You’re out there hustling, shaking hands and responding to all your RFPs, you’ve got your business development down. At the other end, you have a strong brand, your website is working and your marketing material is telling your story. Somewhere in between the two, lies a critical step to your success as a small firm architect: public relations. If you get it right, your phone will ring off the hook with your next best clients.
This week on EntreArchitect Podcast, “Design Evangelist” Julie Taylor joins Mark to share 3 Proven Public Relations Strategies for Small Firm Architects.
With a background in art history and fine arts, Julie was always drawn to creative expression. As a secretary receptionist just out of college, Julie worked at an architecture firm in Chicago, learning various aspects of the industry. Following that, she worked for a magazine for interior designers and continued to pursue her own writing. When she decided to go into PR running the marketing in a large design center, she worked with architects and designers and began loving the industry.
She began her own firm, Taylor & Company, shortly afterward and immersed herself in the architecture world. The art of taking something and creating a building that stands on its own and functions correctly was something she was unfamiliar with, so Julie loves being on the side of being an advocate for those who are able to create art in the business context of architecture.
What is PR and how is it different from marketing?
Marketing is more of the overall category. Public relations is your communications to the outside; it could be anything from how the phone is answered to publishing thoughts in magazines or online. Anything that you would put out to the public for clients to see. There are aspects like media relations, print or online, awards, where you present your work to be judged, speaking engagements to make connections in your certain area of expertise.
What are 3 simple PR strategies for architects?
Be consistent with your strategy and create a plan to allocate your time, effort and budget.
- Invest in professional photography and have enough photos at various angles. Partner with your clients. If you know your client is working on a press release, communicate to get your name in there. Finding out how to photograph and publish a project requires a human conversation to figure out how best to do these things. (Hint: It should be a part of your contract upfront!)
- Post a sign on your job site! It’s a simple, inexpensive way to get your name out there… and not enough of us do it.
- Develop your story and know how to talk about it. Often architects allow the writing and speech to be laden with archispeak. Speak to your clients at their level of understanding.
Publishing: regional vs national?
Regional publishing will talk to your local market more directly and can sometimes be a little easier to access. Since the editors and writers are in your area, you can work to make a connection and form a relationship with them. The competition for projects is very difficult with national publications, and often a project being good isn’t enough; it has to have a story behind it. Find publications with active online portals to gain a wider audience. Leverage any media you get. Let your potential and existing clients know what’s going on with you!
What about design awards programs?
Find out what competitions will give you the most exposure and plan out your budget according to your chances for notoriety. Know that if you don’t win an award or you don’t get published, it’s not personal. Often there are so many submissions and so many moving parts, that it makes it difficult to filter out great projects.
What are your thoughts on working with a scout?
Local people that you can form a relationship with will go to bat for you. They’re always going to want to know what you have that’s good for them to bring to one of the many publications they work with.
What is the one thing that small firm architects can do today to build a better business tomorrow?
“AIA National provides a tool called the AIA Message Book. It has topics like how to tell your story, what kind of words to use, how to talk to your clients, what’s important about the message of what you do and how to connect.” – Julie D. Taylor
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