Yesterday afternoon, I joined three others to judge the best-of-the-best for the Society for Marketing Professional Service (SMPS) marketing communications awards.
We reviewed binders for 23 “best in category” winners, selected earlier in the year from about 200 initial entries. The winner, Seattle-based architect GGLO‘s Giving by Design holiday season booklet achieved something we viewed as exceptionally creative: The holiday booklet didn’t talk about the firm and its architecture and design skills with the typical seasonal greeting and thank you message. Instead, GGLO focused on a diversity of community non-profit organizations, telling their stories in photos and thoughtful text.
GGLO has mastered community spirit. When you look at the practice’s website, you won’t see the ownership/leadership profiled in a “we’re the best” model. The practice has 110 employees, according to its website, including 15 principals. You can read biographies of most of the employees, but you won’t find an executive committee or internal leadership group reference anywhere obvious.
Instead, you’ll see how the practice expresses its mission and values.
The best communities mix voices, perspectives, and ideas. We do, too.
GGLO exists to forge innovative solutions that elevate the quality and spirit of life. We help create and revitalize communities—building-by-building and block-by-block.
Community is about connection, and so is our approach to design. We thoroughly integrate urban planners, architects, landscape architects, and interior designers. With all the key players under one roof and on the same page, the process is smoother, the work better. Our approach enables us to design spaces that are more functional, more beautiful, and more sustainable.
Of course, community begins at home. That’s why we’ve established a true sense of connectedness within our own walls, and why we’re constantly connecting with like-minded clients, partners, and organizations, whose influences we also liberally integrate in our work.
GGLO Space at the Steps is a public event venue in GGLO’s offices that the firm makes available to non-profits and other groups that share our core values of community and sustainable urbanism. By offering this space for use by the community, GGLO hopes to promote the kind of spirited discussion and sharing of ideas that will help catalyze the creation of places that benefit both people and the planet.
The venue is ideally located in downtown Seattle right off of Harbor Steps, one of the City’s most dramatic and well-used urban open spaces. It can hold an audience of up to 80 to 100 people, depending on the event format, and is equipped with dedicated digital projection and sound.
So, how does all of this community spirit translate to commissionable and billable hours? I think many people in business misunderstand the meaning and value of relationships. The over-used word fails to describe the stuff that is genuine, not artificial, that arises from the heart and a genuine spirit of community-spiritedness, rather than as a cynical effort to curry favour or win business development points. GGLO has achieved relationship-building success through its community service, not platitudes.
We saw Giving by Design as a wonderfully positive and effective year-round community creation. GGLO’s marketing team didn’t have to strain (either in time or budget) to create the piece, however. The marketers already understood the relationships, the connections, and the knowledge of the values and interests of the community organizations outlined in the booklet.
(And, yes, GGLO won a tangible and worthy commission as a result of the seasonal marketing piece.)
Lessons learned: If you want to achieve award-winning success in AEC marketing, be connected to your community, amplify and emphasize higher-order values, and walk-the-walk with genuine community service. Then you can create a seasonal greeting message that goes far beyond the traditional Christmas card, can be used year-round, and will enhance your community relationships and ultimately your business opportunities.