Rejuvenation for Architectural Communication
The Founder of the Agency textart by ute Latzke in Conversation
We are surrounded and confronted with information everywhere and all the time. In our digital age, content is created quickly and distributed even faster. But what exactly do we want to say and how do we reach our target groups by the best way? This is what the communication expert Ute Latzke deals with: She advises architects, interior designers and real estate companies on all aspects of words and images. Here she gives many impulses and talks about Maslow’s hammer…
SKYLINE ATLAS: Hello Ms. Latzke. Thank you for taking the time for us. Why do architects or real estate companies need communication experts? After all, everyone can communicate.
Ute Latzke: That reminds me of Paul Watzlawick, who said you can’t not communicate. Example: A woman sits in the waiting room of a doctor’s office and stares at the floor, apparently not communicating. In fact, she’s signaling that she doesn’t want any contact. It’s intuitive and works. Now does that mean that we all communicate well in any context? I do not think so. It is often said: everyone can write, we learned at school. And just because someone took a craft course in school, they can design architecture right away…?
As a service provider, I see my task as making architects aware that it is worth communicating (better) – whether with customers or the public. Depending on the location, construction projects have a massive impact on the environment. If planners are not very communicative here – motto: It’s working, our architecture speaks for itself etc. – they create room for speculation. In doing so, they leave the sovereignty of interpretation to others. On the other hand, if architects or developers seek dialogue, actively provide information and let people participate in processes, they determine their external impact. That’s a different, mostly positive feelin
SKYLINE ATLAS: What are the most common mistakes that you notice in architects or real estate companies?
Ute Latzke: First of all, I miss “a sense of mission” for my own cause. In other words, to get people enthusiastic about their projects or vocation. Architects can be proud of their work and architecture is great cinema!
In addition, this also applies to this industry, rattling is part of the craft. That’s not disreputable either, but appropriate: after all, there are 40,000 architects’ offices here and very few play in the top league. Also, instead of just relying on referrals or competitions, they can get involved through a professional website, social media, and marketing. Thanks to digitization, the opportunities have never been as good as they are today.
Many architectural offices see themselves as creative all-rounders and therefore accept every challenge that is offered. They perceive the specialization in certain construction areas or work phases as a restriction of their creative joy. But how credible is profound expertise in a very broad spectrum? And what does the office stand for and does it want to be known?
Almost all architects’ websites always have the same messages, for example: Our focus is on the essentials, that’s unspecific! This is about living, working and living spaces by people for people. That’s extremely emotional. And often the texts are all about “we”, the users are rarely addressed and what they get from everything is not communicated
The potential of social media continues to be misjudged: almost 28 million (!) people in Germany are on Instagram, 17 million are on LinkedIn (end of 2021 source shopify and futurebiz). You should use that.
Choosing Media for Publication: Many architects aim for placement in one of the notorious trade publications. This ennobles the industry, but who reads these magazines? Mainly probably the competitors or colleagues. Media that are close to the public, real estate pages and special supplements in the daily press can sometimes be more suitable here in order to reach builders and investors.
SKYLINE ATLAS: On the websites of architects’ offices, it is noticeable that they are very image-heavy. Are pictures the best way to communicate? And how can the quality of a website be improved?
Ute Latzke: Web design and photos are attractive eye-catchers, but only relevant information creates facts, connects and convinces. It is the skilful interplay of everything. After all, high-priced investments are expected here from interested parties. It is therefore important that the online presence radiates quality, competence and individuality.
I assume architects* have a good eye for aesthetics. So my advice is to take a close look at the website: do we feel comfortable with it, does the site still represent our values, achievement and goals?
Are the photos professional or pixelated and postage-stamp sized? How do visual language, typography and texts affect the user? Is there a brand design and a corporate identity or is everything self-made? Here it is worth investing in professional photographers, agencies and copywriters.
Simply get feedback from friends or family: do you find your way around quickly, is everything well structured, clear and attractively designed? Is the site fun and do users get all the answers?
SEO: With the seobility tool, the website, its ranking and its quality can be scanned and optimized step by step. The budget for a website relaunch by an agency is not enough? Then I advise small offices and solopreneurs to build their website with squarespace first. The system offers a lot and is intuitive to use. Above all, the result is more elegant than the much-used wordpress and more is possible.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Is it always about presenting architecture with your customers or do you also have other goals?
Ute Latzke: Most of them want to generate new business and attract additional customers who match their values and ideas. And of course finding new employees and young talents. Sustainability, climate targets and thus also alternative building materials and energy concepts are important to the architectural offices. Just like building in stock, so better conversion than new construction. They are passionate about bringing solutions to their customers and creating livable architecture. There are clever ideas there too. It is of course important to communicate this accordingly and pick up interested parties!
SKYLINE ATLAS: Social media topic: You yourself are very active on Instagram (@ute_latzke). How does good PR work work for architects or other industries?
Ute Latzke: A modern, attractive and functional website that addresses users and arouses interest. I had already explained, but it is the basis of everything.
When it comes to social media, I see Instagram ahead, but channels like LinkedIn (B2B) and Pinterest or houzz are also good. You need Facebook (meta) for the Instagram business profile. However, the younger architectural offices are less active on Facebook, just like on xing. First choose a channel and build it up and record it regularly.
PR means public relations, i.e. relationship with the public. I think the offices are differently active and set up here, depending on their size or target group. The question is what do I want to achieve: have more customers, inquiries or new employees? Or place publications, exert influence in a (positive) sense and cultivate the image of the office or architecture itself? With large budgets you will certainly be able to turn all the screws. It is important to stay on the ball, preferably less and instead steadily. Sending out a newsletter every three months doesn’t do much good.
SKYLINE ATLAS: What prejudices do you often encounter when you talk to your clients in the architecture industry?
Ute Latzke: That social media, websites or content marketing are useless and that you don’t generate any orders from them. The latter is not the primary goal either! Nobody hires an architect’s office like that. First of all, it needs visibility and, above all, the trust of the interested parties. Example: Some customers follow me on Instagram for a year or read my blog articles before contacting me! When they contact me, they usually say: We saw you on Instagram, we like what you do…
Social media is a good way to attract new employees and young talent. A no-go if an architecture firm still doesn’t have an Instagram profile in 2022. That can become an exclusion criterion, because it doesn’t exactly seem progressive to young people.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Does good communication have anything to do with budgets? Or to put it another way: Can a smaller office achieve just as good communication as an established company that has grown over decades?
Ute Latzke: Larger and more successful offices with PR departments are better equipped in terms of staff and finances. Doesn’t mean they communicate better though.
Medium-sized and smaller offices have a flatter hierarchy and are much more agile. Through social media, for example, they have a quicker connection to the target group. They can also position themselves as an individual brand and score points with their personality. Appropriate customers will then feel attracted to it.
It’s like this: If the services are similarly good, people will choose the company or the people with whom they identify and who they trust. Those who differ from the competition, who have found their focus and positioning and who communicate this in a friendly way have an advantage.
The foundation for this is a coherent website with clear statements and positions on certain topics. In addition, there is content marketing: Here, potential customers are offered relevant content that inspires them – for example via newsletters, blog posts and community building on Instagram or LinkedIn.
Continuity is required and yes: it is costly or at least time-consuming. An office can weigh up whether it outsources the communication or whether it can manage it itself.
“Bigger and more successful offices with PR departments are better staffed and funded. But that doesn’t mean they communicate better.”
Ute Latzke on the question of whether smaller architects’ offices can achieve good communication like large companies
SKYLINE ATLAS: How can interested parties find out more about what to look out for when communicating in the field of architecture?
Ute Latzke: For example in a conversation with me (laughs), of course on my website, in the blog or on Instagram. And there are collaborations with specialist media in the pipeline to give architects and interior designers valuable impetus.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Where is the journey going in the coming years in the field of architectural communication and what does that mean for everyone involved?
Ute Latzke: Architects seem to primarily be out and about in their professional world and thus network with their peers? Exchange is good, but it needs a breath of fresh air and different perspectives. This reminds me of Maslow’s hammer: “If you only have a hammer as a tool, you see a nail in every problem,” said the psychologist A. Maslow. Means: It is a fallacy to believe that measures continue to be successful just because they worked in the past. Einstein made a similar statement, only more drastically…
Therefore: Just take a look at other creative industries, especially online marketing, and learn from them. This is about method competence. That should start in college. Communication and marketing are underrepresented, and the chambers also offer too little. Here it would make sense to also bring in experts from outside the architecture industry…
Be more open-minded about topics like social media or marketing and use them! Architectural offices are much more advanced in the USA and other European countries. Marketing is customary and is not labeled negatively as it is here. Hot Tip: Chris Do @thechrisdo and The Futur. Here, companies from the creative sector (including architects) receive tangible tips and strategies for branding, marketing and the presentation of their own work.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Thank you very much for the interview.
The interview was conducted in February 2022.
Ute Latzke is an economist, journalist, communication expert for the architecture industry and artist. The passion for architecture flared up at the architecture magazine beton, for which she worked as an editor for 4 years. After that, she sharpened her journalistic + digital skills in the New Economy: She worked as an editor at the Handelsblatt for 7 years. She did PR work for ksg Kister Scheithauer Gross, Drees & Sommer and Prinz von Preussen. Since 2015, Ute Latzke has also been working as a freelance author for the Concrete Information Center and has published articles in DAB, db deutsche bauzeitung, OpusC, green building Magazin, Civil Engineer, among others. In 2020 the trademark textart by ute Latzke® will be registered at the DPMA.
Ute Latzke also reports regularly on the topic of communication for architects in her blog textart: