The global architecture industry endured its worst year on record in 2009 as billings plummeted to historic lows and thousands of jobs were eliminated. While many architecture practices significantly scaled back on proactive marketing and public relations efforts in 2010, Perkins+Will, the world’s third largest architecture and design firm, realized the opportunity to seize an authoritative voice on issues impacting its diverse client base and engaged Weber Shandwick to create a robust thought-leadership platform.

The Weber Shandwick team designed a communications program to credential Perkins+Will within:

• Each of the firm’s six industry sectors – Aviation and Transportation, Corporate, Commercial and Civic, Healthcare, Higher Education, K-12 and Science and Technology
• Each of the firm’s 23 global markets
• The field of sustainable design

Weber Shandwick leveraged proprietary internal research resources to analyze media coverage relating to Perkins+Will and its top four global competitors.

Our analysis revealed that Perkins+Will, compared to its competitors, had not penetrated media beyond architecture and building trade publications. While the firm had consistently leveraged its strong project portfolio to drive exposure among key design influencers, Perkins+Will’s experts were not widely recognized outside of the architecture industry.

Our objectives were very clear:

• Leverage Perkins+Will’s project portfolio and experts to drive national dialogue of critical issues relevant to the firm’s clients and the building industry, including sustainable design
• Drive Perkins+Will visibility within vertical trade media across the firm’s six industry sectors (see above)
• Penetrate business, news and broadcast media in high-priority local markets

To differentiate Perkins+Will from its competitors, we employed a three-tiered approach:

• Capitalize on news: provide expert commentary to insert Perkins+Will’s thought-leaders into dialogue surrounding breaking news and relevant trends
• Create new media opportunities: develop proactive topical story angles to promote Perkins+Will’s thought-leadership across all sectors and local markets
• Communicate news: fill media pipeline with announcements to generate sustained media coverage highlighting Perkins+Will’s project portfolio

Weber Shandwick first worked with Perkins+Will’s Board of Directors to develop a corporate messaging platform and outline high-priority story themes. To engage sector and market-specific media, we then developed unique communication programs for all six industry sectors and 23 global markets. These individual programs were designed to support the overarching corporate platform, ensuring that all public relations efforts across the entire firm were consistent in their messaging. In addition, we conducted message and media training for more than 30 of Perkins+Will’s spokespeople.

Throughout 2010, we conducted more than 40 story mining sessions with Perkins+Will experts to develop specific media angles. Following is a brief snapshot of our efforts.

Capitalize on news:
• To capitalize on the media’s intense focus on the healthcare reform debate, we highlighted the firm’s expertise in designing sustainable healthcare environments. Our efforts broke through a very noisy media environment to garner coverage in top-tier news and trade outlets, including Fast Company, NBC Nightly News, US News & World Report and BusinessWeek.
• While the government debated the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we secured six thought-leadership bylined articles in influential trade publications regarding the Act’s impact on the building industry – including the UrbanLand Magazine, the most premier publication targeting city planners

Create new media opportunities:
• To bring the power of Perkins+Will’s design expertise to life among business influencers, we secured exclusive content partnerships with Fast Company and Huffington Post. Perkins+Will design leaders author twice monthly articles for both publications that focus on the future of design.
• As part of our green building advocacy platform, we executed a national media tour with the firm’s global green building expert that resulted in coverage with Fast Company, BusinessWeek, Forbes, New York Times, Dow Jones and PBS.

Communicate news:
• One of our overall objectives was to secure coverage with local TV affiliates, something that very few architecture firms have successfully done. To do so, we worked with Perkins+Will’s Atlanta office to showcase two recent K-12 school projects and secured multiple segments with the local NBC and FOX affiliates, in addition to national stories with NBC Nightly News and CNN.

At the end of 2010, the Weber Shandwick team refreshed the initial media analysis to measure our success and found that our efforts increased media coverage for Perkins+Will by more than 320%. Perkins+Will dominated coverage quantity and quality, securing more than their fair share of headlines. For example:

• Perkins+Will’s 2010 total media coverage quantity was 53% higher than its closest competitor. And, the firm generated 102% and 153% more stories than its second and third-closest competitor respectively.
• Our program increased Perkins+Will’s coverage in national news and business publications by more than 521% in 2010. Perkins+Will had the most visibility in national news and business media than any other architecture firm.
– Analysis of the firm’s Web site and Facebook profile data revealed that the Fast Company and Huffington Post articles have substantially increased traffic to Perkins+Will’s online properties. For example, the day the first Fast Company article was published, Perkins+Will’s Web site experienced a 220% increase in hits. The first Huffington Post article resulted in a similar spike in Web site traffic.
• Perkins+Will was also the most-talked about architecture firm in local market media. The firm garnered 91% more coverage with local news and business media than its closest competitor.
• In 2010, no architecture firm secured more coverage than Perkins+Will with national green or sector-specific trade media, including four cover stories featuring recently completed projects by Perkins+Will with influential trade media.