by Susan Shelby
We’ve heard the adage: “Good things come to those who wait.” While there is certainly truth to this, a more realistic virtue may be: “Good things come to those who wait . . . patiently.”
As professionals in the AEC industry, we understand that projects require patience every step of the way. A typical project has many, often lengthy, phases: programming, schematic design, design development, construction documentation, and construction administration. And to land that coveted project takes time — sometimes years! It’s a long-term process to network and court prospective clients, prepare marketing and business development (BD) materials, create proposals, and compete for the project. Even developers play the waiting game to secure funding and construction permits.
Just like securing, designing, and building a project, there’s a process to public relations (PR). Similar to your BD efforts, successful PR professionals work hard to cultivate strong relationships with publications, editors, and freelance writers. And guess what? To build traction for a client’s new PR program and garner meaningful results, that takes time, too! For clients, it can be hard to understand the level of investment, time, and effort required to generate results from a PR and/or marketing campaign. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) include:
How long will it take before we see results? For an AEC firm that’s new to PR, your brand and company name may not be a known entity among your target media. It takes time to create a PR plan, develop messaging, and execute on tactics such as press releases, media outreach, and byline articles. For companies with some name recognition, editors may reply to an inquiry, but it’s still a process to bring an article idea to fruition.
In addition, keep in mind that most monthly publications work several months out. PR people know that publication lead times can range from two to six months — sometimes longer! Editors also receive a plethora of pitches on a daily basis, so your pitch really needs to stand out to get attention. For example, Architectural Record receives 3,000 project pitches, on average, every year but only features a handful each month in its print magazine.
Why does it take so long? Similar to your firm’s first meeting with a prospective client, it may take several encounters with an editor to develop a working relationship that bears fruit. An editor may not be interested in your article topic for a particular issue but could contact you many months later when editorial needs change. Some publications conduct extensive due diligence before deciding to publish a project. It could take months of strategic and consistent communication with an editor to see placement of your news or article.
What makes a project newsworthy? A project’s newsworthiness depends on the publication. Some publications, like Engineering-News Record, require projects currently be under construction. Other publications, like Building Design + Construction, accept projects that are on the boards (with renderings) and recently completed (with photos). Business press like the Boston Business Journal and The Boston Globe are interested when a deal or lease is signed or when permits are issued. Submission guidelines as well as the project’s own scope, size, and story determine whether a project piques an editor’s interest.
They say it takes seven touches to make an impression on someone. Think about how many times your principals and/or BD staff reach out to potential clients before being invited to submit a proposal. It’s no different with PR. A steady flow of news can establish your firm’s name in the media and in the minds of potential clients.
As you approach a PR campaign, keep in mind that the most successful campaigns involve an investment of time to gain brand recognition and establish thought leadership. With patience and a steady stream of press releases, media opportunities, and byline articles, impactful results will be felt. Patience in PR — just like patience in landing a new project — is essential for success.
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations, a full-service PR and marketing agency focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms.