Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM President & CEO Rhino PR
AEC firms get marketing. Or at least, they understand the need to prepare proposals and stay in touch with clients and prospects. But often, public relations is misunderstood, devalued, or worse yet, entirely ignored.
The key to effective business growth is an integrated approach that combines marketing, business development, and public relations. Leave out any one of these key disciplines, and you’ll likely have some success, but it won’t be sustainable and it won’t be as impactful as it could be.
We know the objections and questions. “How does PR win us new work?” “What does PR mean anyway? Isn’t it just bragging about our projects?” “Sending out press releases won’t help us win the next new client.” “What’s the ROI?”
Trust us, we get it. PR is not a data-driven, ROI-evident endeavor. However, it is effective at generating thought leadership and subject matter expertise in areas seldom reached by word of mouth. It transcends the idea that a project should speak for itself.
Many technical professionals prefer to “let their work speak for itself.” However, buildings can’t speak. That’s why there are marketers and PR professionals to tell each project’s story.
Here are the top three reasons why you need PR:
- Promote Your Expertise. Your firm’s staff are highly trained and creative experts in their fields. Clients need to know that your people will help them realize their vision for a project, in a thoughtful and professional way. AEC projects have big budgets and long timelines – it’s crucial for clients to have confidence in your unique capabilities.
- Establish Credibility. Especially for smaller or relatively new firms, or those entering new markets, PR can help increase awareness of your company name and identity. It creates associations with respected editorial sources, and transfers some of the publication’s credibility to your firm. But one article isn’t enough. A consistent presence and messaging are key to establishing credibility.
- Educate Your Audience. Every project is a learning experience – for the client, and the firm. Sharing lessons learned and professional insights via articles in respected publications can help future clients prevent costly mistakes, and enable a more successful outcome. Educating prospective clients about new technologies and trends shows that you are a thought leader in your field. Clients will appreciate your knowledge-sharing.
While PR is almost never a direct line to new business, it is integral to building a long-term presence in the industry and establishing and maintaining top-of-mind awareness among current and potential future clients.
Have we convinced you that PR is an important piece of an integrated communications strategy? Or at least, are you considering PR? So where and how do you start? We’re continuing this conversation, and outlining the initial steps to take to set up an effective PR program, in an upcoming issue of The Marketer. Stay tuned for: “Ten Steps to an Award-Winning Public Relations Program,” which will cover:
Identifying goals and milestones
The need for internal champions
How to leverage your website
Why consider e-marketing
Making social media work for you
How to track PR metrics