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Learning the Why

Starting a new career can be intimidating, especially coming from outside the industry. Moving into a marketing position was a brand new exciting step. I was entering this fast-paced, quick-thinking, creative position that not only required me to master new computer programs, but to learn different areas of the marketing as well. I caught myself asking the same types of questions: What is required of the job? What are the company standards? What services does the firm offer? The list went on and on. In the beginning, I simply just jumped in and got the job done. However, I was missing the age-old question of WHY. Why did we as a firm decide to go after this pursuit? Why are we not attending every conference?

 Learn More about the Industry

When I joined my firm as a Marketing Coordinator a year and a half ago, I was privileged to join SMPS. This was the best move my company urged me to make because, again, I did not  know everything marketing encompassed or the industry itself. I never asked why I was joining this organization, and after my first event, that answer was crystal clear to me.

Through this organization I am constantly learning necessary tools that help inspire me to be better, both professionally and personally. SMPS has helped explain not only the why of certain aspects in this career/industry, but the who, what and where as well. Why social media is important in this industry, why branding is important, why a marketing plan is essential to the firm’s long-term goals and to the team, why fonts matter in marketing, and more. These are all crucial questions that I might not have even began to think about and that I am being challenged to learn and ask. Asking why has helped me learn more about this industry as a whole and helped me be more successful.

Learn More about Your Company

Asking why we do certain things helped me understand my firm better. It allowed me to see the behind- the-scenes view of the proposals, conferences, newsletters and marketing campaigns. I learned that each firm has a certain number of pursuits they plan out years ahead of time to win. I learned more about my firm’s five-year plan. By asking why, I have developed a deeper understanding of my role, my company’s goals are clearer and I am more invested in my work.    

Learn What Truly Inspires You
When I first began my career in this industry, I didn’t ask why. I simply went through the motions, just like a robot, and there were times I felt uninspired. I wasn’t in tune with the bigger picture of how my work was playing a role, other than meeting a deadline. I needed to find my purpose and figure out what about my work inspired me. Showing my desire to learn more about the company helped me find my inspiration. From the answers to my many “why” questions I left like I was shown a secret passage door to the inside workings of the firm. Ultimately, it showed me that my work does matter to the firm. It made me more emotionally vested and helped me regain inspiration when sometimes it is easy to lose.  

I urge everyone to step back and remember the reason why we do things. Remember, don’t just think of your why for your company, but think of your why personally. Learn, grow, get involved and ask essential and sometimes uncomfortable questions, because the results are worth it. To me, digging deep to find the “why” has made me a better person and marketer.  

When is the last time you’ve reflected on YOUR why? What makes you invested? What gives you motivation?

Kristy Lopez 
Marketing and Project Coordinator, Dibble CM

Kristy has been in the A/E/C industry for three years and was immersed in the marketing position within the field one and a half years ago. As she became a Marketing and Project Coordinator for Dibble CM, she also joined SMPS. As an active member of SMPS, Kristy participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband and son. She also enjoys reading murder mystery novels and watching movies! 

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How Trying (and Failing) to be a Fiction Writer Prepared Me for Marketing

August 10, 2017 marked the end of my first year in A/E/C marketing and business development. It also marked the end of the first year in ten that I have not written a short story. This is a less disturbing thought to me now than it would have been to my 18-year-old self who daydreamed of being the next Ernest Hemingway or Eudora Welty. I think this is in large part because as a marketer, I still use many of the skills I developed while writing fiction on a day-to-day basis.

Skill 1: Rejection aka Patience

“After careful review by our editors and readers, we have decided not to publish your short story. While we liked it and found it to be well-written, it is not a good fit for our journal.”

I have an archived folder of over 100 emails along these lines. Number of acceptance letters? Three. I tried to be strategic about writing. Tried to figure out which stories were most likely to be accepted based on what else the magazine published, who their audience was, how long their typical selections were, whether or not the issue was themed, and on and on. For two of my three published pieces that strategy paid off. The third was an 800-word story I jotted off in 45 minutes and sent out to a few magazines because I was exhausted by overthinking and I just wanted to see what would happen.

The above experiences have taught me to shake off failure, learn what I can from it, and start plugging away on the next project.  Also, overthinking every little detail can do as much harm as good –sometimes you just have to go with your gut, especially when deadlines are looming.

Skill 2: Editing aka Precision

Each one of my rejection letters resulted in a frenzied few days of revising, rewriting, restructuring, and time spent on I would read my stories aloud and listen to how the words sounded together, identifying clunky areas of writing. If a sentence got revised too many times and I couldn’t get it right, it got cut. Sometimes entire stories went the way of the recycle bin icon, which felt a little like cutting out a piece of my heart, but they were necessary abandonments.

All this to say I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about words. Now, when I’m drafting a cover letter or pulling together a qualifications packet I can revise to be precise and succinct. As with my fiction writing, I keep the reader in mind. What do they want to read? What will resonate with this audience/client? This process, along with working with an amazing team, has my marketing hit rate well above that of my fiction writing.

Skill 3: Research aka Curiosity

Fiction Research: What was Arizona like in the early 1900s when tuberculosis patients made up most of the population? What would it be like to deep sea dive? What equipment do you need to do it? What vegetables grow best in South Carolina? How many beads would it take to embroider an 18th century ball gown?

Marketing Research: How many projects have we worked on with Client X? Where do they have locations? Which employees are we connected with on LinkedIn? How many parcels have they purchased in AZ in the last five years? Which of our engineers in the Dallas office specializes in master planned residential communities? Have we done any aviation projects in Idaho?

You get the picture. Knowledge is power in any genre.

Skill 4: Problem Solving aka Getting Creative

In the creative writing world people like to say every story that is going to be told has already been told. The basics – man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self, man v. society – are at the heart of every tale. (I’m using “man” as a word for human but obviously, ladies rock and are crucial to literary history and life in general.) If these are the only narratives that exist, our job is not to try to invent something completely new, but to make them resonate in a new way, to create our own style.

This idea of taking what is already there and making it unique feels the most applicable to marketing and is also the most challenging. I work for an engineering firm. There are thousands of other choices for our clients. The narratives have already been told (local experience, years of experience, national clients, multidiscipline, etc.). So how do we make ourselves stand out? The only way is to get creative about messaging, to solve the same old problems in new ways, and grab the client’s attention with a new approach.

Failure is not permanent. My goal for the next year, while at Kimley-Horn, is to get a short story published again. In the meantime, I’ll keep right on marketing.

Chelsea Hickok 
Marketing and Business Development, Kimley Horn

Chelsea has been in the A/E/C industry and at Kimley Horn for just over a year. She's been an active member of SMPS for eight months and participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, Chelsea loves backpacking, wine-tasting and reading lots and lots of fiction! 

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Getting Back Into Routine

Summer time is coming to an end, which means vacations and weekends by the pool are also coming to an end. What is the hardest part about vacation? Coming back to work and getting re-energized to get everything done!

If you think about it, coming back from a vacation is similar to getting back to your daily tasks after working hard on a proposal. When you have a proposal due you get into “DEAWOP mode:” Drop everything and work on proposal mode. The first day of a vacation gives you a similar feeling as when you submit a proposal – the feeling of RELIEF!  But then, how do you learn to get re-focused, re-energized and NOT have a panic attack the day you come back to work after working for days or weeks on a proposal or coming back from a vacation?

It is not summer time if we are not by the pool at least once. We lounge and float around trying to clear our mind, and we might for a minute, but then we are back to worrying about all of the errands we need to run, picking up the house, and all the work we still have to catch back up on. Even when we are supposed to be unplugged, we stay plugged in. There are times during a proposal where we may start floating around, waiting for content that is due. We can be in a standstill but we don’t want to get out in case we get dragged into or distracted by something else and lose our focus. Starting to see how our vacation and proposal time can actually be similar? Weird, right?

During proposals, we may get a little excited, and gear up and be ready to go, but by submittal time we are mentally and physically drained. From the networking, to producing the proposal, to a possible interview – we are just ready to go home by the end. This is not always possible when we have been pushing everything else off to the side to get a proposal out the door, but we are not always the most motivated to get back into the routine of things either.

It is time to re-energize and refocus – just like you have to do when you get back from vacation. Start by revisiting your to-do list, if you don’t have one, start one to keep you on track! To-do lists are a great way to look back at what you have lost sight of. I use Microsoft One Note and highly recommend it. Actually, I don’t know how you are surviving if you’re not using it! Some items on your list may have moved around since you last looked at it, so make sure everything is prioritized appropriately. We tend to look back at our lists and think some of those items are not so critical since they have not been needed while we have been on the proposal, but this is not true. Get back to focusing on the tasks that have been pushed off.
Here are a few other tools/tips to help you get back on track and stay organized:

  •  Evernote – Get organized and take notes, another great tool similar to One Note.

  • Quotes App – Daily motivational quotes!

  • Use your outlook calendar for more than just external and internal meetings. Do you need at least 15 minutes a day to walk around/stretch? Or maybe you need 30 minutes to just focus on your emails so you can get some responses out and get back to work. Whatever it is – BOOK IT IN YOUR CALENDAR. This will help you immensely.

  • Create ONE to-do list. All of your tasks that need to be completed should be found in ONE central location.

  • Celebrate your wins! Acknowledge the small wins and the big ones. This will help keep you motivated and energized!

  • Take one day at a time – you can do this! 

  • Schedule Meetings! While you worked on a proposal or were out of town, you probably cancelled or declined a few meetings. Take a look back at your calendar and reschedule those meetings. Meetings are another great way to refocus on important tasks, and it can refresh your mind after being out of it for so long. Meetings usually end with a few action items too, so you will have something to jump into.

  • Lastly, attend a networking event.  It is a nice break from our desk and there is always an opportunity to be made! Events are usually enjoyable while still being work related! I have also found that I usually come back inspired from events, or ready to share new information with my team.


Whether you are “getting back” from vacation or a proposal, taking these steps can help you gradually get back into routine. Catch your breath, but don’t fall behind, and take action. Revisit your to-do list, schedule a meeting and attend an organization event. Ready, set go!

Christina Rice
Marketing Assistant, Gannett Fleming, Inc. 

Christina has been in the A/E/C industry for almost two years and an active SMPS member for almost three. Christina was part of the SMPS Mentorship program during the 2016-2017 SMPS year and enjoyed learning from top professionals in our industry. In her free time, Christina enjoys being with her family. They get together about five nights out of the week to either have dinner, play games or even go camping; whatever they do they have fun! 

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I liken the new SMPS year to a new school year. While it obviously occurs around the same time of year, it also resembles a time of advancement to build on what we we’ve learned over the years. Every year presents new opportunities based on the last, based on trends and changes. In Maureen’s closing message, she highlighted impressive accomplishments of what this Chapter provided you during 2016-2017. I see those accomplishments as a foundation for continued advancement, growth and opportunities to our profession, our firms and our industry.

So what’s on deck for 2017-2018? Internally, we’re fine-tuning some processes to give you the best impression and experience possible. Externally, we’ve planned some exciting programs and networking opportunities that we believe will fuel your professional development and help you take your career and your firm to new heights. Part of this includes giving back to those who give so much to us: our members and sponsors. Expect to see more scholarship opportunities, free events for members and a sponsors-only event— to name a few.

As in any business, we spent significant time strategic planning and identifying new goals for the year, and making sure they align with our mission, “To ADVOCATE, EDUCATE, and COLLABORATE for the AEC industry to build business for a THRIVING economy.” This year we’re putting extra emphasis on THRIVING. Together, we’ve weathered many storms; we’ve survived, we’ve established deeper roots, and now we believe it’s a time to provide opportunities to grow deeper and stronger.  Through our programs and events, we will help you build up your toolbox with resources to market smarter, and strengthen your leadership skills to be the marketing and business development expert in your firm. SMPS’ vision is that, through this experience, you will transform your business through market leadership.

On a personal note, when it came time for me to write this first message as President, I found myself imaging what I wanted to write in my closing message a year from now. I realized that my hope, in the end, is that you are given an experience this year that makes you thrive. That all the goals our Chapter leadership has identified will empower you in your career, guide your firm to more successes and ultimately give you greater personal fulfillment.


If you serve on the board or leadership team, this experience will challenge you and provide a chance for you to be the leaders that our industry needs, that your firm needs and that your career needs. If you are a member, this experience will expand your network, help you do your jobs better and with more confidence and direction. If you are a non-member, we want to be sure every interaction with us brings value to your firm, your profession and entices you to be part of delivering professional development to AEC marketers. Member firms, you should see direct results of these experiences and feel comfortable providing feedback on how we can be a better resource to help your business grow. This is my hope and expectation for this year. Thank you for this opportunity to serve you! I’m excited to be part of this experience with you, and can’t wait to see you at our upcoming events!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 What are you looking forward to for the upcoming  SMPS year? Leave a comment below!

Emy Burback, MBA, CPSM
Lead Strategist, Marketing Engine, LLC.

Emy has been working in the A/E/C industry for the past 18 years and has been an active SMPS member for the past 10 years. She has enjoyed working for a variety of firms in the AEC industry. Most recently, Emy has started her own Marketing and CRM consulting firm, Marketing Engine. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is hang out with her husband and dogs on the beach in Rocky Point. Emy is passionate about traveling and loves an adventure! She enjoys hiking, going to new restaurants or buying a plane ticket to somewhere she's never been! 

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Living the Why

“Most of us live our lives by accident – we live as it happens.
Fulfillment comes when we live our lives on purpose.”
- Excerpt from Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, by Simon Sinek

From kindergarten through fifth grade, I was a Girl Scout. My parents initiated my involvement with the association and I learned practical skills such as how to build a campfire, navigate a canoe, administer CPR/first aid and even how to sew a button (although I have to admit that I lost that particular skill shortly after I learned it). I think that my love of archery even started way back as a beginner Girl Scout, when I shot a bow for the first time at summer camp. Looking back on those years, I have distinct memories of learning how to be part of a team, and also how to step up and be a leader. The Girl Scouts of the USA has a mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.” Being a Girl Scout played a role in shaping who I am today – my independence, my love of the outdoors and my drive to volunteer.

Courage, confidence, and character. The three C’s. Without these traits, it’s hard to live our lives on purpose, and impossible to feel fulfillment. My time as a Girl Scout introduced me to the three C’s, but I believe that my time as a member of SMPS pulled the three C’s out of me and made me live them every day. For instance, having the courage to walk into a room of a hundred people – without knowing anyone. The confidence to speak in front of a crowd of my industry peers. Lastly, the character to set aside my personal needs and wants for the overall benefit of something bigger than myself. With courage, confidence and character, I was fortunate enough to be the 2016-2017 SMPS Arizona President. My focus? The power of WHY.

This year’s SMPS Arizona leadership theme was the power of WHY. This comes from Simon Sinek’s inspirational TED Talk and subsequent book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon’s message is powerful. He talks about the WHY, how, and what of a company or organization; also known as The Golden Circle. As a Board and Leadership Team, our WHY has been clear: to increase awareness and increase advocacy for SMPS Arizona.  

We lived our WHY this year. I saw the motivation to succeed in our board of directors, our chairs, and our committee members. I couldn’t have asked to serve alongside a more dedicated and committed team. We achieved some pretty cool things this year – I don’t have enough room to list everything – but here are some highlights:

  • Hosted 12 Programs/Marketing Councils, with an average of 31 attendees per event

  • Hosted five Leverage Your Beverage events, with an average of 37 attendees per event

  • Exceeded Chapter sponsorship goals by 11%; exceeded Program sponsorship goals by 46%

  • Successfully implemented the StarChapter platform to increase efficiency of Chapter operations

  • Partnered with ADOT’s Business Engagement and Compliance (BECO) program and the APWA AZ Conference to give education presentations on behalf of SMPS AZ

  • Introduced CPSM-only discount on Chapter-wide events and training
  • Reinstated New Member Breakfasts

  • Launched new SMPS AZ Instagram account

  • Experienced 72% member retention rate and gained 36 new members

  • Partnered with APWA to bring in over 150 attendees for a single event

  • Launched Roadmap to Being a Marketing Ninja: SMPS AZ’s Program & Education Event Guide

  • Hosted 11th Annual CANstruction event, bringing in over 58k cans of food for St. Mary’s Food Bank, increasing donation from 2016 by 8,000 cans

  • Produced nine Chapter videos

  • Gained 157 Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter followers

We all accomplished these things while juggling full-time careers, families/friends, other industry commitments, etc. It never ceases to amaze me - as marketers, we continue to be the ultimate masters in the world of multi-tasking. We take deadlines, commitments, and goals head on and do what it takes to get stuff done.

And although the accomplishments listed above may be specific to this year, it’s due to a culmination of many successful years as an association that we’ve been able to achieve what we have. I can feel the energy continuing to build. We’re in a great place as a state, as an industry,  as an association, as marketers and business developers - and I am so excited to see where Emy Burback takes us next. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve in this position and I’ll never forget the inspiration I felt this year. It’s given me a renewed drive for what we do as marketers and for what SMPS Arizona stands for. My ultimate hope – and parting words – is that we continue to focus on living our lives on purpose, both personally and professionally. Let’s make the effort to keep an eye on our WHY and continue to find courage, confidence, and character within ourselves – every day.

What was your favorite aspect of the 2016-2017 SMPS year?


Maureen Varela, CPSM
Marketing Manager, Pulice Construction Inc.

Maureen joined the A/E/C industry in 2006 and has been employed by Pulice Construction since 2010. She has been an active member of SMPS for a decade and thoroughly enjoyed her role as current Chapter President. Many know Maureen as the hard-working Marketer that she is, but few know about her passion for adrenaline! Over the years, she’s tried out ziplining, skydiving, rappelling, and white water rafting, and she’s always on the lookout for the next adventure.

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Instagram: Why Your Firm Should Have It and How to Implement It

Instagram is among the newest social media platforms that companies of all industries are implementing to reach their customers. Boasting over 300 million daily active users, Instagram has huge potential for marketers, even those in the AEC industry. People come to Instagram to be inspired and discover things they care about, and that includes content from brands and businesses.

Research shows that:

  • Engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter

  • 48.8% of brands are on Instagram. By 2017, this is predicted to rise to 70.7%

The popularity and the research that supported the marketing effectiveness were the reasons why SMPS Arizona decided to embark on the journey of implementing a Chapter Instagram account. In this post, we will share our implementation experience and provide takeaways for a successful implementation experience.

BRAINSTORM & RESEARCH: Ask yourself, why Instagram?
Our Instagram journey started with a brainstorming session, which revealed these key questions:

  • Why should we have an Instagram account?

  • What type of content would we share on our account?

  • How will this benefit our membership?

Next, we researched fellow SMPS Chapters using Instagram, and how they were using it. We reviewed 14 SMPS Chapter accounts and analyzed what types of content they were sharing and how they were using it to communicate with their membership.

Find your target audience, decide what you want to communicate, and research how competitors are using the platform.

PLAN: Create a solid, straight-forward plan to obtain approval.
After brainstorming and performing research, we incorporated all our findings into a seven-page plan to present to the SMPS AZ Board. The plan incorporated our research, how we could use Instagram to advance the Chapter, types of content to share, and next steps for implementing the account. The plan was well received and immediately approved after being presented.

Provide  decision makers with a well thought-out plan that provides evidence of WHY you should implement the process and HOW the implementation will be achieved.

A snapshot of the SMPS Arizona Instagram Plan 

DESIGN: Create templates for easy dissemination of information.
To ensure success in providing content on a consistent basis, we created graphic templates for content provided on a regular (monthly, weekly, annually) basis like: events, job board posts, monthly member recognitions, and annual special events. This helped us streamline the content creation process while allowing for customization of templates according to specific content.

Social media can take a back seat when marketers get busy with  day-to-day tasks - set yourself up for success by having a library of graphic templates on hand to populate your account with content.


SCHEDULE: Create a Content Calendar & Utilize a Scheduling Platform
Due to the multiple social media accounts we manage and volume of posts published monthly, it was crucial to create a content calendar. It keeps our Chapter volunteers on track with  regularly scheduled posts and helps avoid missing opportunities for publicity. We use our events calendar and historical data on special events to populate the calendar. This calendar also allows us to utilize  third-party scheduling platforms like Hootsuite to schedule our posts in advance. Scheduling Instagram posts on Hootsuite is slightly different from standard posts. Per Hootsuite’s site, when a post is scheduled or sent through Hootsuite, a notification is sent to your mobile app which then allows you to publish the post on Instagram. Both the Hootsuite and Instagram apps must be installed on your mobile device to send the post.

Save time by creating a content calendar to manage your weekly social media posts and schedule posts ahead of time with Hootsuite.

PUBLISH: Share content with your audience and follow industry accounts.
Once we completed all the preparation for our Instagram account, we created a profile and scheduled our first post. Then we began to follow other SMPS Chapters, industry firms and vendors, and influential accounts to increase our exposure. We continue to use our templates and schedule to publish content along with live photo and video from events. Check out the account here.

Preparation prior to creating your Instagram account helps make a smooth transition for the launch. Make sure to follow other accounts in your industry for reciprocal exposure.

Roxy Kinsinger 
Senior Marketing/Proposal Coordinator, Pulice Construction, Inc.

Roxy has been in the A/E/C Industry for six years and a SMPS member for the past four years. She's has had a crucial role with SMPS as Publicity Director for the past two years and has worked at Pulice for the past four years. In her free time, Roxy loves checking off awesome hikes from her bucket list with her husband and channeling her inner zen at yoga!

Michelle D'Souza 
Marketing Coordinator, T.Y. Lin International 

Michelle has been immersed in the A/E/C Industry for about five years and a SMPS member for the past 10 months. Michelle is a Social Media Champion for the SMPS Arizona Publicity Branch and a recent Member of the Month award winner! Michelle loves to work on fun design projects, cook and travel as much as she can in her free time. 

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Build Business 2017 Takeaways

Build Business is the premier A/E/C Marketing and Business Development Conference that brings together hundreds of marketers, business developers, principals and firm owners. This year’s Build Business had a few new features and a lot of great information!

What was new this year?

  • Three-day conference: Build Business started earlier this year (at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 12) with immersive learning, workshops, and never-before-seen presentations

  • MAX (Market.Act.eXchange): The popular, short-form presentations are back—but this year, they were on the Main Stage! 

  • Digital Skills Lab: Instructor-led, hands-on training makes its debut with technology-based programs such as InDesign and Photoshop (Yes!) 

  • Mind Exchange: Roundtable discussions with the latest topics facilitated by industry experts

  • Evening of Excellence: Reinvented awards presentation focuses on recognition, inspiration, and more networking opportunities

Several of our Arizona Chapter members had the opportunity to attend Build Business this year and came back with great tips! See below:

Data Tells, Stories Sell

Data is about connection, not necessarily perfection. Data doesn’t say much until it is interpreted. Evidence SPEAKS:

S – stories
P – personal examples
E – expert testimony
A – analogies
K – killer quotes
S – statistics & facts

The Best Leaders Prioritize Effectively

According to CJ McClanahan, there are five levels of commitment that we can attach to tasks and life. Prioritize your tasks by assigning a level to them: 

  1. No – not doing it!
  2. Wishing and wanting to do it.
  3. “I’ll try.” (We all know this really means “no”.
  4.  I’m committed, unless something else more important comes up.
  5. Absolutely! Whatever it takes!

Most people feel the exact same way as you do – swamped and unsure of how to get everything done. Prioritize effectively and you’ll always feel ahead of the game.

  1. Plan your week in advance – Less than 5% of professionals plan their week in advance because odds are, it’s going to change. Plan out your week so that you always get your most crucial tasks completed on time. How? Monday morning sit down and write down five things that hold the top priority level. Then, get them done.
  2. Eat that Frog – Yep, you heard me. Complete the task you don’t want to do, first.  Just get it done first.  It’s all downhill after that.  Try to avoid the fake conversation with yourself late on Tuesday afternoon. You know, the one where you’re telling yourself you’ll be “in the mood” to work on that task tomorrow. Chances are you won’t be “in the mood” tomorrow. Attitude second, priority first.
  3. Reduce Distractions - Distraction number one is your coworkers.  Resolution – shut your door!  No door?  Put in headphones.  Send a do not disturb signal to your coworkers.  Create an environment where you are not accessible to everyone, all of the time.  If you are working on something that requires total concentration, do not allow yourself to be distracted or fully accessible to other people. Distraction number two is your cell phone and number three is email.  We are addicted to interruptions.  Studies show e-mail is destructive for productivity. Studies show, when you are interrupted, it takes 7 to 21 minutes to refocus your brain on what you were doing originally.  Want proof? How many times have you stayed late and been way more productive in those last hours when no one is in the office than you were the entire day?
  4. Write things down in a notebook - Sticky notes are not to-do lists.  Microsoft Outlook is not a to-do list.  Canary pads are not a to-do list.  Get a special notebook and take it with you everywhere and use that as your to-do list.  When people ask you to do things, write them down, in one place, and then get back to what you were doing.  Then, at the end of the day, you can revisit that list and ensure nothing is forgotten.
  5. Stop saying yes to everything – Consider the level of importance of tasks you’re requested to do and how well they tie in to your job description. If you are asked to do something that is not part of your job or not important, you CAN say no to it. You can’t do everything. Something has to take a priority.  Your priority is quality not quantity. 

Values-based Hiring Leads to Higher Employee Engagement and Lower Turnover

Ever wonder why some people just seem to be a “fit” in your firm and others are like poison apples? Perhaps it is because you are focusing just on an employee’s skill set and not how their values align with your firm’s values. By utilizing behavioral and experiential interview processes, and including questions on your firms’ values in the application process, you are much more likely to find the right match. How does marketing fit into this? Well, we are the brand ambassadors, meaning it is our job to help HR (and our entire firms) to understand the mission, vision, and core values.

You can work with HR to ensure that the application process includes questions on your application. You can be a part of the interview experience by creating a “values exercise.” Your employees have an effect on everything that you do. In order to communicate your culture to a potential employee, ask cultural questions such as “What attracts you to our company?” or “What do you know about us?”

You can make sure your office is clearly expressing your values through internal marketing such as naming your conference rooms after your core values or having signage that shows employees what those values look like. Lastly, you can create an internal marketing campaign to reward employees who are living the core values through their work. You cannot stop people from leaving the firm, but you can create an environment they don’t want to leave. Retention ideas include hand written notes from the CEO, golden anniversary gifts, one on one meetings each week, and a “years of service” wall in your office.

Untapped Marketing Power of the Infographics

Why infographics?

  • We’re visually wired - Almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing.

  • It’s more persuasive: In a Wharton School of Business study, 67% of the audience was persuaded by the verbal presentation with accompanying visuals.

  • Infographics are easier to recall: People remember 80% of what they see and do, versus 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear.

How to Create an Infographic:

Start with an Infographic Go-No Go. Ask yourself the following questions: Why is this needed? Who is it for? What should they know after seeing it? What is the topic? Finally, where should it be shared? Once an infographic has received the “go,” collect the data and find your narrative for the infographic. Next steps include creating a mockup, design edits, and lastly, testing the effectiveness of your infographic.

Infographic Tool Recommendations:

Marketing Communications Awards

Wow! There were some fantastic and brilliant ideas that came out of the MCA’s this year. If haven’t had a chance to see the finalists and award winners visit You’re sure to walk away with a few dozen ideas for your firm. 

Thank you to our local members for providing great tips from this year’s Build Business Conference!

Build Business is a great conference that brings A/E/C clients, content experts, principals, business developers and marketers together to learn from and challenge one another to think differently about business. It looks like many of our fellow SMPS members were able to learn from others and provide the rest of our chapter with some great tools to “build yourself, build your firm and build the world.”

Did you attend Build Business? Do you have additional takeaways you’d like to share with the chapter? Please, comment below and share your knowledge!

Ashley Black
Marketing Administrator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves hot yoga, basketball, cooking and spending time with her newborn niece, Halle. 

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Construction Site Safety: Tips for Marketers

Marketing professionals working in the construction industry juggle many tasks every day – from adapting to the preferences and requests of clients, to ensuring the success of marketing plans and everything in between, these daily job requirements are far from simple. Safety is top of mind for those out in the field but is that mind-set being carried into the office? Safety should be the highest priority for all employees in construction as people are firms’ biggest assets and it has a major impact on a business’s bottom line.

Let's take a look at some safety tips and information:

Verify vendors visiting sites are meeting your firm’s safety requirements.
Marketers within the A/E/C industry should provide the company safety program to all vendors prior to sending them on an active site. This way, the vendor will be familiar with all safety processes and procedures prior to entering the site. This is a great step to ensure safety without compromising the firm. Full personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided to anyone visiting an active site.  

Ask the appropriate staff member before sharing an active job site photo on social media.
Even if you are up-to-date with all job site safety regulations, you should always check with a superintendent, project manager or safety director before posting an active job site photo. The worst thing you can do is take a great action shot and blast it on social media, to find out that a safety hazard is taking place in the image. Be careful and double check before sharing on social media!

Become OSHA Certified.
The benefits of being certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should not be underestimated. provides an online library featuring 40 construction safety courses – Look them over and decide which course would make most sense for your specific firm. For example, the OSHA 30-hour Construction Industry Outreach Training course is a comprehensive safety program designed for anyone involved in the construction industry. By meeting OSHA's certification qualifications, marketers can enhance their knowledge of construction safety and demonstrate to clients that they are well-versed in safety matters. In addition, questions regarding safety is always an important section asked in an RFQ/RFP. Understanding the OSHA requirements and learning more about safety will allow marketers to have a better understanding of the regulations in order to respond appropriately – instead of recycling old verbiage.

Aside from these technical benefits, the most significant byproduct of becoming OSHA-certified is in being able to communicate more effectively with field personnel. 

Actively Promote and Campaign Safety Programs
Safety awareness from all employees is important to a successful project. One way of spreading cognizance is by having a safety campaign. It is important to actively promote your firm’s safety program and is even better if you understand the terminology and the regulations that your team can best relate to. Conveying an understanding of safety guidelines will allow for successful safety campaigns.  

Jessica Kane
Professional Blogger, Federal Steel Supply, Inc. 

Jessica Kane has been a professional blogger for the past five years at Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading supplier of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipes, tubes, fittings and flanges. She’s been in this industry for 10 years and stumbled across SMPS Arizona through LinkedIn. In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time with her 1.5-year-old son and husband. 

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What I Learned from the F Word: From Failure to Fortune

“Successful people are not people who never fail. They’re people who know how to fail really, really well” (Karen Salmansohn).

Failure is part of life, but I never explicitly learned how to handle failure in productive ways. I was originally reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and The Bounce Back Book by Karen Salmansohn to learn about personal grieving and loss. The books are about so much more, and I found something I didn’t know I was looking for. I found that resilience was one of the keys to strong marketing professionals. These techniques aren’t just helpful in my personal struggles; they are tools for my career in marketing professional services. These tools help the marketing professional with personalization, feedback, perfection, loss, rejection, and more.

Marketing professional services is a unique career. I continue to improve my marketing skills including document layout, writing, presentations and graphics. As I dive deeper into my career, resilience is another skill that takes a significant amount of awareness and practice.

Warning: description of a proposal loss ahead.

As marketing professionals, we take ownership of each pursuit. We customize each submission and leave it all on the page. We comply with everything requested – checking each box. We put hours into perfecting every detail until we feel confident with our submission.

We feel the joys of being asked to interview for the project. We practice and strategize with our teams. This is the moment for which we have trained. We’re perfect for this project.

You wait for days that feel like months or months that feel like years. You anxiously refresh your browser and inbox.

Then you receive the letter – your firm wasn’t selected. Your heart drops followed by your neck’s strength.

Several of my marketing role models have their own stories. The more time you have invested, the harder it hurts. Everyone’s loss is unique.

Rejection doesn’t go away and neither does the pain of rejection, but some of the strongest marketing professionals are those that bounce back quickly. Failure and resilience are part of the job.

The techniques below are helpful with adversity, loss, failure, rejection and more. They have also helped me to become a better support system for others who go through their own struggles. Here are some ways to turn failure into fortune.

Avoid the three Ps.

Martin Seligman found that the following 3 P’s can stunt recovery:

  1. Personalization — the belief that we are at fault
  2. Pervasiveness — the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
  3. Permanence — the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever

“It’s not only the event itself, but the way we explain the event to ourselves that causes depression” (Salmansohn).

The book continues, “What beliefs has your adversity triggered? What type of person does it make you feel like?” Salmansohn urges us to be aware of our negative self-talk.

I’m not good enough. (personal)
I’ll never be able to do this. (permanence)
This always happens. (pervasive)

Talk about it.

Always debrief with your team and your client. Keep a couple of rules in mind. Salmansohn explains that if you ask the wrong questions, you’re going to get the wrong answers. Why didn’t I…? What if…? Or Why me? These questions slow our recovery time and personalize the situation. Instead, make sure your debrief questions and your self-talk are geared toward productive questions. What can I do to move forward? What’s within my control? How can I grow from this challenge? It’s very important to keep personalization out of a debrief conversation to avoid a defensive meeting.

Sandberg discusses the importance of acknowledging her situation with her team, which helped her feel less isolated. When we validate our team members on their experiences, we’re building a supportive team that encourages growth from rejection.

“Teams that focus on learning from failure outperform those that don't.” For Sandberg, failure is a learning opportunity.

Avoid iceberg beliefs.

“Iceberg beliefs are thoughts that float beneath the surface of your consciousness: powerful forces that can significantly undermine your resilience and cause you to overreact to a situation” (Salmansohn). These are like the three Ps. They sound like self-doubt and disguise themselves as actual truths. One way to overcome iceberg beliefs is to write a proof of inaccuracy next to each iceberg belief.

Finally, I’ll end with a poem, Autobiography In Five Short Chapters, written by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in... it's a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately. 

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it. 

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

To me, this poem illustrates my journey of self-awareness. There are times where I am aware that I personalize a situation, I fall in a hole, and it takes me a while to get out. There are times of growth where I can catch myself ruminating, and I get out of the hole immediately. I sometimes bounce back faster than I have in the past. I’m still working on walking down another street, which means trying these productive habits when adversity crosses my path. Sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded that there are other roads and that you aren’t always walking alone.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
The Bounce Back Book by Karen Salmansohn
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

Jennifer Giralo 
Marketing Coordinator, Archer Western Construction

Jennifer has been in the A/E/C industry for the past five years and a SMPS member for four years. She was previously the SMPS website chair and will have an active role within the chapter in the upcoming 2017-2018 year. Jennifer is improviser, she creates stories and characters onstage. She also performs one-woman musicals in her car during her commutes. 

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Teaming Up - VDC & Marketing

VDC is extremely relevant in our industry today and has evolved over the last few years. Megan Conrad, Virtual Construction Manager and Mike Prefling, Director of Virtual Construction at Ryan Companies, will provide some valuable insight below.

What is exactly is VDC?

VDC stands for Virtual Design Construction. I believe there are two concepts to understand. First, we have a Building Information Model (BIM); which is a 3D model representation of a building scope, a MEP system or any other physical part of a project. Designers, contractors and vendors have mostly moved to BIM as it provides a more efficient way for them to design, draft and fabricate. I think of BIM as a noun, it’s the model & repository for information. On the other hand, Virtual Design & Construction should be thought of as a verb. It is how a myriad of models are combined, shared, evolved, leveraged and used for communication, conflict identification and resolution, and gleaned for information sharing to all stakeholders. VDC is a process driver. I’ve heard it described well as if BIM is the car then VDC is the driver. The VDC process includes software, hardware and people – ideally all in the proper configurations and locations to allow for cooperative participation, and enabled to deliver a high performing (i.e., optimized) constructed facility. 

How are the VDC and the Marketing teams in your company similar? How are they different?

We have a lot of similarities between our VDC and Marketing teams. Both groups have to draw desires and vision out of people. We both have to force action, keep groups on task, and hold people accountable. We have strict design standards, even use some of the same software, and care deeply about helping our clients experiencing a positive, emotional reaction to their project. The biggest similarity is that we both tell stories; they just might be in different formats and for different reasons. Our VDC team is able to transform a design concept into an image, animation, or virtual reality that brings it to life, while our Marketing team is able to take our deliverables and form a cohesive message with text, branding, and formatting to deliver a complete story.

How do VDC and marketing team up for pursuits or even for current projects?

We collaborate on almost every pursuit and almost every project together. VDC and Marketing combined has become a powerful duo. Marketing really understands the overall vision, objectives and key messaging points for pursuits and interviews. VDC understands construction and is in the business of visually communicating scope, process, design, logistics, budget and schedule. During pursuits, VDC can help provide supplemental graphics or tools in order to help tell the story. We do that in a variety of ways:

  1. 3D building animations and renderings
  2. Cost and schedule summary infographics
  3. Site logistics
  4. Process maps
  5. Regional amenity graphics

Sample Schedule Sequence Infographic

The VDC team’s talents reside in bringing information to life, and combined with a marketing team’s overall vision strategy, it makes for a perfect combo for business development efforts trying to win work. 

How do you think VDC technology can enhance marketing efforts or what successes have you seen when combining VDC and marketing?

One of the greatest successes we’ve seen is utilizing Virtual Reality in marketing efforts, particularly in leasing and sales capacities. Ryan’s VDC group generates 360 degree views of apartment units for potential renters to tour via virtual headsets and even an interactive experience that allows the viewer to use a controller to explore the space virtually at their own leisure. Additionally, we provide design studio-quality renderings that can be used in a wide array of marketing platforms. This provides huge added value to our clients in order to accurately market the space well before the projects are finished for closing sales and leasing sooner.

Do you have any advice for marketing or business development professionals when it comes to interacting or utilizing VDC?

  • Sit down with us on a routine basis and map out upcoming deliverables, efforts and marketing initiatives. We have a deep perspective on the pulse of construction and can offer technical support and/or perspectives.

  • Give us at least twice as much time as you think we need!  We use as many as 10 separate software programs to craft our deliverables, which can mean a lot of importing, exporting, rendering, aligning and tweaking details to get it just right. These things take time, but they are well worth it in the end.

  • We need content, and the more we can get sooner, the better (building models, concepts, branding standards, design constraints, etc.)

  • Feedback is greatly appreciated, especially when it’s early and often. It is significantly more challenging to make changes when nearing the due date for our deliverables.

  • Let us know the mood, theme, and other non-tangible elements of marketing a project. We can add little things to convey these properties and give our content a lot of depth. Every little bit of information matters!

As a VDC Manager for Ryan Companies, a design-build firm that also acts as a developer, you must have a unique perspective on the value of technology for all stakeholders (designers, contractors, and owners.) Can you tell us more about the value that you’ve seen VDC technology bring to a construction project?

As a full-service real estate solution provider, I find that I need to communicate in different ways with a myriad of stakeholder groups. VDC processes have become a powerful medium from which to communicate. It is our conduit to facilitate the vision and plan intelligently. We have found that the more information we pass through our VDC processes, the more “unknown” factors get converted to “known.” This enables tremendous agility and confidence in decision-making and maintains trust for all parties. We like to state that VDC gives our construction teams certainty of outcomes.

Your role in VDC exposes you to some of the most interesting technology trends in the industry. What tech are you most excited about for 2017 and beyond?

We have been working quite a bit with Virtual and Augmented Reality at Ryan Companies. With more consumers using these technologies, we are seeing a surge in applications within construction. As I mentioned earlier, we’re creating immersive experiences to invoke a positive emotional response into the sales and leasing process. I’m hoping that within the next two to five years, VR and AR will merge further, unlocking even more opportunities within construction. I’d like to see this expand to on-site applications and safety uses with true simulation and rehearsal of high-risk construction activities where “game-like” scenarios can be practiced and fine-tuned, similar to what is done in the aerospace or military industries.

Megan Conrad 
Virtual Construction Manager, Ryan Companies US, Inc. 

Megan Conrad works in Ryan's Great Lakes Region as a Virtual Construction Manager. She has been in the industry for 10 years and with Ryan Companies for over two years. Megan loves her job because she is able to tap into her creativity and provlem solve by helping others visualize the best steps to move forward. In her free time, Megan loves to hike, camp, canoe, kayak and travel to National and State parks. 

Mike Prefling 
Director of Virtual Construction, Ryan Companies US, Inc. 

Mike Prefling has worked in this industry for 17 years and nine years at Ryan. He oversees Ryan's Virtual construction department out of the Phoenix office and interfaces with all 13 offices across the country. He loves that every day is a different and complex puzzle to be solved. In his free time, Mike enjoys time with his family and anything that is kid-related, especially outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, swimming and other sports. 

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