Posts filed under ‘AEC’

Ten Years with Blattel Communications: Melinda Hepp

How Did You Come to Blattel Communications?

I majored in rhetoric and media studies in college, so communications and media relations were long-time professional interests. I came to Blattel Communications after living in Oregon and working in the wine industry. Surprisingly, I wasn’t interested in continuing my career in wine, even after moving to Northern California’s renowned “Wine Country.” Instead, I decided to look for an agency position where I could work with a number of different companies and industries.

It was a very challenging job market at the time, and, since I was attempting to enter into a field with no prior agency or professional services experience (except for one law firm summer gig), I knew I had to differentiate myself. I thought, why email my resume? It might not stand out in a sea of others. I’m going to hand deliver it – perhaps I’ll be viewed as the persistent, determined and professional person I think I am. The worst case scenario is that Blattel Communications (which had an open position at the time) thinks I don’t know how to follow directions and am overly pushy or finds the whole nontraditional application attempt bizarre. Oh well, what did I have to lose? I saw Ellen Blattel’s picture on the website and I thought she looked nice and approachable, so I gave it a shot.

I drove down to the San Francisco Financial District from the North Bay and parked in what I thought was a two-hour spot on Sansome Street. (You can probably already guess what happened to my car.)

I walked in and was greeted by the office manager at the front desk. I asked for Ellen, and while she wasn’t available, Traci Stuart walked out to inquire as to why I had showed up unannounced. I was able to give her my crisp folder and polished resume, express earnest interest in an interview and put a face to a name. I won’t lie: she had a somewhat puzzled look on her face, but apparently the action sparked conversation in the office and, coupled with some good timing, I was added to the short list of interviewees a few hours later – receiving the call as I was driving home. (Those few hours in between my planned/unplanned drop-in and heading home were spent not taking in the sights, but rather fetching my car from the tow lot.) Despite my San Francisco rookie mistake, I was happy to know that I had made a good impression. Fast forward and not only was I lucky enough to land the job, but, ten years later my origin story is one that Traci and Ellen have told to prospective clients as a testament to my tenacious approach to media relations.

I haven’t looked back, and my interests are far from pigeon-holed in this agency setting because my clients span multiple industries. Architecture, construction, real estate, law, public agency, banking and accounting are all market sectors in which I work. I get a lot of satisfaction out of this diverse client base and creating and executing custom campaigns. And, I get to work with a number of different media outlets, editors and journalists. No pitch is ever the same.

What Makes Blattel Communications Special?

Blattel Communications’ dedication to working with professional services is one of our biggest differentiators. Ellen Blattel founded the agency 25 years ago as the first PR firm in the country focused on legal marketing. And while this served as the foundation, our agency has expanded into complementary business-to-business industries.

Blattel Communications is special for many reasons, including our longevity with clients. It’s truly rewarding to evolve and grow with them. Our clients rely on us an extension of their own marketing and business development departments, and they often tell us that we know them better than they know themselves. We are able to bring an outside perspective, yet we have the insider institutional knowledge of a client’s foundational mission, a dimension core to its strategic messaging.

I’ve worked with some of my clients since I started at Blattel Communications nearly 11 years ago. We put a concerted effort into adding value and making sure they want to continue working with us. Not a lot of agencies can say that most of their clients have been with them 10 or even five years. We can – though we don’t take this for granted.

Personally, Ellen, our CEO, and Traci, our president, have long supported my professional growth at our agency. I’ve gone from a single lady living in the “Big City,” to a married mom of two young children long moved out of the city and into the North Bay Area. I’ve attempted to create my own little business unit in the North Bay – a pursuit Blattel Communications supports – and it has worked out well. I co-founded the Professional Services Marketing Group-North Bay and have become involved in various other regional groups and business development endeavors that have afforded me the opportunity to focus and grow the agency’s client-base in this region.

Where is Blattel Communications Headed?

So much has changed since I began working for the agency. Obviously, advancements in technology have been the catalyst for the biggest changes in pretty much all facets of business, and especially communications. We have evolved with it all, and our clients know this and trust that we keep ourselves ahead of the curve. While the marketplace has changed, our outstanding client service has not.

The online media landscape requires us to act quicker – basically in real time when it comes securing quotation “ink” for breaking news, as well as publicizing client announcements. It will be interesting to see how much more instantaneous we can get. Social media, like Twitter, has become a force in breaking and sharing news.

Additionally, moving from print to online media consumption has resulted in in a greater absorption of content more frequently. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses continue to curate, update and share original content. The opportunities for publishing content have multiplied. Gone are the days of having a few columns per year available in industry trade publications to publish byline articles, or limited opportunities to see press releases published in article form due to print cycle time lapse. Today, the media wants to constantly keep their online news pages fresh, and there is virtually never-ending demand for content. We play a large role in keeping the fresh content stream flowing for our clients – which, as we know they are very busy, takes a tremendous amount of creativity, strategy and manpower.

Visuals, like videos, photos and infographics, are desired to support written content (or as stand-alone communications pieces) for online media, so we are consistently conveying to our clients the importance of considering the visual element of their communications strategies, especially in the AEC and real estate industries.

It is a very exciting time when it comes to communications, and Blattel Communications is at the forefront of this evolution. I feel fortunate to be part of an agency that values its employees. Over the next few weeks you will hear from team members who have been with the agency 15, 20 and 25 years. Both clients and employees value what we do. It makes for a wonderful combination that has proven staying power.

Melinda Hepp

May 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

Strike a Pose, Strategically: How to Take Media-Worthy Real Estate Project Photos

In today’s fast-paced media world with shrunken news reporting teams, yet a growing number of online exposure opportunities, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and real estate companies have more opportunities than ever to promote project milestones and volunteer events.

Publications rely on us – the public – more and more to provide “packaged” information that can easily be published with minimal or no editing. And, since the Internet doesn’t have space limitations, media outlets like to have visuals to support published articles.

Since publications (and readers) want visuals, it’s important to consider the visual possibilities when promoting a project milestone, such as a groundbreaking or ribbon-cutting, or a community service project, such as a building and landscape makeover for a nonprofit. Let’s drill down on the best photos for these three examples.

Project Groundbreaking

A groundbreaking milestone is a great news hook to promote affiliation with a project. Photo and image ideas to send to the media with a written announcement include:

  • Aerial shot of the before “hole in the ground.”
  • Small group shots at the event that may include the project’s owner, architect, contractor and public representative (like the mayor).
  • Your company’s representative speaking at the event.
  • The token small group “golden shovel” photo, a traditional shot whereby a few representatives are lined up with their shovels in the ground. Hard hats are typically worn.
  • Architect’s rendering of the completed structure.

Completed Project Ribbon-Cutting/Opening

An event associated with a project’s completion is a great opportunity to promote the development process, end result and how the facility will benefit the community it serves. Here are some photo suggestions:

  • Final photography that captures the most impressive aspect of the facility. An exterior shot is essential, but if the interior incorporates a visually appealing design, then an interior shot would be beneficial, as well.
  • Small group shots at the event that may include the project’s owner, architect, contractor and public representative.
  • Your company’s representative speaking at the event.
  • The token small group “ribbon cutting with giant scissors” photo, a traditional shot whereby a few representatives are lined up with the project owner cutting a giant ribbon at the facility’s entrance.
  • Potentially, photos demonstrating how the facility will be used would be great additions, such as a teacher speaking to students at the front of a new school’s classroom, a doctor working in a new hospital’s lab, a manufacturer working the assembly line or a librarian shelving a book in a new library.

Community Service Project

Companies, especially those in the AEC and real estate industries, do a good job of pursuing service projects that utilize their skills in making over a facility, such as partnering with Habitat for Humanity or Rebuilding Together. Here are some photo ideas to help capture the positive impact and effort of the company.

  • Small group shots. (Again, small group shots are media friendly.)
  • A large group shot would be appropriate in this setting if the image can show a company’s collaborative effort and spirit (and matching shirts are a must!). If anything, it’s a great social media-worthy image to have.
  • Before and after “makeover” photos in the same location. A sea of weeds or a dilapidated porch will emphasize the improvements and overall impact of a brand new landscape or welcoming entrance.
  • “In the trenches” action shots are the pictures that capture the essence of a community service project. Take pictures of employees painting, hammering, looking over plans, weeding, planting, etc. Choose the best few pictures that showcase a broad spectrum of actions, and that also show company leadership hard at work and invested in the project.
  • Don’t forget to stage a picture with a company leader and the beneficiary of the project after it’s completed, such as the principal of a school with a new playground, or the director of a nonprofit whose facility received a new roof and fresh paint job.

One important tip to remember: all photos require captions upon submission, including names and titles. Be sure to remember to record the names of people being photographed so you can adequately describe them in captions.

Happy snapping!

Melinda Hepp

October 16, 2014 at 7:39 pm Leave a comment

The Most Overused Words in AEC Industry Writing

Immersed in the real estate and AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) worlds, every day I read industry press releases and other marketing-related content. There are a few specific words that have stuck out over the years, and at this point, they are overused and have become, sadly, rather meaningless.

Part of this issue stems from fact that today’s readers (including the reporters and editors receiving these press releases) prefer brief content, and companies tend to default to buzz words and industry jargon that “packs a punch” in an effort to cast a wider net while painting a grander picture. However, especially in the architecture, construction and real estate industries, the content – usually about projects – needs to create a visual for the reader, and the use of certain words (that we see over and over again) hinders this message delivery.

A few years ago, The Wall Street Journal declared “innovation” the most overused word in business writing, noting that it’s “in danger of becoming a cliché—if it isn’t one already.” Today, I think it is.

Around the same time, Business Wire compiled the most common buzzwords out of 16,000 press releases over a month-long period. “Solution” ranked number one.

In addition, some words are just plain overused in AEC and real estate writing. These include: “world-class,” “state-of-the-art,” “green,” “sustainable,” “cutting edge” and “premier.”

I didn’t use a fancy computer-generated tally system, but the repetition of these words in my daily life is why they are so easily identifiable – and make me cringe. While it’s impossible to eliminate all of the buzzwords and clichés, it’s important to limit this jargon because the ubiquitous nature of these words causes readers’ eyes to glaze over and the point is lost – if it was ever really there.

What does a “premier” company or “state-of-the-art” project really mean? I would hope a new project or renovation would result in a high-quality outcome, thus aren’t all of them state-of-the-art? The problem is that so many industry press releases use these words to describe their company or project, but we still don’t have an understanding of the company or project, its importance, or its impact in marketplace.

These days, “green” and “sustainable” are among the biggest offenders! It is critical to explain what makes a project green or no one will believe you. And it has to go beyond low-flow toilets and no VOC paints.

I suggest thinking like an editor – ask yourself: what is newsworthy about this project? – to fight the urge to use these words. There’s a fine line between too little information that, while brief, doesn’t tell you anything and too much content that results in losing your audience. It’s important to highlight what makes the project as innovative and world-class as claimed by describing the most compelling design features (Green roof? Glass elevators? Historical preservation?), construction delivery processes (Design-build? Technology usage? Self-perform?), and final outcome impact on its users and the surrounding community (Creating new jobs? Tenant expansion? Collaborative work spaces?).

This way, the reader gets a clear picture of what makes this “world class” building “innovative”, and you communicate the message you intended.

Melinda Hepp

June 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment


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