By Muriel Watkins
For firms that have a niche market or otherwise offer an exceptional expertise, you might want to elevate your firm’s visibility as an industry leader. AIA provides a unique opportunity to begin.
Consider contributing articles to the AIA Best Practices (BP), or to the Practice Management (PM) Digest. Both of these online resources provide opportunities for offering expert advice on a variety of topics, such as project delivery, talent management, technology, and contracts. The Practice Management knowledge community (PMKC) publishes the PM Digest four times a year as a forum for sharing current and innovative practices. The PM Digest focuses on specific topics of interest to the industry. The editor works closely with the Best Practices committee, which is responsible for developing expert-based guides on topics related to Professional Practice.
How to submit a Best Practice
The Best Practices page, under the “Practice” tab on the AIA website, makes participation easy: “Contributions to AIA Best Practices are welcome at any time and in any form. Completed articles are preferred, but ideas and knowledge are most important. If the topic is worthwhile, we will work with you to develop even the barest outline of an idea. Suggestions for topics are also welcome.”
Articles for the PM Digest and Best Practices are generally no more than four pages (2,000 words) long. The recommended format can be found by clicking the red “Submit a best practice” button to read our guide, What is an AIA Best Practice and how do I submit one
A Best Practices committee member will oversee the development of an article submitted to the Best Practices. Drafts are circulated within the committee for review and editing. Following the committee’s review, the authors revise their drafts and provide images and illustrations. AIA staff complete the review process and post the article to the website. The committee works closely with the authors of articles to ensure that the appropriate architectural focus is maintained.
Publication in multiple AIA publications
Once a Best Practice article is posted on the AIA website, it might also be flagged for publication in AIA Architect, the biweekly email publication for AIA members. The best practice “Getting paid” by David Richards, FAIA was first posted on the Best Practices page before being included in the July 2017 issue of AIA Architect; it received more clicks than any of the issue’s other articles. As a result, the editor of AIA Architect now looks for opportunities to publish more Best Practices, giving their authors' broader readership.
Similarly, a recently submitted BP article, Why PowerPoint doesn’t have to suck was identified as being a fit for the PM Digest, and was published in its March 2018 issue. This example is not an exception: In 2017, at least one Best Practice article was published in each quarterly issue of the PM Digest.
PM Digest articles on social media
Architecture firms are increasingly looking to take advantage of social media platforms to support their marketing efforts and to enhance their firms’ visibility. When the PM Digest editors called for articles on pro-bono work, public interest architecture, or socially conscious design, a Best Practices committee member, Karen Courtney, helped arrange for an article by three leaders of Fanning Howey. The article, Big lessons from a tiny library, was not only posted on the AIA website but was also linked on Twitter by @AIANational twice, which generated a number of engagements with links to the firm, Fanning Howey (@FanningHowey).
The multiplier effect
The first 2017 issue of the PM Digest, focusing on Greening your practice, published six articles, one of which was originally posted to AIA.org. A review of the statistics noted that the click through and open rates for viewing were higher than usual. Top-performing articles posted for that PM Digest issue included Embracing the urge to purge and How small firms can go green. Both of these articles fit the “how to” model, with the title/description indicating “actionable advice.” Another article, So why bother going green, had a surprising uptick in readers on the AIA website. This probably resulted from the author also promoting it elsewhere on social media.
Of special note, How small firms can go green
was an article contributed by Stephanie Horowitz, AIA
an architect with ZeroEnergy Design
who also serves on the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE)
Advisory Group. ZeroEnergy Design is a green architecture, mechanical design and energy consulting firm with a specialization in new construction and renovation of modern green homes. The focus on passive house, net zero energy, and energy saving retrofits is reflected in the firms Twitter handle @ThinkZeroEnergy. This article was shared on social media by @AIA_COTE and drew the following posting:
At the beginning of 2018, Zero Energy Design posted the following announcement on Twitter after being named by Dwell as a Top 10 Design Pro for 2017:
ZeroEnergy Design @ThinkZeroEnergy
The article, shared in the PM Digest, helped ZeroEnergyDesign advance the firm’s brand as a modern green architecture and consulting firm.
Over the past year, the AIA has been reporting a rebound in the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), bolstered by project inquiries and a growth in new design contracts. The AIA.org Best Practice portal and Practice Management Digest can be viewed as a step in the direction of enhancing your firm’s visibility as a project or resource expert. For niche practice areas you can promote the firm’s projects as documented best practices broadening the potential for attracting industry partners and new clients. The AIA Best Practices committee welcomes the opportunity to help you make the case for capturing new business.