THE Marketing Event

I had the good fortune to be invited to moderate a panel on social and media for 8th annual The Marketing Event hosted by the New York chapter of SMPS expertly organized by Lauren Hlavenka, Nancy Kleppel.  This year they teamed with Chris Parsons of Knowledge Architectureand expanded the topic to include technology, knowledge management and a focus on the economy. There were three tracks for the event so I can’t speak to the full event, but the sessions I sat in on were really useful.  Chris kicked off the event with his keynote address that set the stage for the remainder of the day.  Chris is half way through a research initiative studying the social media efforts of the top 500 AE firms.  At this point, he’s looked through all the blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook and LinkedIn pages and he is now in the early stages of interviewing each firm for insight into why they chose their path.

If you have the chance to see him present – and he seems to be speaking everywhere these days – I highly recommend it.  This guy is smart.

He talked about types of content that firm’s are putting out there and pulled out some of the strongest examples and examples of firms that are trying something all together different – like Perkins + Will’s approach to Twitter where just about every office has its own Twitter account to better track and connect with local people and topics that relate to their local services. (As someone with a background in big firm corporate communications, this idea makes my palms sweat as visions of every office, business line, practice area and knowledge center going public with their own brand of social media.)  As Chris says, “This is either crazy or genius and I’m still on the fence.” If you want a front row seat to his research, be sure to attend his conference KA Connect in San Francisco this spring.

The other memorable speaker that I listened to was Nancy Egan of New Voodou.  I’d been hearing about Nancy from several people for quite some time now, so it was really good to meet her and to hear about the work she does. Nancy’s session “Between Now and Next” focused on how firms are managing the recession and the bold moves that have made some more resistant to this downturn – the “keep your knees bent approach to life” as she describes it.

Nancy aims her spotlight on idea- and issue-based firms and accurately conveys that the successful firms will be marketed through a combination of the strategy, content and relationships. I especially liked hearing about Albuquerque, NM architect Van Gilbert (perhaps because Albuquerque is my hometown and not a city often associated with innovative architects).  She described how he parlayed his zoo and aquarium design experience to spearhead collaboration with representatives of some of the top zoos and aquariums in the nation to consider and publish their aspirations for the future of these institutions.  He and the others are now presenting their collective vision at industry events.  He’s also shepherding a partnership between the Albuquerque Zoo, the Albuquerque Aquarium and a high school in Bernalillo, NM to support the science curriculum development in a time of budget constraints.

In my session “Picking Your Path in Social Media”, I shared the podium with Tom Abraham from elemental architects, Jim Kent from Thornton Tomasetti and Harry Kendall from BKSK Architects  who each represent a firm of a different size and a different approach and different level of experience in social media.

Elemental has been blogging and posting on their Facebook page steadily for more than 3 years with their own defense of architecture from the cable TV do-it-yourself and Design Star impression that many Americans have of the profession and its craft.  Their blog is syndicated on at least three other blogs and they’ve amassed more than 10,000 Facebook fans.  Their profile is a testament to the accumulative effect of a consistent social media strategy.

Thornton Tomasetti’s program is driven by a strong internal communications engine – repurposing the best and publicly consumable content as tweets and Facebook posts.  They are continually exploring ways to get staff involved and shared some tactics for opening eyes of the technical staff to the type of content that would be interesting.

BKSK just started their Tumblr that is guided by the wisdom that “if it’s interesting to us internally, it may be interesting to others”.  In a few short months, they are already starting to understand the type of content that gets staff excited and compels them to contribute.  They also realized that the process of updating the Tumblr may in fact be the process that makes the firm more aware of its most interesting aspects.

The remainder of my afternoon was spent in smaller breakout sessions designed to be free form conversations on a particular topic, like “Social Media Tactics”.  I attended three of these and by the third, my creative energy was draining and I wish I’d attended the session on “Navigating the Ocean of Professional Possibilities” instead.

I left for the airport directly after the last session with a handful of new contacts and a head full of ideas.  If you have the chance to attend the 2012 version, I recommend it.