Dave Sharp advises architecture firms on social media, communication and marketing strategy. More.
They covered a lot of great stuff, so we’ve picked our favourite bits of advice for architects looking to get their work published in print.
- Using Instagram to get on a journalist’s radar.
- How you should email your project to a journalist.
- The importance of investing in photography.
- Why you need a publication strategy.
What are the magazines looking for, and how do they judge what should get published?
Your project needs to be unique, sexy and approachable to a mass audience. When you contact a journalist about your project, focus on what makes it unique and sexy.
Katelin: When I’m looking for projects for Houses, I’m looking to do something a bit different. So I want to challenge people’s ideas of what architecture is and can be, but then also cater to people who might be scared off by something that’s too out there.
I need to have a really broad range of projects. We’re looking for different sizes, budgets, locations, different interesting clients. I don’t want two of the same type of project in each issue.
We get so many submissions to the magazines, and we’re really spoiled for choice these days, which is fantastic.
If your project really belongs in the magazine, the journalists will call you or your photographer. With so many firms posting on social media for journalists to see, there’s a lot less pressure to bombard their email inboxes.
Katelin: To be honest, there are some standout projects that we just go, “Wow, yes. We have to have this now.” I’ll call the photographer. I’ll call the architect straightaway, and it has to go into the magazine. And then there are other projects where I need to think about it a bit more or I’ll say, “Oh, I’ve seen one of those before.”
Don’t worry if your project isn’t for everyone, the journalists put their audience first. If you’re pitching a journalist, it’s a great idea to explain why their audience will love to see your project.
Not everything that we put in the magazines we necessarily like or is to our taste. So you have to be really careful about pulling yourself away. “Oh well, I don’t really love this, but I can see that there’s something in there that somebody else might really appreciate.”
Your project may not be included if something similar was in the previous issue. Keep abreast of what is getting published and try to time your pitch so that your work is a breath of fresh air.
Cassie: It comes down to what’s good and what’s innovative and exciting, but also not same-same. If I’ve already published something that looks similar from last issue, I’m not gonna be doing it again.
Journalists are using Instagram to find great projects for their magazines.
By sharing projects on Instagram and interacting with journalists, you can get your work on their radar without having to send them an email or a press release. We love this hands-off approach. Following journalists on Instagram and interacting with them improves your chances of getting your work noticed.
Cassie: Instagram has changed the way we work. Katelin and I are always looking at Instagram for what architects are up to. So we’re watching for projects that are getting built or we’re seeing sketches or renders in which we start getting interested and putting that in our mind of when we should be checking in.
It’s opened us up to all these new projects. So we can now see what all these architects are up to on a daily basis and what they’re working on, which is awesome.
Katelin: We’re constantly trawling Instagram.
It’s also great because we can see what’s happening without having to email architects and say, “Hey, can you send me photos?” We can just sneakily have a look at what everyone’s up to. And so it actually saves time, because we can kind of just file it away.
Cassie: We feel like we have eyes everywhere now.
Exclusivity and the difficulty you’ll face getting hospitality projects published.
The architectural media have a hard time getting the scoop on popular public projects. There’s a lot of hype around cafes and restaurants in particular, which Katelin calls the Broadsheet factor.
Katelin: The Broadsheet factor is basically that you’ve got Broadsheet, this online go-to guide. As soon as the café opens, everyone goes in. It’s this one-hour wait for breakfast. I find it’s very tricky for me to pick hospitality projects, especially those in Melbourne, and especially the good ones, because they’ve been on Broadsheet five months prior and everyone’s seen them in the flesh. A lot of our audience like to go and see good design in person.
So it is a bit tricky for me to publish hospitality projects in Melbourne because of that factor, because people have already seen it and it feels like old news by the time it gets in.
If you’re promoting a hospitality project, it needs to have an interesting story to stand up in the architectural media. You may have better results from pitching journalists at lifestyle publications. That said, there are some exceptions to the Broadsheet factor. If your project has a great story or groundbreaking idea that demands long-form explanation, then the architectural media is the place to pitch.
Katelin: We talk about the idea of us being slow publishing versus the online publications being fast publishing.
We publish the drawings. We commission a respected writer, and we give it enough pages to show it in its entirety.
People appreciate coming to one of our magazines and knowing that every project in there has got something worth reading about.
You should think about your publication strategy before promoting your project to journalists, so that you don’t hurt your chances with a prestigious publisher.
Katelin: We ask for exclusivity on our projects, and by that I mean we ask that people don’t offer the project to other publications that are in direct competition, and that includes Australian online publications that are in direct competition with us.
While print has a modest circulation, getting published in one of Architecture Media’s properties will ensure your project ends up on ArchitectureAU. ArchitectureAU gets 131’000 unique visitors per month and approximately 250–1000 social media shares per article (primarily Facebook). A lot of international publishers also look to ArchitectureAU as the definitive source of Australian design, so ending up here can be really powerful.
Katelin: I’m not sure if I should be saying this, but all of our articles from the magazines end on ArchitectureAU. And they go to a different audience. So that’s after they’ve been on the newsstands for a while. So they do get recycled online.
When people get published in one of our publications, they don’t just get the audience or the readership of our magazines, they also get the readership of ArchitectureAU.
ArchitectureAU is a very important platform for Australian Architects, so you should decide whether it’s better to target their platform or a handful of their competitors. It’s hard to have both.
Katelin: We really encourage people to be a bit strategic about their publication plan, not just have a scatter-shot approach and send it out everywhere.
We like people to have a list of who they might target first, second, third, and then they work their way down.
The right way to reach out to journalists.
If you’re emailing your projects to journalists, they prefer that you keep it short and simple. 10 low-res photos, and a few bullet points. You can’t barge your way into Architecture Media, you just need to pique their interest and explain what makes your project worth reading about.
Katelin: We really don’t want people to waste too much time. I think simpler is best.
We don’t have that much time to read paragraphs and paragraphs of writing. Tell us what’s interesting about this project quickly. Send us a set of low res images. Not thousands. Maybe just, you know, 10.
If we want more we’ll ask for more. And if you think the drawings are really important for us to see, then send those through, too. But just a brief email, 10 to 15 good, low res images, and potentially some drawings.
Cassie: If we love it, we’re gonna be onto you in getting everything we need after that.
How important is it to invest in a good photographer?
Katelin: Invest in good photography.
Trust the photographer’s experience. Don’t tell them what to shoot.
Katelin: Photographers see the project just like we do, in a different way to the architect, who is potentially just super close to the project itself and don’t have that perspective. The photographer will see it with different eyes.
I think there are a lot of architects out there who will come to a photographer with their iPhone shots and go “Just replicate all of these, and that’ll be fine.” But you’re not going to get the best out of your photographer if you’re telling them exactly how to frame every shot.
If the photos are bad, your project won’t get published. Even if the building is great.
Katelin: That’s the real shame with some projects that we think are really great. If the photography lets them down, they won’t get published, because it’ll stand out in the set of other beautiful images.
Cassie: In the whole magazine, you’ll be able to tell which images don’t stand up. Yeah, so we can’t publish it.
Katelin: I’ve had cases where people have just taken their own photographs and I’ve had to say, “No, unless you go and invest in new photography, we can’t publish this.”
Can progress shots get published, or just the finished building?
Katelin: For the magazines, it’s always finished product.
How younger firms are building brands and embracing change on social media.
Katelin: The emerging practices seem to be embracing all this change quite easily.
Cassie: I think that’s because they’ve got smaller teams, and they don’t have to communicate that to a whole hundred people. They’ve just got to communicate it to the five people that are around them.
Katelin: I think the other thing, which I’ve written an article about on ArchitectureAU, is that they aren’t just practising in the way that all the traditional architectural practices have practised in the past. They’re thinking about new ways to do things, new ways to promote themselves, new ways to actually run a business.
Cassie: They’re building their own brand.
You can improve your chances of getting published by enticing journalists with Instagram images and sending short bullet-point emails accompanied by low-res photos to get the conversation started.
Your pitch email should contain 5–10 low-res images and a few bullet points stating what makes your project unique, sexy, and why their audience would love to see it.
You improve your chances of a journalist discovering your project by engaging in the thriving architecture community on Instagram.
You need to invest in a well-respected architectural photographer to stand a chance of your work ending up in print.
Choose your publications carefully, and analyse each for reach and authority before reaching out to dozens of journalists. You can use tools such as Alexa and Buzzsumo to guage the social media and online impact of each publication.