For A/E/C firms, engaging the [marketing] moment begins with storytelling

-Laura Emanuel, APR – Director of Public Relations

Last month’s editorial page of Architectural Record really stuck with me. The takeaway?  “Engaging the moment is what serious contemporary architects try to do.” It’s also exactly what serious, forward-thinking PR pros try to do when they promote architectural feats.

The story matters.

Engaging the moment starts with understanding the design’s story – every skyscraper, school, rooftop garden, hospital, and home has a tale yet to be told and the design gives their story a textured backdrop on which to unfold. Whether you are an architect who wants to win over a client, a developer who wants to sell the building, or a university administrator who wants to recruit students, the story matters. Engaging your firm’s current and prospective clients in the story of the designed space is critical because it humanizes and contextualizes the impact it has on the people it surrounds. This is an often overlooked communication tactic, but is the most powerful tool in your firm’s marketing arsenal.

Bid less, win more.

Furthermore, a compelling narrative can give you the competitive edge you need to differentiate your firm in a crowded space. On average, A/E/C firms are winning just one out of every ten public projects and one out of five private jobs and it all adds up to 500+ hours spent for every job won. I’m exhausted just doing the math. If we can give ourselves a competitive edge through richer architectural storytelling, imagine the positive impact it can have on business development and brand awareness.

It’s not just about you.

When it comes to architectural storytelling as a marketing tactic, the most important lesson to learn is that the best stories have more than one character; this means thinking beyond your firm’s role in a project and may mean partnering with your client or other firms involved on the project to tell a more dynamic story that is mutually beneficial. The latter should not be overlooked – assisting with publicizing a project can prove invaluable for a client who does not have the resources to otherwise do so.

Move beyond the mention.

By leveraging the cast of characters involved in a project, you will find the news value of the project increases as you include more perspectives, and that includes the end users, whether it’s middle schoolers or surgeons. In taking this multi-perspective approach to the design story, your firm’s “news” will move beyond the standard one-line mention in the “on the boards” and “project completes” columns and into multipage features and even cover stories in the industry’s top publications. Consistent features like this are what elevates your firm above the competition, making your next project bid less arduous.

Split the bill, win the cover.

Editorial-quality photos of your project are undoubtedly expensive – but it’s also a necessary piece of the story. By collaborating with the expanded design team and client, you can often team-up on photography, cutting the investment significantly because multiple parties are splitting the bill. The return on that investment can be significant when stellar photography is paired with multiple interview sources – this is what cover stories are made of.

Engaging the moment is as important to architects and designers as it is to their marketing teams – and it all starts with architecting your story.