Guidance for AEC Firm Management and Principals
Do you know what clients and potential clients think of your firm? Does it match what you believe is true about your firm? Because “perception is reality,” it’s important that you make the effort to understand the perception of your firm within your industry and market sectors. This is true any time you are making a change within your marketing strategies. From changing your geographic focus to expanding into a new market sector, you need to know not only how your firm is perceived, but how you want to be perceived.
What is the Perception?
How is your firm currently perceived by past, existing, and potential clients? Conduct a client profile analysis asking about the perceptions of your firm, image, service, and staff. Once you have a clear understanding of how you are perceived, determine how you WANT to be perceived.
How Do You Want to Be Perceived?
Hold a brainstorming session with all key staff. Consider the following:
- What is public relations? How will public relations activities best benefit our firm?
- Where is public relations going to be helpful?
- What is the list of traits that clients use currently to describe our firm?
- What keywords describe the firm you desire to be?
- How can we make these lists align? What changes need to be made?
- How can we communicate this desired image? Is it the same for every market sector or are there some different strategies per market sector?
- What three words do we want to have our clients use when describing our strengths?
Create a PR Plan Roadmap
Once you understand the difference between the current perception and what you want it to be, create a roadmap to get to your destination. This will include at least three steps:
Step One – Orient and empower your team: Explain what you learned and where the firm is headed. Each team member will have a role in the PR plan. Help them understand their roles and give them the resources and support they need.
Step Two – Involve your clients: Get your clients involved in your PR process. Ask if you can share the costs of project photography and marketing. Interview your clients for ideas for speaking topics and/or article ideas. Meet with your clients’ PR person – they will be grateful to have additional help in promoting the project’s success.
Step Three – Create priorities and targets: Engage with your marketing and business development teams throughout the entire process. Work with them to determine the priorities that will best meet your goals. Determine your tactics and assign a budget to each item.
As you implement your plan, take note of the items that are successful and those that are not. Check in with your staff, vendors, and clients to see if there are subtle shifts in how your firm is perceived. Are you making headway? Celebrate your successes and make changes when needed.