[Originally published 2nd quarter 2011, in arcCA 11.2, “The Business of Architecture.”] __________
Julie D. Taylor, Hon. AIA/LA, is founder and principal of Taylor & Company, a Los Angeles-based public relations and marketing services firm. She is active in AIA/LA and CanstructionLA and is the Editor of SAH/SCC News for the Society of Architectural Historians/Southern California Chapter.
When Brad Pitt lusts for blueprints, and Frank Gehry “stars” on “The Simpsons,” and the term architect is used to aggrandize every other activity, one might think the profession is better understood than ever. Perhaps so. But can anyone outside the profession name five living architects? Could your clients?Besides a few stars, it is common still for architects to bear blame but not glory, to be eclipsed by clients, and to be relegated backstage at grand openings and groundbreakings. There may be nobility in being an unsung hero, but it doesn’t generate new business. The answer to unwanted anonymity is more consistent communication. Marketing is the nexus between communication and sales. And sometimes, I’m afraid to say, architects can be their own worst enemies when it comes to verbal expression. You must communicate to potential clients and allies in a way that promotes your business as well as the ethos of the profession. The economy seems to be inching its way back. Yet competition among architects for each commission remains fierce. More than ever before, architects need to understand—and more important, aggressively partake in—marketing and public relations. Myth #1: Marketing is a 4-Letter Word You did not spend all those years in school and all that time in licensing exams to be a marketing expert, right? However, without a notion of what marketing is, you won’t have the chance to put all that great talent and time to use. The real four-letter word for marketing is W-O-R-K. It takes work and it leads to work. Marketing is not for other people; it’s for you. Marketing is the overall term that pertains to the process of getting work. Under that rubric fall business development, marketing communications, and public relations. A few definitions:
- Business Development: The direct means of securing clients through lead development, networking, RFQ, RFP, committee membership, interviews, design competitions.
- Marketing Communications: Relaying messages about your practice through website, corporate identity, newsletters.
- Public Relations: Partaking in activities giving you greater exposure to the public realm, such as awards programs, speaking engagements, exhibitions, and media relations.