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Architects: Don’t Advertise. Tell Your Story Instead.

BowerBird is a platform that helps architects and interior designers connect with journalists and get their work published. Co-founder Ben G Morgan gives us some tips on publicity for architects ahead of BowerBird’s launch in the US.

Most architects, almost by definition, find publicity uncomfortable. There’s a prevailing attitude that your work should speak for itself, and that peer recognition is far more important than getting ‘publicity’. In fact, the words ‘marketing’ and ‘PR’ probably make most architects shudder.

Since launching our platform, BowerBird, in mid-2016 we’ve learnt some amazing things about architects and the value of good storytelling.

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We’ve also learnt that the profession is democratizing at an astonishing rate, as new tools and technologies like WorkflowMax make small-medium practices much more competitive, and therefore able to produce more, and better, work.

The products and services that were once only accessible to the big firms are now available to everyone. BowerBird is helping to democratize architecture by making it easier for architects to get their work published.

Our motto is ‘Architects don’t advertise. They get published.’

Advertising your architecture practice under ‘A’ in the yellow pages just doesn’t work. When a client is commissioning an architect, they want to connect with you, to understand your philosophy, ideas, and your approach to design.

When a client is forking out hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars, they want to know your story.

This is why it’s so important for architects to get published. Appearing in publications that your potential clients are reading is how you’ll connect with them, and inspire them to pick up the phone when they’re finally ready to engage you.

Tips for Getting Published:

There are some key things to remember about getting published.

  • You MUST have professional photography


Hello House by OOF! Architecture | Photo: Nic Granleese.jpgHello House by OOF! Architecture | Photo: Nic Granleese

There aren’t any reputable architecture and design publications that don’t require professional photography. This is going to be the single biggest expense in getting published, but remember, this is your version of ‘marketing’, so it’s worth getting it right.

  • Know the story of your project
    It’s important to understand the story of your project. This isn’t the
    ‘archispeak’, or architect’s statements you’re used to writing, this should be a simple story covering the Who, What, When, Where and Why of the project.

    Don’t overthink it, and don’t use ridiculous words (think ‘interiority’). Imagine you’re explaining the project to the average person on the street.

    You’ve lived and breathed your project for months if not years, so it’s hard to step outside and understand its story. A simple method we use is called the Brief, Challenges, Solutions method. More on that below.
  • Create Press Kits
    A ‘press kit’ is everything a journalist needs to publish an article on your project. It should contain the Who, What, When, Where and Why of the project, as well as high-resolution images, any videos you may have, a list of products and materials used, and anything else that could be relevant. We’ve worked hard in BowerBird to create press kits (BowerKits) that capture everything a journalist needs.
  • Connect with Journalists
    Be brave. Journalists aren’t out to get you. In most cases, they just want to help you tell the story of your project, and communicate it to their audience. Connecting with journalists on social media is a great way to start. Using a platform like BowerBird can make it super simple to connect, but you can also do your own research and reach out to them yourself.

    Remember that, like you, journalists are really busy, so it’s best to only get in touch when you have your press kit and high-res images ready.
  • Design, Build, Get Published, Repeat

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Glass Link House by Robbie Walker | Photo: Nic Granleese

Many architects think of their business in terms of ‘Design, Build, Repeat’. But getting new clients is about more than just ‘word of mouth’. We try to encourage architects to add an extra step: ‘Design, Build, Get Published, Repeat’. Because getting published is where your potential clients get to see your work and connect with your ideas.

When you finish a project, just add ‘getting published’ to the process and you’ll improve your chances of landing more, and better, clients.

Simple Storytelling for Architects

Telling the story of your project can seem daunting. But there are some simple techniques to make this easier. A storytelling tool we use on BowerBird is the Brief, Challenges, Solutions method:

  • Project Brief
    This is where you get to use your client’s words to your benefit. Literally explain what they came to you with:

    “The client owned an existing home between two heritage buildings. Their family was growing and they needed a bigger building. Rather than relocate they decided to investigate what could be done with their existing home…”
  • Challenges of the Brief
    This is where you can highlight the difficulties of the project, as no project is straightforward:

    “One of the hardest things about this project was the small size of the site. We needed to design a building that would accommodate far more, but without a major increase in the building volume…”
  • Your Solution
    This is where you get to show off your skills. You should explain how you tackled ‘the challenge’ and met the client’s brief:

    “We approached the design much like a boat. We knew the envelope of the building was fixed and it was all about getting as much as we could out of every square meter, which included using oversized stairs as extra living space and clever storage in walls and floor cavities…”


Acute House by OOF! Architecture | Photo: Nic Granleese.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acute House by OOF! Architecture | Photo: Nic Granleese

One of the benefits of using this approach is that by starting off with the Project Brief you end up using the client’s words and you avoid ‘archispeak’. The second benefit is that the Challenges and Solutions explain the value of using an architect; the bigger the challenges, the more valuable you are. And lastly, all three aspects are factual questions and you don’t need to be a great writer to make it work — leave that to the journalists.

Don’t stop at one...

Architectural media used to be dominated by a handful of great magazines. As the internet democratized, we saw a flood of blogs now covering architecture and design.

Where the idea used to be getting published once in a big magazine, it’s now about getting published multiple times in reputable publications across social, online, magazines, books and TV. The more you get published, the more likely you are to connect with your ideal clients.

Getting published is the best way for architects to connect with new clients. You’ll increase your footprint and get more value from your photography.

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Find out more about BowerBird.