For those still thinking they’re in complete charge of their reputation, brand, and who in the AEC industry decides to interact with their firm, think again! The Internet and digital communications have changed so much in the AEC marketing and business development world, it’s time to appreciate that they’re here to stay.
Consider this eye-brow-raising presidential election we’re having the opportunity to experience this year. Regardless of which candidate you support, it’s amazing to watch both sides take bits and pieces of the other side’s presentations and conversations and, then, use social media, traditional broadcast and print media, online media, and word-of-mouth marketing to AMPLIFY (and sometimes distort) theirs or the other side’s message. Neither side can control all of it and it all happens in an instant! What you don’t see are the behind-the-scenes online, digital and communications experts who are, second-by-second, evaluating and doing everything they can to manage and counter what is happening.
So, let’s learn some lessons from what is going on so you can better evaluate and manage your firm’s online and digital communications, keep your firm visible on a consistent basis and in a positive way, and allow your prospects to easily enter the door of your firm.
Your digital footprint counts!
Your digital footprint drives your firm’s findability online. The bigger and better it is, the easier it is to find your firm. If you want to expand your firm, extend your geographic reach, strengthen your position in a particular market or enter a new market, you’ll need to pay attention to your digital footprint because it’s the engine behind your firm’s online findability. And, yes, you must be easily findable to play in today’s game. Your digital footprint is built around your online assets (see below under PESO), search engine optimization, data analytics, and more.
There are multiple doors into your firm
Before the Internet, there was only one door into your firm – through the principals in the firm who were out glad-handing with prospects, making presentations, and participating in organizations. Now, prospects can enter your firm through multiple doors, i.e., your website, social media, your blog, online publicity, online search, and so on. All doors must be open all the time to allow your prospects in.
Almost two thirds of prospects will search out your firm, online, before communicating with you about a project or to research your firm during a selection
Thus, all of your online assets (website, blog, video, webinars, social media, etc.) must consistently tell the best story about you. Consistency is credibility, so make sure your marketing team is on top of what is said about your firm across all communication channels.
No, that’s not money! But, it can convert to money. Know the basics of the four kinds of media (communications with your audiences) so you know where and how to manage each and get the biggest bang for your buck.
PAID: You pay for this and you control the message, i.e. advertising, whether print or online. Expensive for a lot in the AEC industry, but can be done well with a sufficient budget. It can contribute to your digital footprint.
EARNED: You earn this coverage in these communication channels by providing excellent content to a third party. Your content is so valuable to a readership or audience that the media prints or posts it for you, i.e. feature stories, press releases or you’re invited to speak at a conference. It’s very credible coverage to have the third party endorsement plus it can contribute to your digital footprint.
SHARED: This is all about social media. You may start the conversation, but where it goes from there is up to the people who read it. They may like it and share it with others. They may also have a contrary opinion, so may post negative comments about what you’ve said. Once your original post is up, you don’t control anything after that. It contributes to your digital footprint.
OWNED: These are the assets you own, i.e. your website, your email campaigns, your brochures. You control the message and you push the message out. It contributes to your digital footprint.
Biggest lesson from this election year?
Don’t ever, ever, ever put anything negative in a digital communication, online or in social media. It never, ever, ever goes away!
So, the point is – you can control some of the messages some of the time, but you can’t control all of the messages all of the time. Be focused in your communication channels, make sure your messaging is high quality and consistent across all channels, and understand it’s in your hands to manage it all.
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