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It’s Awards Season – What Have We Learned?

July 3, 2012

“Voice from the Trenches” is written by Karen Euler, director of marketing at TRO Jung|Brannen. A past board member of SMPS Boston, Karen always enjoys conversing with readers via Twitter [@karen_e] or LinkedIn.

One week you’re absorbing the SMPS Boston ROC Awards Gala, enjoying the achievement of your peers and noting emerging trends. The next, you’re wrapping up your own office’s submissions for urban design and campus planning and trotting over to the BSA with a precious package.

Life in the AEC awards lane is a repeat visit to Habit Two in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “To begin with the end in mind,” writes Covey, “means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” Covey is dreaming big with Habit Two. At our firm, we have been reflecting lately that awards criteria should be considered when the design work begins.

The venerable firm Sasaki was honored more than once at this year’s ROC awards. Marketing Manager Liz Tawater commented afterward on the collaboration and tracking that brought their marketing team so much success:

Many of our marketing projects are collaborative initiatives and this extended to our submission process as well. I believe this collaboration helped us create strong submissions… One tool that I rely on for tracking purposes is a design brief. The notes that were taken at the project meetings became a great source for referring back to for the narrative because the brief helped to establish and record our goals, objectives, target audience, etc.

Among many other specialties, Sasaki is known for impressive campus planning work around the globe. Tawater sums up the firm’s success in garnering campus planning awards as follows:

We are selective when evaluating what projects to submit and pay close attention to what elements will be of interest to the awards jury. A successful award submission starts with delivering excellent project work, of course. Then you need to tell a compelling story that starts with a firm understanding of the client’s needs and includes the strategic underpinnings of the project. The submission must demonstrate the nuances of the challenges and the beauty of the solutions provided. It is not just about showing pretty pictures–though you must have these, too. For us the submission process has to be collaborative, with the project teams being heavily involved. Again it comes down to doing excellent work, high-quality design, and a compelling narrative.

My own firm has a few submissions still out for this spring , though our submission to the national SMPS awards did not make the cut. Still, I will be in the audience at Build Business in San Francisco admiring the work and cheering on the winners. As I watch from the audience, I will know how many layers of excellence and preparation went into each great winning entry.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 3, 2012 12:07 pm

    Nice insights from Karen and Liz. A firm’s excellent technical work and its high-quality design will often go unrecognized if an award submission is unable to tell a compelling story. Marketing staff play a critical role in bringing that story to life, but ongoing collaboration with the firm’s project teams are needed to uncover the stories of project/client challenges and the “beautiful solutions” that make a project award worthy.

  2. July 3, 2012 3:30 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Dave. Project teams and marketing teams: when they work together well it’s like earning a bonus round in your favorite video game. And by the way, you gave a wonderful speech upon receiving your award for Marketer of the Year. Congratulations!

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