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Surviving a Rebrand

Our firm just went through a whirl-wind and I survived! Earlier this month, my firm went through a significant transition to unite globally under one name, WSP, and launch a fresh brand and identity. Like many companies out there, we have experienced tremendous growth, both organically and by acquisition. Over 80 companies worldwide make up WSP today.

In the United States, WSP and Parsons Brinckerhoff came together in 2014 to form a cobranded firm, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. After extensive research including client and market surveys, internal focus groups and stakeholder feedback, the decision was made to move forward as WSP worldwide. The initial announcement of the name change was released in January with the new brand identity rolled out in early May.


As part of the U.S. corporate communications team, I not only had a front-row seat to the rebrand, I was in the mosh pit. January through May has been a bit of a blur. Even though it was a chaotic time, the experience helped me hone my communications skills, think outside the box, and strategize under pressure. Throughout the process, I learned several valuable lessons. Below are my top five rebranding survival tips based on my recent experience.

1. BE FLEXIBLE! Things change often during the course of a rebranding process. Everything from deadlines being pushed up to meet a new timeline, to unexpected projects tumbling into your lap, to technology challenges. You can’t predict the unpredictable but you can plan, adjust and make the needed accommodations to meet the various project goals for the rebrand. Managing your work flow and deadlines is imperative and you need to use a method that works best for you and your organization.


2. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNIATE, COMMUNICATE. Did I mention you should communicate? If you feel you are over communicating, you are doing it right. Not every person in your organization digests information in the same way or through the same channel. Some people will disregard your emails but will happily read each and every Intranet post while others may find the posters in break areas a great way to catch up on company news. I can’t express how important it is to keep staff engaged and updated during the rebranding process!


3. BE CONSISTENT AND PERSISTENT. When the marketing and communication staff is immersed in the rebrand process and efforts, it’s easy to occasionally take for granted the knowledge we have. We forget that we know a lot more about the rebrand than the rest of the staff. It is crucial that we continue to communicate (through several channels) throughout the process to provide consistent messaging. It is our duty to educate staff on the meaning of the brand as well as keeping staff informed of upcoming key milestone dates and activities. If you say you will send daily or weekly email updates, send daily or weekly email updates. If you have committed to hosting weekly webinars, host weekly webinars. Keeping staff informed and engaged will result in higher levels of buy-in.


4. HAVE FUN WITH IT! All work with and no play can make the rebranding process somewhat tedious. Find something unique and fun that speaks to your organization and can turn staff into brand ambassadors. We found Instagram was a great way to have staff interact and engage with our new name. We asked staff to show their pride in #becomingWSP with the tag and sharing photos that included the WSP name or around WSP projects in their communities. 

Superheroes spelling WSP in the city of brotherly love 

Our Raleigh staff showing their WSP pride on the lawn

Yours truly in Tempe getting off a train at Valley Metro Station after Pat's Run!

5. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! The rebranding exercise is not something that happens overnight and can be a grueling process. To be successful, it will take months of hard work with a lot of long hours and stressful deadlines. Keeping a work-life balance is difficult under normal circumstance; throw rebranding into the mix and all bets are off. During the process, it can be easy to forget to give yourself some ‘me time’. Whether it is having dinner with friends or family, centering yourself at yoga class, or making it to your child’s hockey game, it is essential to give yourself a break. These breaks will help to rejuvenate you and by stepping away for a bit, will help you to refocus and bring new insights to the process.

Suzi Mein, CPSM 
Marketing Communications Manager, WSP USA 
Suzi has worked for WSP USA for the past five and a half years, has been in the A/E/C industry for over 15 years and has been a SMPS member for over three years. In her free time, Suzi likes to disconnect! She enjoys traveling and outdoor activities including hiking, camping, boating, scuba diving, fishing and SUP. 

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Inside Scoop on Getting Recognized

 As Marketers, we are constantly compiling statistics, photographs and information about our colleagues or projects and nominating them for awards. Why? Awards are awesome. Awards contribute to your firm’s success through visibility, validation, testimony, reputation and they differentiate your company or colleague apart from competitors. We often put in hours, days and even weeks filling out award applications for everyone, except ourselves.

In case you missed out, the SMPS Marketing Communications Awards competition is the perfect opportunity to receive the credit you deserve! The MCA’s recognize excellence, creativity and results in marketing communications produced by professional Arizona services firms in the A/E/C industry. The 2017 MCA event, chaired by Nicole Christy, was booming with competition and bright creations this year!

The competition included the most innovative campaigns of 2016 for awards across several categories and three individual nominations: Marketer of the Year, Technical Professional of the Year, and Up and Comer. The individual nominations are an opportunity to recognize some of our most impactful marketers in Arizona! Congratulations to two very deserving winners: Maisha Christian Hagan, Marketing Director at Jokake and Charlie Crews, Interactive Marketing Specialist at Small Giants!


How do you become an Up and Comer or Marketer of the Year? How do you know if you qualify for such a prestigious award? Maisha and Charlie reveal their tips below!

What is your position, length you’ve been at your current company and how long have you been in this industry?

CC: I work as a marketing specialist at an AEC marketing and business development firm, Small Giants. I began my career at Small Giants in 2014 and worked previously as a marketing assistant at two large general contracting firms in the Valley while finishing my degrees at ASU.

MCH: I’ve been an AEC marketer for ten years. This June I’ll be celebrating six years with Jokake Construction.

When filling out the award application, did you provide statistics or examples of how you impacted your firm in 2016? If so, can you share some of those examples?

CC: In my application we focused on my contributions to my firm, commitment to the industry, talents and specialties, involvement in SMPS and samples of the work I have completed for my clients. My examples ranged from national website redesigns, managing large multi-discipline projects, advertising strategy, and proposal development. 

MCH: Yes. As a result Jokake had a 93% response rate to the 2016 employee survey which reported the firm had an 89.02 employee engagement score (a twenty point increase from a 2014 survey). I was the liaison between Jokake’s employee base and a third-party employee survey conductor.

Also, after dramatically restructuring the mentorship program to illicit more engagement from and provide more value to program participants, the number of participants increased from 12 to 19 (increased revenue from $700 to $1,100) and protégé participation throughout the entire program experienced a 50% increase from 2015 to 100%.

Did you have family, friends or colleagues help you with your submittal? Why do you think that might have been beneficial?

CC: My team helped me to assemble my submittal which was very helpful and appreciated. So often we are experts at talking about our firms and team members, yet it is so difficult to talk about ourselves! This was the case for me and I was very thankful for their support and assistance with the submittal.  

MCH: I didn’t. I didn’t even tell anyone I was submitting.

What does being awarded Up and Comer mean to you?

CC: Up and Comer was such an unexpected win for me, as there are so many incredible up and coming marketers in our industry and SMPS. The award solidifies my passion for the work I do everyday, my commitment to the industry and all the people involved. It was a great accomplishment that gives me the push and drive to strive for the best marketer I can be. 

What does being awarded Marketer of the Year mean to you?

MCH: It’s a reminder of how blessed I am to be able to do work that excites me for a company and people I respect in an industry I love.

Maisha said that her Mom was easily the most proud of her for this great accomplishment. Proof in text message above!


Any additional advice to those hoping to submit for one of the above awards in the future?

CC: Stay with your passion! If you enjoy marketing and love what you do, try to get more involved by volunteering or signing up for a committee. Not only will find great friends, mentors and ideas but you can set yourself apart by contributing in a meaningful way.

MCH: Submitting for Marketer of the Year is a great opportunity to step back from the task-driven, day-to-day activities and see the overall impact you make to your firm and industry. Don’t be shy about promoting yourself or your accomplishments for the Marketer of the Year.

Travis McCoy, Managing Director at Schaefer, was also recognized at the MCA’s this year! He was surprised at the event and recognized with this year’s President’s Choice Award! This was awarded to Travis for his activism and leadership with the chapter all last year.

“Having just completed my first full year with SMPS, I was extremely surprised and honored to win this award. Not only have I been welcomed into the organization with open arms, but to win this award shows that I’ve been able to add value to SMPS as well. This has definitely motivated me to increase my involvement within SMPS,” said Travis McCoy.

So what are you waiting for? Start tracking your great progress and efforts during 2017 so you are ready to submit for next year’s MCA’s!

Congratulations to all MCA 2017 winners:

  • Holiday Piece: JE Dunn Construction
  • Video: The Weitz Company
  • Website: TankGirl Marketing
  • Special Event: Concord General Contracting
  • Project Pursuit: The Weitz Company
  • Marketer of the Year: Maisha Christian Hagan, Jokake Construction
  • Up and Comer: Charlie Crews, Small Giants
  • President’s Choice: Travis McCoy, Schaefer



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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One CAN Make a Difference

Did you know that every 13 seconds, a child dies from hunger related causes? YOU can make a difference! Get involved with Canstruction® - this year marks the 11th Anniversary of Phoenix Canstruction®, a unique charity art exhibit in which AEC firms collect cans and compete to ‘can’struct the best exhibit.  After the show, cans are donated to the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. 

It is the mission of the SMPS Arizona Chapter to advocate, educate and collaborate on behalf of the AEC industry to build business for a thriving economy.  What better way to accomplish this mission than to lend our time, energy, and creativity to the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, through Canstruction®? 

Five Tips to Simplify the Canstruction® Process

1. Draft a Large Team

Just because there are only five builders permitted during the build-day, doesn’t mean your team needs to be limited to just five people. In fact, the more the merrier! There are several phases of this event – just like a real project. Make sure you have committed team members for the following: 

  • Captain – This person will handle all of the organizational tasks and makes sure your team stays on track and doesn’t miss any deadlines.

  • Architect & Engineer  – Make your life easier and get an architect and an engineer on your team to design the structure. This person will understand structural integrity so that your structure stays intact for the two-week viewing period.  

  • Contractor/Builders – Gather a few “builders” that can help create the structure on build day. This is a long day of building so the more people you have on your team, the better.

  • DE-canstructors – Your team will return to the Convention Center on August 12 for break-down day. This process is much faster than Build Day and the more team members present, the faster it goes. 


2. Pick simple & easy-to-stack cans

When designing your structure, try to choose common cans. Rare cans, especially rare-sized cans, will be very difficult to order in bulk and will present problems down the road! Keep it simple and pick cans that not only work with your design but will be easy to find. It’s not a bad idea to go to the store and stack a few cans together to see which fit together best.  
*Important Note: Cans that look similar in size can be slightly different, which can have a huge effect on structure stabililty.

3. Create the final design as soon as possible and secure your cans as early as possible

These two steps should be simultaneous. Aim to have your design close to final by the time registration closes, then, shop for your cans immediately. This way, you have plenty of time to adjust your design should you struggle to find the cans needed to complete your structure. Ordering your cans eight weeks in advance is recommended.

4. Plan a pre-build day off site

Take an afternoon and test build at least some of your structure before build day. The last thing you want to do is get to the event and not be able to finish your structure. Also, this will make the process faster on the actual event day.

5. Stay hydrated and fueled

If you are going to build just a few hours then pack some water and snacks, but if you plan to build all day long, be sure and bring some lunch to scarf down in between stacking cans. 

Now that you have your tips for success, make a difference for hungry families in Phoenix and register for Canstruction® 2017

Canstruction® comes around at just the right time of year (Build Day is July 29, 2017). Donations are typically at their lowest during the summer months with many donors heading out to cooler climates, while children are out of school for the summer and not getting their typical breakfast and lunches at school. Hungry families are left to weather the Phoenix summers, leaving the demand is at its highest. 

We use our creative skills every day, through design or communication, to help achieve goals for ourselves and our respective employers.  Why not extend those skills toward a creative event that both involves and benefits the community? 

You can register your team here for the 2017 competition through Friday, May 19th, 2017.

The competition during Canstruction® can get pretty fierce! Just check out some of last year’s amazing creations:


Image 1- Best Meal, Most Cans & People’s Choice 
What BB Ate: Gensler, PK Associates, Corporate Interior Systems, Airpark Signs & Graphics, and Holder

Image 2 - Judges Choice
Super Can Man: Corgan, Buehler & Buehler and Wood Patel

Important Dates:

  • Deadline for team registration is May 19th
  • Build-Day is July 29th
  • Decanstruction is August 12th  


Sarah Clegg at [email protected] or 480-829-6000
Dana Varieur at [email protected] or 602-957-1155 


Taryn Marie Herbert
Corporate Marketing Coordinator, Rider Levett Bucknall

Taryn joined the AEC industry in 2015 and is a Corporate Marketing Coordinator with Rider Levett Bucknall. She joined SMPS this year and is loving the organization already; she ventured to Philadelphia for Build Business and is a member of the Blog Committee! Taryn loves creating writing - she's been published! She is training for a marathon right now and loves to read, run, hike, camp and practice yoga in her free time.

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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Michelle's Mini Illustrator Tutorial

Adobe Illustrator – did you just get the chills? Fear no more Marketers! Michelle Dsouza, Marketing Coordinator at T.Y. Lin International, has come to the rescue!

How many times have you found the perfect graphic on Shutterstock, but couldn’t edit it in InDesign or Photoshop so you just didn’t use it? Or, for firms with graphic designers, how many times have you received a graphic from your graphic designer and keep going back to them to have it tweaked until it’s just perfect? That stops today.

Michelle has created an extremely helpful handout which provides quick tips and shortcuts for editing vectors in Adobe Illustrator. You can access this document here.

Mini Q&A With Michelle:

Q: Michelle, How did you develop your Illustrator skills?
A: I was born this way....kidding! I continue to work on it, everyday, as much as I can. I love to ‘google everything’, check out tutorial videos and articles, follow other designers in the field and listen to design podcasts. The best piece of advice that I got (and still follow) is If you like something you see, recreate it as best you can – you end up learning so much in the process!

Q: When working in Illustrator, I've noticed that sometimes I get stuck clicking on all of the vector's layers instead of just the layer I'm trying to edit. How can I make sure to just select the layer that I need? The multiple blue lines drive me crazy! 
A: Most vectors (when downloaded) are usually grouped or inside a clipping mask since they contain a mix of vector shapes, text and background elements. The many blue lines are all selected objects that are shown once you unmask/ungroup the whole vector. To undo or separate them:

  • Select everything (Ctrl+A) and ungroup by selecting Object (from the Application Bar) > Ungroup (Shift+ Ctrl+G). You can always group them back by selecting Object > Group (Ctrl+G)

  • If it's in a clipping mask, select everything (Ctrl+A) and select Object > Clipping Mask > Release or Ctrl+Alt+7

Also, if you use the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow), it will ‘directly’ select anything that’s part of a group of a mask).

Are you ready to learn how to edit a vector in illustrator?


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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Preparing for Your Review

When I walked into my first SMPS event nine-and-a-half years ago, I had no idea what the next decade had in store or how it would change my life. I raised my hand to be a member of the newsletter committee … and eight years later, I began my three-year commitment as the SMPS Arizona president. I always heard people say they owe their career path to what they learned in SMPS. I thought I understood what they meant, but I didn’t fully comprehend it until just a couple of months ago.

I knew that being chapter president would change my life, but I could not completely comprehend the immense results—nothing dramatic, but phenomenal growth. My annual review happens to fall in line with the SMPS year, which worked out well as I wrapped up my presidency and started to think about what I wanted to do next. As I prepared for my review, I expressed my sincerest gratitude to both my boss and my company for all of their support over the past two years. I knew the presidency would make me a better person, but I never stopped to think about how it would make me a better marketing professional. So, then, I began to look back with 20-20 hindsight. I had the incredible experience to lead a great chapter and help to accomplish some amazing goals as part of our three-year strategic plan. It was only after having walked through the presidency that I could see the bene?ts I can directly apply to my job.

I walked into my review having compiled my major accomplishments and contributions for the previous year, outlined five major goals for the upcoming year, and asked for a promotion to be on the executive leadership team. I drew direct parallels from my experience as president and how that translates into my ability to be a better marketing director and leader at Corbins Electric. Ultimately, I was not given the promotion right now, but my boss explained why and then offered me a Plan B to help with my goals and continued professional development. He didn’t have to offer the Plan B, so I’m excited that he proposed another avenue for me to grow and continue to make contributions. He also explained that not getting the promotion wasn’t anything personal, and he knows I am a significant member of the team and bring value to the company. He went on to say that the opportunity may be available in the future.

So what does this mean? It means now my boss knows that I’m interested in future company leadership, and I’m committed to the success of the company. I could have walked out upset and wanting to leave, but instead, I decided to embrace the opportunities with Plan B and move forward. We’re at a great place and have so much growth ahead of us. I’m in this for the long haul and excited to be a part of the company’s growth and contribute to the bottom line. Two years ago, I would have never walked in to my boss and asked to be a member of the executive leadership team. I learned leadership skills and how to ask for things I want as a direct result of my involvement with SMPS.

As I enter this next stage in both my SMPS and professional careers, here are a few lessons learned that I will continue to remember and utilize:

  • Marketing does have a seat at the table—and we are a valuable asset to the team
  • You don’t know unless you ask—and they won’t know you’re interested if you don’t take a risk
  • You should always leverage knowledge gained and skills developed in SMPS

Here are three things to consider when preparing for your review (and note to myself to do this year):

  • Draw direct correlation to how your efforts affect the company’s bottom-line
  • Be prepared with your accomplishments – your boss won’t always remember everything you’ve done the past year
  • Draw direct correlation to how your SMPS experience makes you a better professional and stronger asset to your company

What a ride! Thank you to SMPS for all of the opportunities that helped to create the person I am today.

Please click here to download a detailed review form or here for a general review form – both created by our very own, Cricket Robertson.  

Cricket Robertson, CPSM
Marketing Director, Corbins Electric

Cricket is the Marketing Director at Corbins Electric and the Past President of SMPS Arizona. Cricket is a huge SMPS advocate who took up rowing last year! She is now on the Rio Salado Rowing Club Novice Crew!

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Survive and Thrive

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting this year’s group of protégés for the SMPS AZ Mentoring Program. And, as it always happens when I meet those fresh, bright faces and minds, I am reminded of what it was like when you are trying to learn a new job AND navigate the unique obstacles these positions often have. I wish during these moments, I could literally open their brains and show them the various paths their careers may take and even more so, all the ways they can speed up their career path, mitigate the not-so-awesome parts of the job, and let them know – no matter what – it is all going to be ok. But, since I have yet to gain this super power, I put some thoughts to paper that may help.

Deirdre’s AEC Survive and Thrive Guide

The best lesson I was taught early on is: It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. We are often surrounded by folks that may be hesitant to change, or do not have the same understanding of marketing principles as you do, and they just can’t help themselves but to get in your way. Sometimes you just need to move ahead and hope for the best. I am not saying go totally rogue every day, but it is okay to take an occasional risk!

Show them the money!  Find ways to truly affect the bottom line of your firm. Maybe you can find a great way to save printing costs, or a more efficient way to do proposals? Operations care about the money— show them that you care too.  Maybe you can apply your marketing skills to billable work? Bonus!

Be better than the you that you were yesterday. Outside of work, I love to run –since the day I started running, I had one goal, do better than the day before. I never set out to beat any records or even win any races; I just wanted to compete with myself and within my own limits. The same applies to work. Try and be better every day, in attitude, or aptitude. But, be kind to yourself and accept that some days you just “don’t have it” and tomorrow is a new day.

Work smarter (& harder). I am sure you have all heard the “arrive before your boss and leave after them” rule. It is TRUE! It shows that you care. But moreover, that extra time is when you find the good stuff. Put down the proposal and do something that is a stretch. Come in on a weekend and organize that database you have been ignoring. I promise you, no one over got ahead by working the standard eight hours a day.

Strategy is your friend – learn it and apply it to EVERYTHING. Develop a mini-marketing plan for every pursuit, collateral update, public relations campaign, or for yourself. I often hear comments from peers in the industry such as, “But my work doesn’t care, they don’t want one, so why should I bother?” It’s simple, do it for you. Developing a strategic mind is like any other skill, it takes time and practice. But I promise you, this is a skill that can, and will, take you so far in your career.

Make others look good. People that make other people look and feel good move ahead faster—period. As a boss, you are always on the firing line for everything. When you have a staff member that does something that makes you look good, you VALUE them. Also, if you are a boss, or just a teammate, make your team look like rock stars to their peers and the higher ups. If you spend your time making others look good, it will be paid back tenfold.

Learn the business of the business. As marketers in AEC, we are often removed from the business of the business; therefore, we are not looked at as equals. Learn how your business runs, what is your backlog, overhead, goals, and etc.? Once you understand that, and can speak the language, your operations team will LOVE you because they will know that you get them.

Bring NEW ideas that make the firm better. Brainstorm and offer new ideas that can improve the marketing, or even the firm culture. But, take your time and make sure your ideas are well thought out and strategic.  

Build relationships – inside and out. Have a mentor for every stage of your career, maybe even more than one. I have business owner mentors, management mentors, big idea mentors, and a team of SMPS psychotherapists! But to really move ahead in your current place of employment, develop internal advocates. Find someone in operations that values marketing and is willing to help you get your ideas across, or even more importantly, help you from stepping into a pile of doo.

Don’t be afraid to ruffle feathers. I know this is easier said than done for some, but it is important to learn to speak your mind in a direct and non-emotional way. Non-emotional being the key here. We’re marketers so we live in the emotional world most of the time; it is what makes us great at our jobs. However, when dealing in a work environment, it can be detrimental to our being heard. I once had a boss that informed me that I spoke in stories, not facts. Truly, he told me I needed to speak in bullets. I was SO offended. My job was to tell stories for goodness sake! But, in his eyes I was being too emotional and wasting his time with non-essential facts. Once I got over being mad, I looked at it from his point of view and realized this person just gave me some of the best career advice I would ever receive. Thank you, Dennis Tucker!

Lastly, keep score. Create a personal growth plan for yourself and track your progress. It will make you feel like a million bucks when you look back over all you have accomplished and those achievements may help you get the next raise, promotion, or new job!


Deirdre Booth-Gilmore, CPSM
President and Owner, Tank Girl Marketing 

Deirdre Booth-Gilmore is a Certified Professional Services Marketer who has spent the past 17 years focused on the AEC community. Deirdre started her own business, Tank Girl Marketing, five years ago and is the current SMPS, SFE Chair. In her free time, Deirdre loves to travel the world! 

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Building Your Own Team of Superheroes

My 15-year-old stepson really loves Marvel superheroes. He loves superheroes so much he even dresses up for Comicon. He knows the origins story of all the major characters and he knows the release date for every Marvel movie through 2019. Because he’s a fan, it goes without saying that he has seen every Marvel movie in theater; because he’s my son and I love him, that also means that I’ve seen a LOT of superhero movies myself.

Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man – I’ve seen them all. But my favorite movies are the ones where heroes team up – like in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers. There’s something about getting all of these uniquely skilled individuals working together that seems to make achieving their personal and team goals more rewarding (not to mention better fight scenes).


In life, business and my career, I find that creating my own team of exceptionally skilled individuals is just as beneficial. In Carla Harris’ book, “Expect to Win”, She talks about three relationships every career-focused individual needs to have:

  1. Adviser - Someone who can answer discrete career questions about challenges, issues and opportunities.
  1. Mentor - Someone who can provide good, tailored developmental career advice, support your professional development and provide you with tools to help you improve your skills.
  1. Sponsor - Someone with authority and influence that is internal to your company and will advocate for you behind closed doors.

Many of us intuitively know that we need a team to achieve our career goals, but sometimes we need a little nudge to move us in that direction. Here are six times you should start building your own team of superheroes.

  1. Anytime you get a new job or enter a new field
  2. Anytime you get a promotion that requires additional skills
  3. Immediately after you get quality feedback from your direct manager about opportunities for improvement
  4. Once you have established your own or been given new performance goals
  5. Anytime there is a change in management or leadership
  6. Now

SMPS’ Mentorship Program is a smart step in building a network of exceptionally skilled marketers and business developers who will advise, support and encourage you to achieve your personal career goals. Register here, today and join us for our kick-off session on March 14th. No capes, power-packs or fighting skills required.

Maisha Christian Hagan
Marketing Director, Jokake Construction 

Maisha is the Marketing Director at Jokake Construction and has been with the company for five years. Not only has Maisha been in A/E/C industry for 18 years, she ha also been a member of SMPS for 10 years. Maisha is the Mentorship Program Chair and a true advocate for SMPS. When she’s not at work, Maisha is actively involved with her church’s leadership team. She sings, loves to garden and has a big obsession with tiny homes. 

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SOS Mode

Having worked as an interview prep and communication skills consultant in the design and construction industry for almost 14 years, I have a love/hate relationship with this industry.  I love the people I get to work with.  I love the contribution that we make to our world.  But, I hate— I deeply hate how our industry treats the salaried professionals in it.

On one hand, industry champions promote safety and quality, eating fruit and counting your steps.  However, on the other hand, the industry constantly demands that we do more and sacrifice our health and well-being.  

People do better work with vitality. 

Who would you rather have doing your surgery: the surgeon who’s been working 10-hour shifts six days a week, or the doctor who works reasonable hours, gets sufficient sleep and feels refreshed and clear without needing coffee all day? Given the same life styles –Who would you rather have in charge of quality control or managing safety?

Studies show that working more hours does not equate to greater productivity or effectiveness.  We don’t really get more done.  It just takes longer to get things done when you are living and working in overdrive; another words, SOS mode.

What is SOS mode?

            S:  Sacrificing self-care and restoration

            O:  Overwork and Overwhelm

            S:  Stress, Anxiety and Depression (SAD)

In the fall, I read an article citing a Centers for Disease Control study which identified the industries with the highest incidents of recorded suicides:  #2 Construction, #4 Architecture and Engineering, #9 Management.  Peoples’ lives are at risk – figuratively and literally.

How are we figuratively killing ourselves? By constantly operating in SOS mode without reprieve.

Not only have I observed this in the many companies that I have worked with over the past fourteen years, I have experienced it myself as a solopreneur.

For many years, the below was not true for me:

I take care of my self.

I trust my self.

I value my self.

I know me.  I really, know me.

You marketers are likely screaming TYPO!!!!  Why did she use “my self” instead of “myself”? By using my self I have found that I treat and relate to me as I would someone I truly care about: my father, my mother, my spouse, my child. 

I was disconnected from my self.   Overworking.  Always connected to technology.  I had become a doing machine, suppressing self-care as a badge of honor. 

My self, got in the way of what I “needed” to do.

So I was abusive to my self, constantly pushing myself to get more done.  Mind over matter.  Human will over any limitations to my doing.

Yet in doing so, I continuously demonstrated that what mattered to me was not me, but accomplishment, business and doing.Doing such a horrible job of taking care of my self, yet carrying my self with me always led me to not trust me or my self.

This went on for years until my body started indicated that I could no longer keep going this way:  digestive issues, elevated cortisol levels, thyroid issues and Epstein Barr Virus.

Don’t let things get to that point.

If you have been experiencing any element of SOS or all of them, please attend my session for SMPS Arizona on March 16, 2017, at the Phoenix Country Club. Click here to sign up!

I will share some of the simple tools I have learned to get me out of SOS mode and keep me out.

Invite your non-SMPS colleagues, co-workers, managers and human resource team as well since this topic is one that will resonate with many in our industry.

Whether you can attend or not, please click here to and take two minutes to complete a survey that will help give us a sense of the scope of this issue in our industry. Share it with various people representing different job types within your company as well as your SMPS friends outside of Arizona.


Hilari Weinstein
President, High Impact Communication 

Hilari is the President of High Impact Communication and has worked as an interview prep and communication skills consultant in the design and construction industry for almost 14 years. Hilari is an advocate for SMPS and enjoys attending local SMPS events when her schedule allows it. Hilari holds an annual membership for Butterfly Wonderland - her Zen spot, she enjoys reading, writing and very grateful that Amazon Prime exists.

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Branding and Animating a Story

Author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, rightfully stated “Marketing is no longer just about the stuff you make… it’s about the story you tell.” For marketers this statement hits home as our roles trend further from “coordinators” and closer to “story tellers." The onus is on us to visually combine our firms’ brand with the character and anticipated needs of our clients. While we may not produce the technical details of a given project’s architectural narrative, we can shape how the story is presented and received in marketing pursuits. Case in point: brand.

A strong and consistent proposal brand reflects your team’s preparedness, informing the client you are a partner worthy of their trust. Similarly, pursuits grounded in experience humanize your firm, confirming with the client on a physical and emotional level that you have their best interest in mind.

Below, SmithGroupJJR marketing team members Michelle Harrison and Effie Nicholaou outline two successful case studies of utilizing brand strategies in marketing pursuits; Communication Design and Engagement Design.






For a recent proposal on a new large headquarters with a Fortune 500 company, we utilized project intel to influence the pursuit’s graphic and written brand. From insight that was gathered beforehand, we knew what type of individuals would be reviewing the proposal, allowing us to tailor our message and promote the firm as a trusted advisor and clear choice for the project. For example:

  • Intel: The client prefers no-frills. Approach: Keep the layout clean and simple.

    • White space: Less content on the pages meant our statements needed to be concise, transparent, and conformational.

    • Attention grabbers: Bold call-out boxes housed differentiators such as statistics and quotes.

    • Colors and Fonts: client’s colors were appropriately utilized in graphics and fonts but were kept subtle, more of a nod to their standards rather than blatant copy and paste.

  • Intel: The project was a game-changer for the client. Approach: Confirm we understand the weight of this project.

    • Human touch: Personal commitment statements and photos from the team conveyed our team was invested far beyond the typical expectations of a design partner.

    • Proven research: A photo of the prospective site taken by one of our team members told the client we have done our due diligence in researching this project.



The interview, much like the proposal, is an opportunity to communicate your excitement about the client and their work. It is an opportunity to reiterate how you are the trusted advisor and clear choice.

Recently, our firm has explored how Augmented and Virtual Reality (VR) presents a new way of engaging and connecting, in conjunction with the presentation slides and pinned up print outs. Ultimately, through this virtual experience, clients experience a more authentic, unscripted presentation that fosters human relationship.

At a recent interview, our firm presented three design concepts with VR. The technology was an opportunity to break down the ‘fourth wall’ of the interview, engage the client through immersion, and hint at the design process.

Through the very act of handing the client an object - the VR glasses - you remove yourself from center stage and place the client, or rather the audience, into the performance. Their participation in wearing the VR – their human touch - is as critical to the interview as the content you have prepared.

With the client’s participation in the interview, VR presents an opportunity for full immersion into potential design ideas. The user steps into a virtual reality, one that necessitates their movement so to explore. The experience takes them from a posture of receptivity to a position of activity. This immersive experience increases engagement and exploration for the client.

By giving autonomy to the client, you showcase, both literally and symbolically, their critical role in the design process. They literally have control over what they see, when they see it, and how they see it. Symbolically, this control nods to the need for designers to listen to the client and work with them towards the right solution.

All in all, relating your brand, whether through communication or engagement design methodologies, is an essential element in framing the first impression with a client. As collateral gate keepers, we hold the power to color the perception of our firm and drive project pursuits with proven processes. When opportunity knocks, be encouraged! Your input as a marketing thought leader can have great effect on your team and client.

How have you utilized branding strategies in marketing pursuits? We would love to hear your feedback! 


Michelle Harrison
Senior Marketing Coordinator, SmithGroupJJR 

By way of St. Louis, Missouri, Michelle has been a Valley resident for five years and a marketing professional in the A/E/C industry for three. A publicist by trade, Michelle seeks new and thoughtful ways to effectively communicate with potential clients via written content and graphic presentation.

Effie Nicholaou 
Marketing Coordinator, SmithGroupJJR 

Effie is a creative marketing and design professional. Her passion for design first led to studying architecture and architectural history, which then translated into a passion for branding and strategy. Originally from Virginia, Effie moved to Phoenix after a short stint in Berlin and a couple years in Boston.


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Five Tools You Should be Using

Have you ever been diligently working away and thought to yourself: I wish there was an easier way to do that. Sometimes finding the right tool for the task can take as much time as simply doing the task at hand, the long way.

I’m going to come right out and say that I’m “cheating” and taking information found in the Marketer and turning it into a blog post. Why? Well, how many of you actually took the time in the busy month of December and read the Marketer? Or, how many of you read the article “8 Essential Marketing Tools You Need to Start Using Today,” written by Tim Klabunde,CPSM and tested them out? I am taking my favorite FIVE Marketing Tools from the article and diving a bit deeper. This way, you can learn additional information on the tools and then make the decision if you want to try these tools out for yourself!

1. Mention – Media tracking and monitoring is a media tracking and monitoring website, similar to Google Alerts, but offers additional options and tracks social media as well. This caught my eye immediately because, like most of us, it is necessary to know right away when our firm’s name is mentioned online. (See what I did there?) Tim explained that if you search the website long enough, you can find a basic version of the service that is free. However, I’m an impatient person and this whole tool thing is to save time, right? So, after searching for a few minutes and only finding a 14-day free trial, I decided to do an old-school thing and call the company. It took all of one minute until I was connected with someone who explained that the 14-day trial period turns into a free subscription that allows you to track one name/company and will send you up to 250 hits per month for free. AWESOME!

2. Canva – Graphic design

This tool is incredible for those firms that do not have a graphic designer, if you are ever in a pinch, or if you are in a funk and need some creative assistance. In addition, you can save your final creation in various formats. Although it is a nifty tool, I wouldn’t recommend replacing InDesign or Photoshop with this software because it is free software that has limitations and you’re not increasing your graphic-creating capabilities when utilizing this tool. Also, be cautious – some of the templates sneak in elements that you have to pay for.

3. Visualping – Website page monitoring

As Tim said, if you have ever had to check a website every day for weeks waiting for an RFP, then this is the tool for you. Recently, our firm was working on a RFQ and it was mentioned at the Pre-Bid meeting that addendum notices would not be sent out via email. This meant I would have to continuously check the website to see if any addendums had been made. Instead, I signed up for a free visualping plan and set it to check every 24 hours for slight changes on the website. This gave me great peace of mind knowing I wouldn’t forget to include the very important addendums in our response. The free plan includes 62 free “checks” and you can check two pages once a day, one page twice a day, or 62 pages once a month.

4. Google PageSpeed – Fix your slow running website

Have you ever been on a website that is taking forever to load but your colleagues’ internet seems to be working just fine? There is a website for that! You need to utilize PageSpeed Insights – a tool that analyzes and optimizes your site, following web best practices. This is the perfect tool to help speed up those slow websites! I highly recommend this free tool because it gives you step-by-step instructions on how to fix the issue and analyzes mobile versions of websites too!

5. Title Capitalization – Perfectly format titles

You finally came up with a perfect title for that article or header in your proposal, but can’t remember the AP Style or Chicago Style guides for those titles. Again, there’s a tool for that! No more worrying whether the short words in the title should be capitalized or not – simply copy and paste into the title cap website and it’ll automatically capitalize your title for you! This is a quick way to make sure you are capitalizing appropriately!

I hope that you find these tools as efficient as I did! What are some of the tools that you utilize and suggest for Marketers and Business Developers?

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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