Some colleagues and I were having a discussion this morning about the career paths that led us into the AEC industry. I was reminded how often my early broadcast media training comes in handy in my marketing work. I find it most useful when trying to gather information from my practitioner colleagues that will help us write things like project descriptions, press releases and positioning statements about our work.
In my first job I was responsible for writing and producing a documentary about a new organization, person or trend every month. I would learn enough to get a working knowledge, find people to speak about the subject with authority, then get them talking so I would have sound bites to craft my program. Over time I learned how to ask the right kinds of questions to get someone talking about a subject in a way that would elicit the quotes I was seeking.
In my experience, architects and interior designers can be daunted by writing, especially when asked to wax rhapsodic about themselves. Many are more comfortable doing exceptional work than they are talking about it. I suspect it is similar to the experience I had when I began teaching, which is when I realized I had forgotten how much I had learned because it had become what I “just know”.
When faced with someone who isn’t as self-congratulatory as they are capable (which let’s face it is most people) I find it helps to ask three questions to get the ball rolling, then delve deeper after that.
1) What did the client ask us to do? – This is usually easy to answer and gets at a client’s expectations as well as our role.
2) How did we deliver what the client wanted? – With this question I can usually get at project details and, when it’s relevant, specifics about the process of collaborating with our client and our partners that made a project work.
3) How did we add value? – Expect a pregnant pause when you ask this one, and it’s a good thing. This usually gets people thinking about what was unusual about a project that made a client happy. That’s the nugget of gold I can hammer into good copy.