Don't ever use Flash on your website. The five members of a panel held on Friday at the American Institute of Architects annual conference agreed on a lot, but they made that particular point over and over again. Moderated by the AIA's director of media relations, Scott Frank (standing, above), the panel featured (seated, left to right) Architect magazine editor in chief Ned Cramer, Architectural Record editor in chief Cathleen McGuigan, Architect's Newspaper executive editor Julie Iovine, Philadelphia Inquirer critic Inga Saffron, and Architizer impresario and HWKN partner Marc Kushner.
So how do you get your project published? Here are some tips from the panelists distilled into seven points.
1 - Don't Ever Use Flash on Your Website
It bears repeating. When journalists are looking for details about a project, and there's a slowly unfolding splash page or an overdesigned navigation getting in the way, you will quickly lose their attention. Text on Flash pages also isn't indexed by search engines, which leaves you in a Google black hole. And of course, your site won't work at all on an iPad. "I really abhor complicated Flash websites," says Iovine. "If I'm looking up a project on my iPhone, and I can't even find your address, it's over." Keep the design clean, simple, and HTML.
2 - Make Friends with Writers
"Identify reporters who are interested in things that get built," said Saffron. But not necessarily an architecture critic. Find people writing about other topics—from real estate to health care—that overlap with architecture and get in touch. Start a discussion and a develop a rapport over time. Then, when you're project's close to completion, you won't be making a cold pitch. "The cultivation of relationships between architects and journalists is really the magic in the secret sauce of getting your work published," said Cramer.
3 - Do Your Homework
"The first step is to really know a publication," says Iovine of how to show up on her publication's radar. "Read our editorial calendar. A couple of weeks before our themed features—glass, technology, environment—I am desperately looking for projects for those categories, and I'm definitely open to suggestions."
4 - Tell a Story
For you and the design team, the fact that a project is complete is reason enough for it to be important, but the reader needs a hook. When you pitch it to a design magazine or newspaper, frame the project with a narrative. How does it change its place and context or its building type? Did the design solve a problem? Or as McGuigan suggested, explain "how what you're doing fits into the culture."
5 - Promise an Exclusive
Everyone want to be the first to show new work. Promising to keep a project off of the blogs and out of other publications can go a long way toward piquing an editor's interest. "We like to be the first national design magazine to publish a project," said McGuigan. But impose a statute of limitations on how long a publication can hold on to your project before publishing it.
6 - Send Beautiful Photography (in Small Files)
"Please do not send us large photo files, and keep the descriptions fairly short," said McGuigan.
7 - Do It Yourself
Start a blog, Tweet, or post your project on Kushner's site. "There are lots of way to speak for yourself," said Cramer. "There's something eye-rolly about people who refer to themselves as a brand, but there are a lot of ways to get your brand out there,"
But no matter where you post your project, write a clear description for a general audience and go easy on the archi-speak, Kushner said. "We've been trained really badly in the language that we use to describe the stuff that we build."
"We have to think differently as architects," he added. "We've been trained that the story doesn't happen until we've hired the photographer, we've sent them to the site, and we get this complete set of glossy pictures back, but the reality is that the story is as long as it took for the building to be built. It's about the construction site updates. It's about pictures of your staff having beer on the site or in front of the model you just completed. Each one of those little drips keeps the media aware that something's happening."