Why does it Matter?

Now, more than ever, our relationships are built online. With the impact of Covid-19 limiting our in-person interactions, we’ve turned to digital connections. Between February 22 and March 22 alone, downloads for Zoom increased by 1,270%!

But adjusting to the “new normal” involves much more than learning web-based conferencing. It means accepting that 99% of AEC business is online for now – making visibility, immediacy, and authenticity essential to your company’s long-term success.

Visibility

From website and social media, to e-newsletters and press releases, your online “voice” is an integral part of your entire brand. No one’s coming to your office right now, so your website is effectively your new front door. Your employees aren’t attending networking events, so social media is your opportunity to meet potential clients and collaborators.

Surprisingly, we’re back on our computers, too. Facebook.com, for instance, reported a 27% increase on its website, compared with only 1.1% increase on its app during the same period. So instead of squinting at that tiny phone screen while people watching on their commute home, people are actually READING and comprehending what’s on it. Which means carefully curated content becomes ever more critical.

Immediacy

If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s to act quickly. Over a month ago, most NYC AEC firms announced their response to the situation, detailing their own specific measures to varying degrees. However, some waited. And when a company’s first messages came around in mid-April, it just amplified how behind the curve they were.

This “last to the boat” impression, whether perceived or real, has implications that go way beyond the current crisis. It reflects inherent vulnerabilities, lack of agility, and/or complete disregard for what’s happening right now. Let’s not forget that AEC is, above all, a service industry, and when people are choosing a provider, they want the reliable one, the one who’s prepared from the start.

Authenticity

My #1 communications rule is “Be honest.” No one likes liars, and when you pretend to offer something you can’t, you’re not fooling anyone. Transparency is of utmost importance – especially in a crisis – because even in the dark, most people find a way to see right through your façade. Remember, the truth almost always comes out…eventually.

Consider the public’s perception of the government response to Covid-19. On March 30, a Siena poll found that 87% of New Yorkers Approve of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while only 41% approve of Trump’s. The reality is, people just want the truth, even when the truth hurts.

Finding YOUR authenticity

So what does authenticity mean? It’s not just honesty – it’s being true to your company’s brand. And how do you know what your brand is if you’ve never dived deep enough to figure it out?

If your company hasn’t asked yourselves the big questions – What is our mission? What is our vision? – you’re just not sure who you are. And if you’re not sure, who else isn’t? Your clients? Your employees? The answer is everyone.

Making it consistent

Once you find your brand’s authenticity, success is highly dependent on representation. Most companies are led by multiple people with diverse perspectives, which makes it difficult to unify that representation – especially now that everyone is working remotely.

The best way to ensure consistency of message – no matter who’s delivering it and how – is to establish a “voice” for the firm. Create a set of practical guidelines, reflective of the brand, then capture and document them. These should describe how you’ll talk about the company, whether it’s on Zoom or Twitter or LinkedIn. If you’d like to sound “more friendly”, describe specifically what that means. Provide clear examples.

Having Verbal Brand Guidelines in place for your firm can also help you streamline your website content, as well as your proposal boilerplate. If you need help getting started, let’s talk!