How to make the most of the ever-changing news landscape
Strategies and tactics for engaging with the media
As the evolution of publishing continues and the speed of the news cycle has increased, new opportunities to engage with the media present themselves like never before. News outlets are continually looking for ways to produce more content for free.
Write for collaboration
Sensing a lack of representation in the media, AIA Southern Arizona reached out to its local newspaper, offering to work with it. With media outlets across the country cutting editorial jobs, the newspaper jumped at the chance to have AIA Southern Arizona members describe their favorite places in a monthly column. This level of consistent visibility benefits the entire profession. Learn more about AIA Southern Arizona’s monthly column.
You may want to consider submitting your own editorial story to your local newspaper. Develop a coherent structure and argument, and be sure to consider the publication’s audience. Contact your local paper and tell them why you would make a good author; include your editorial. You may get turned down, but at least you’ve started a dialogue.
Protecting your interests contractually
Establishing expectations at the beginning of a project and in writing is one way of getting more owners to responsibly credit the architect on their projects. The owner-architect agreement is the ideal place to memorialize this expectation.
“AIA Contract Documents include language that requires owners/developers to give professional credit to the architect of a building in their promotional materials,” says Deborah M. DeBernard, AIA, senior vice president, Global Innovation, at the AIA. “This feature needs to be addressed when the contract is being negotiated, but most importantly needs to be enforced during and after the project is complete.”
"I almost always receive a response back from the reporter, and we've actually created some ongoing relationships with local media." - Rusty Bienvenue
Another opportunity to utilize a contract as a mechanism for providing credit is the agreement between the architect and the photographer, model-builder, or renderer. This is an area where the architect can have more control over the quality of the images and how credit is given on the project by inserting language in the agreement that provides specific instructions about how and when to credit the architect. If a third party uses these instruments in their marketing, print, or digital materials, the photographer, model-builder, or renderer is obligated to provide credit as per the terms in the agreement.
Being the commissioner of the photography, model-building, or rendering service also permits the architect to approach the general contractor, specialty subcontractors, and the owner to determine if there could be some cost-sharing should these other parties find value in the project’s images, while simultaneously controlling the quality, image selection, and credit.
If the architect is not the entity commissioning the project photographs, providing renderings, or assisting in the development of the marketing materials, it would be important to include language in the owner-architect agreement that documents the expectation that agreements with owner-commissioned photography also include a requirement for credit to the architect.
Watermarks aren’t just for photographers
One excuse consistently offered by real estate reporters is that there is not enough space to fit the name of the architect into their article; they often feel that, by the time the building is opened, talking about the architect is irrelevant, as their job is done. In addition to a photographer’s watermark on each image, consider requiring that the firm’s logo or name be placed as a watermark in each photographic image. Architects can also buy the full rights to project images, including third-party distribution. Posting a media kit on a firm’s website with easily accessible, high-quality, watermarked images of projects makes it easier for journalists to include great project images and credit.
“Every Building Has an Architect”
After AIA Colorado identified a repeat offender of not mentioning architects at the Colorado Springs Gazette, they sent him an “Every Building Has an Architect” postcard, a concept originally developed by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). Ultimately this led to a Q&A article with its then–President-Elect Tim Stroh, AIA, on the architect’s role. This interaction led to a colleague of the author contacting AIA Colorado for a separate story that would include an architect’s perspective.
"AIA Contract Documents include language that requires owners/developers to give professional credit to the architect of a building in their promotional materials." - Deborah DeBernard, AIA
The “Every Building Has an Architect” campaign consists of a simple postcard, physically mailed to journalists who repeatedly fail to include the architect’s name in a story. The postcard serves as a gentle reminder that if they are covering a building, the architect that designed that building is by definition part of the story. Several AIA components have employed this tactic with tangible success. AIA New York’s use of the postcard resulted in a Grassroots Excellence Award in 2012.
Though this postcard has a proven success record, direct contact may be more effective. “When we see a building receiving positive coverage without mentioning the architect, we contact the reporter directly, usually via an email,” said Rusty Bienvenue, executive director of AIA Houston. “I almost always receive a response back from the reporter, and we've actually created some ongoing relationships with local media through these email exchanges. Now all the real estate/residential/business reporters know who I am and call periodically for story ideas. And all of them find a way to credit the architects when writing about a building, because they know we're watching. I find myself writing to them less often to call out their mistakes.”
Share your ideas
This article explores some of the methods that have produced positive results for architects in terms of getting credit in the media—though it has to be restated that no one single tactic will solve this problem forever. If you’ve addressed this issue with positive results by using a method not discussed, we’d love to hear about it. Please share your ideas by emailing email@example.com.
If you come across an article that wrongfully excludes the name of an architect, send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Tinder is senior manager of media relations at the AIA.