The Fascinating World of Architectural Public Relations
But do the Architects know that using some effective PR tactics they may earn an outstanding ¬†fame, image and credibility ?
I was sitting at my huge Kumbh Mela Public Relations Office Camp after midnight of an icy cold January winter of 2010, the crowd was still coming to the Ganges city of Haridwar. It was a tent made up of a canvass cloth incapable of stopping chilly winter air pouring through it and although the sand below my feet was covered by one layer of some grass & husk and another layer of a mattress yet oozing out cold radiation.
Suddenly lifting up the thick entrance curtain of my camp a group of five people stepped inside my office, two of them having massive cameras hanging from their shoulders. ‚ÄúI am Miguel, from Spain. He is Dimitri, She Yelena both from Russia, this is Mark, Australia and he is Gustavo from the US. They all sat and showed me their documents. Since none of them were having a J-Visa or any clearance from the PIB, Government of India, hence it was clear that they would not get any permission to stay at the Media Center accommodations. As soon as I made it clear, the group started leaving my room, expressing their feelings to unnecessarily disturbing me. Minutes after they left my tent, someone again lifted up the door entrance. It was one of them, Miguel from Spain. ‚ÄúSorry to bother you again Sir, but may I see you little later in the morning? He asked. ‚ÄúWhy not. Pleasure!‚Äù I replied. He noted down my mobile number and left again.
Next morning he called me and visited me again around 11 am. Seemed he bathed recently, with water droplets still around his forehead, ‚ÄúHi, Miguel again, from Spain!‚Äù and burst into laughter, ‚ÄúWow, I made a rhyming introduction.‚Äù I was wondering why this man is hanging around, when I am not going to support because of him not carrying the authorization papers. But he was very clear. ‚ÄúSir, you are a public relations person, I wish I could ask you a few questions about the PR because in our country hardly any professional attends anyone without charging him fees. I am just starting my career as an Architect but I have a lot of interest in the PR. So I wish to know, what do you think of a possibility of pursuing such a combination like PR and the Architecture?
If you don‚Äôt know much about the Indians then it would definitely surprise you that invariably most of our countrymen are highly sentimental. We value relations and try to reciprocate the love we get. Hence, I almost instantly decided to talk to that young man. But explaining about the role of PR in Architecture was not an easy topic. I myself never heard much about it. So I adopted a standard trick we often use delivering extempore & impromptu speeches. Step by step thinking and delivering our points.¬† I am sharing my views on this great subject for the benefit of other such people who might be wondering if they could make a career in the Public Relations elsewhere.
Just to gain some more time to think about his subject I asked Miguel, “Which famous¬†Architect’s¬†name is synonym with India?” He took sometime and later replied sounding a little confused as if asking me, “Lutyens?” He was correct. Practically entire modern Delhi was designed by one of the greatest British Architects of his time Sir Edwin Lutyen, who synced the traditional architectural styles into an impressive form of buildings, New Delhi is famous for,during 1912-1930. I asked Miguel, if he knew anything about Sir Lutyen’s seven Indian assistants. He was hardly aware if he had any assistants as well.
I had enough time to think about my topic and began explaining that basically, Architect is a very costly and standard profession in which the¬†experts combine various elements like Engineering, Arts and Aesthetics. They use their designing capabilities to evolve a great building. If you look at a great and unusually attractive building or structural¬† marvel you may even call a lively and permanent advertisement. Isn‚Äôt it? You need not to spend much on hoardings, bill boards and media advertising to make propaganda about yourselves but is it sufficient? What if someone hasn‚Äôt seen your building? And how you are going to be¬†benefited¬†if people just see a building and pass by it? Will they stop¬†and ask the neighbors, where is the house owner? I wish to ask him about this design and the architect.
So, developing new buildings, improving landscapes and re-designing community living may be of a huge interest, but until publicized properly, they never ever return you any favors, like in the case of a successful lawyer, who wins a sensational trial yet fail to get the mileage, until he or she don‚Äôt manage a media coverage of his success.
Handling the PR for architects is a sort of unexplored area. It‚Äôs an ocean of¬†fathomed¬†opportunities. Just¬†imagine how much money this field might be having, having you knowing already how much money today the world of infrastructure development has. On the other hand, it‚Äôs a bitter fact that the architects rarely get the credit they deserve for their outstanding contribution which fetch hundreds of crores of rupees. Have you have read any headlines that another great township designed by the great architect Mr or Ms XYZ is coming up with these specifications? Almost every new building gets some media attention as news and hence it should be used as an opportunity for the architect to attain specific recognition and positive profile. Yet, what happens? Everyone, even if they hardly contributed in the project, get the exposure except the architect, they get the newspaper mentions and and a strong share of their voice in the media. Considering this scenario, the public relations for the architect becomes more important.
I saw him clapping and having a glitter in his eyes. In between he was taking notes also. Noticing it I asked him to answer a simple question : tell me Miguel, how many PR and Publicity Opportunities, the Architect might create for themselves? Almost instantly he replied innocently, ‚ÄúWell, I don‚Äôt know so far.‚Äù¬† Even I didn‚Äôt have the idea. I actually wanted to gain some more time to think about. Yes, these opportunities are many like: breaking news about an upcoming project that will change the landscape of the area forever. The media people are always hungry for such items which no one has. Since all the projects that come up, already have the authorizations and clearances so there is no harm in publicizing them. The developer also gets happy when something positive comes in media. After such breaking news, the other media person may be approached exclusively that this project will affect their viewers in these many ways. They might be interested to know about the various stages of the development. Even the occasion of getting the approval of the project is a media opportunity. Starting the construction is also news.
Due to technological advances all the developers are taking some or the other specific measures to remain exclusive or to ensure quality, which may also be transformed into news again. When your site approaches completion and when it‚Äôs finally launched, you must ensure that you harvest your own share of publicity, reputation and image. Alternatively an architect may get other opportunities as well like obtaining a space in the sector specific publications and news media. He or she may send request letters with a brief resume to the print, broadcast and internet media houses, volunteering availability, if ever they require any expert on any project related discussion or quote. On the other hand you may try approaching various other organizations, who recognize innovations and experts, provided you have introduced some unique feature such as earthquake resistance, lonely senior citizens‚Äô protection, burglar alarms, protection for the toddlers & kids, energy and environmental efficiency. Like all other professions you must also exploit the potential social media platforms have. You should never fail to participate in the community meetings organized by your area authorities, because such meetings easily get published in the media and they mention the names of the participating experts. It‚Äôs like hammering the society and blowing your own trumpet that you are there. Such PR gimmicks maintain you in demands and get you good flow of clients. The architects should also make use of their own websites to showcase their talents. You may express your views on various social issues on your Facebook and Twitter.
And why not write a blog about some of your projects? There are plenty of free blog sites. Remember your blog must add value, rather than merely being blowing your own trumpet. It should provide the potential clients and fraternity some fresh and authoritative ideas, separating you from the ordinary practitioners. Do log-in something on a regular basis, which will significantly boost your own search engine rankings as well as demonstrating thought leadership in the field, acting as a powerful tool for real-time discussions and can be influential in building long-term relationships with customers.
No architect should forget that his routine behavior also gets him ample opportunities of publicity and public relations. Even if you reject some client due to fee related constraints or because of any other reason, you must give them some free advice on who they should approach, what they should do, how they may cut their expenses and lastly you may refer them to some of your colleagues who charge less fee. Please never ever mention that they are more competent or even equally competent, compared to you. Just say that these architects are also good and charge less. And please never forget to mention that you are not endorsing their ethics, style and other traits; still better if some of your assistant may handover a list of other fellow architects without endorsing anything. The architects must not forget that their staff and dependents also are their image, reputation & brand value careers. So apart from planning and delivering great projects, do find some quality time for them as well.
(Copyright Dr AshokKSharma,- Chief Strategy Officer, Publicity Mantra, India)