what you stand for. Differentiate yourself from your competition. Be dependably consistent with your messages. Build emotional connections with your target audiences that will, in turn, create a positive feeling that they will associate with you and what you do. We always knew Santa was a great role model.   Who knew he was a great brand model too! Happy Holidays and happy brand building in 2015!

 

Introducing Doctor in the Haus

 

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Editor’s Note: Introducing a brand new column by our very own Dr. Tami Hausman, where she offers practical integrated communications advice to AEC professionals. If you have questions for the Doctor, don’t hesitate to send them to hausman@hausmanllc.com. The Doctor is in!

Dear Doctor,

I am an architect with ten years of experience who recently opened my own architecture firm with three colleagues. Each of us comes from large, well-known firms with very high profiles, so getting press for our projects was relatively easy. 

Now that we have our own firm – although we have strong connections – we are relatively unknown. Going forward, how can we best approach the media to get noticed and get more work?  While we have set some funds aside for marketing and publicity, as a small firm we do not have unlimited resources for these activities at the moment.  Where should we start?

Thanks,

Building from Scratch

 

Dear Building from Scratch,

Well, the first thing I have to say to you is: Congratulations! Starting your own firm is a big leap, and it’s not always easy. It’s important that you recognize the need for outreach to make a name for yourself. Building your reputation, and your influence, is key to building a healthy practice.

So what is the prescription for success? There are a number of things that you can do immediately. First, make sure that you and your partners are speaking with one voice. That’s critical, because you need to communicate clearly about what kind of projects you want to do and where you want to practice (regionally, nationally, globally). Get that elevator speech down pat so you can explain to a potential client why they should hire you, not your competition. And don’t forget to throw a small party to celebrate your new office and make sure everyone knows about it!

Young start-ups don’t always have a portfolio of built work, but there’s no need to worry: editors are always on the lookout for news stories, so send out those renderings even before a project is complete (make sure you have client approval, of course!). If you have some really good projects in the works, set up a meeting with a design editor and show them what you’ve got. You can also take advantage of social media to build a following for your ideas and projects – it’s free and doesn’t need to monopolize all your time. And, finally, make sure you get out and about by attending events where you may meet potential clients. Even in this digital age, nothing beats the opportunity to connect with people face to face.

Who’s Afraid of Social Media?

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The scary truth about using social media is that it’s not as hard as you think. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use it and which platforms suit your firm best. Social media is an essential tool for successful marketing efforts. Design professionals can share their work and ideas in real time, while simultaneously making connections with one another. Once you start to integrate social media, an inactive social media platform will be about the most frightening sight you’ll see. Here are some tips for how to scare away those communications ghosts that may be lurking in your closets.

Don’t be scared, it’s easier than you think. Twitter and basic LinkedIn accounts are free. They are fast and inexpensive ways to open up communication channels with professional peers and potential clients you don’t know and those you already do. It doesn’t cost anything to maintain, so there’s no need for those hairs on the back of your neck to stand up! If you’re nervous about handling multiple social media accounts at once, consider using dashboard applications such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite to help organize your social networks and make posting a little easier.

You can network quickly. A popular social media platform like Twitter allows you to share information about your work and firm in real time to your followers. Use #hashtags to share your tweet information with an entire Twitter network of like-minded people looking to engage on a similar topic. LinkedIn is an interactive way to make those same connections in a more professional online setting. Do you feel like a petrified mummy about sharing information because you fear it could be misinterpreted? Don’t worry. What’s valuable about social media is that it’s more personable and there are fewer formalities than traditional forms of communication, so leave the dark side and come see the light!

There are design-specific platforms. If it feels like you’re stepping into a house of mirrors and you don’t which way to turn, don’t be afraid! There’s no reason to fear that social media is not geared to the AEC industry because online platforms exist specifically FOR the industry. Useful AEC-centric social media sites include Architizer, Houzz, and Honest Buildings. Each of these web platforms is user-friendly and many have guides to walk you step-by-step through the sites. Their large online communities allow firms and professionals to showcase their projects, and many offer easy-to-navigate forums for exchanging ideas and making connections.

 

 

Bad communication is frightening! How to banish it for good

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What frightens you most? Creepy crawlers in the night, werewolves howling at full moons, haunted houses, or skeletons in the closet? Well, we’re scared of all those things, too, but what really frightens us is how some people communicate.

You may laugh, but it’s true! We have so many ways to communicate these days (some may say that we have a lot of ways to communicate badly) that it can seem like you’re always walking the plank over the treacherous and deep waters of messages and meanings.

Let’s take just the easiest example – and we’ve all done it. Did you hit “reply all” when you wrote a message that was just intended for one person? Did you send the right e-mail to the wrong contact? Or, just after you tossed off that angry e-mail to your (fill in the blank) boss/ex-boyfriend/brother, did dread and fear of the future consequences start to invade your body like a quick poison? For more on that topic, see this recent Wall Street Journal article here.

There are many frightening examples of the scary ways that people communicate. And, in many instances, you can’t blame it on e-mail or digital technologies. In fact, the following examples are downright terrifying.

Take these examples from The Toronto News of July 26, 1977. Keep in mind that they are actual statements from insurance claim forms where drivers attempted to summarize the details of their accidents:

“I thought my window was down, but I found out it was up when I put my head through it.”

“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”

“I saw a slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.”

If these sentences make your blood turn to ice, check out these examples and figure out what the author is trying to say:

“I urge you to waste no time making this candidate an offer of employment.” (Are you urging the person to hire the candidate or are you saying the candidate is not worth further consideration?)

“You will be fortunate to get this person to work for you.” (Is this person a great job candidate, or is this person extremely lazy?)

So, now that we’ve discussed the perils of communication, here are some ways to get the spook out of your spin:

  1. Chase away the miscommunication. It’s great that you can send an e-mail from a smart phone, but you need to remember that that e-mail is still a professional document. Make sure that you are being very clear and concise. If you’re not sure if you’re getting your message across, ask someone to take a look at your e-mail before you send it. By all means, don’t put a tagline on your e-mails that says “please excuse typos” – that’s for goblins and ghosts. Read over your e-mails thoroughly before you send them. There’s no excuse.
  1. Don’t be scared to pick up the phone. E-mail can be a terrific communications tool – it’s easy, it’s fast, and you can send an e-mail almost anywhere. At the same time, it’s not always the perfect way to get your point across, and your tone in an e-mail can be easily misconstrued. Don’t send an e-mail to someone sitting three feet away from you. And don’t send a four-paragraph e-mail to your printer to clarify how many business cards you need. Before you send a dozen e-mails back and forth in the same e-mail chain, do yourself a favor and pick up the phone. It will be a treat, not a trick!
  1. Bury the jargon. When you’re in a profession like architecture, you’re going to use a lot of words and phrases that help you communicate with your colleagues. Unfortunately, when you use this jargon around other people, they’re going to think you’re Frankenstein. If you really want to talk to potential clients and other audiences – and get them to understand you – then go to the cemetery at 2 a.m. and bury that jargon in a deep grave (full moon optional). Going forward, make sure you use plain language to convey your ideas and messages. You’ll be amazed at how clearly you’ll be able to communicate.

Image courtesy Platt College

Creating Videos to Showcase Your Portfolio and Your Firm

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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.

 

Writing a Book to Help Build Influence

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In this month’s series of posts, we’re exploring the effectiveness of materials outside of photography. We’ll give you tips on how to increase your outreach using materials from different mediums ranging from visual to printed. Take a look in the following post to see how investing the time to write a book can improve your integrated communications program and help you to build influence.

By Dr. Tami Hausman

So you’re an architect, and you design buildings, but you want to…write a book? Well, you’re in good company. Throughout history, architects have a rich tradition of writing and publishing. Think of The Ten Books of Architecture by Vitruvius or The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio. In more recent times, some of the busiest architects have been the most prolific – such as Le Corbusier or even Rem Koolhaas.

Writing a book is, admittedly, a big undertaking. In a world of texts and tweets, it can seem a bit anachronistic (you might be asking: does anyone actually buy books anymore, much less read them?). Well, they do, and the time that you put into writing a book can be well worth the payoff.

Books make a great part of your integrated communications program and help you to build influence by establishing your firm’s position in the marketplace. They can also increase your brand awareness, be a strong sales and marketing tool that generates new prospects, and set you apart from your competition – through your design, ideas, approach, people, etc.

We at Hausman LLC are big advocates for the printed page. We also believe that – for greatest effect – you must be strategic. So, before you get started, here are some of the things that you’ll want to have in place:

Your reason for writing the book. A book is a big investment in time, money and resources. So you need to be clear about why you’re doing it: do you want to celebrate a milestone, such as an anniversary, highlight an area of specialty, or talk about a proprietary approach or process? These are all good reasons, but you need to pick one, and then stick to that decision.

Your topic and format. Many books by or about architects are monographs. Monographs are extremely useful, as they can put you on the proverbial map. They are good ways to demonstrate that you have a strong portfolio of work, or that you have been in business for a specific length of time. But consider this: you also write a book about a particular project type in which you excel; one standalone, great project; or even an industry trend. You’ll also want to think about the size of the book and its format.

Your timeframe. Books can take a long time to write, design, edit, print and publish. So be sure that you plan ahead. Even if you assign one person to the project, you will invariably need a good, concentrated team of people to get the job done. You’ll also need to factor in a lot of principals’ time. Before you start, make sure you clear the decks.

Your authors. A book can be written by one person or many people. You may already have some content on hand but, in most cases, you’ll need to generate a lot of new text. Someone will have to fill in the gaps. You can enlist a team of people on your staff, write it yourself, or hire a ghostwriter.

Visual material, including – but not limited to – photography. Whatever kind of book you write, you’ll need visual material. It is best to have this on hand before you start. So, if you need to dig through your archives and scan old images, then don’t delay. If you need to create new presentation materials or new renderings, get them started before you set the wheels in motion. You don’t want the images to hold up production.

Your publisher. There are a number of different publishers from which you can choose. Some of the most common include: Images Publishing Group, Oro Editions, Princeton Architectural Press, The Monacelli Press, and Wiley. They all have different fee structures and conditions, so take the time and do your research to find which one is the best fit.

 

Using Drawings to Promote Your Projects

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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!

 

 

 

 

Effective Strategies for Communicating Your Firm: Pitch Perfectly

Brien McDaniels

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.

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