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Angry Marketers Respond To That Controversial Blog

Angry A/E Marketers

Last week, I posted my response to a recent PSMJ blog post that has angered many marketers in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.

PSMJ’s blog post has received significant backlash since Lindsay Diven first brought it to people’s attention through LinkedIn. And my response and call for them to remove the post seemed to increase awareness.

If you haven’t read my response, please check it out before reading this (for context).

PSMJ’s Response

As to PSMJ’s response, what we can surmise is that the post went down briefly but came back up with a spelling error fixed (which was pointed out in my comments). At the moment I am writing this, the logic errors and latent sexism have not been addressed. I’m sure the irony of them being more concerned with the “bug dust” is not lost on anyone in the Help Everybody Army. 🙂

David Whitemyer has not, to my knowledge, personally responded to emails sent by me or others. But I do know that PSMJ’s Content Development Manager offered to publish a retort by one of my readers as a “rebuttal post.” You can read Melise Gerber’s full response here.

Of course, I invite anyone from PSMJ to share a comment here or on my original post.

A/E Marketers Respond

The response, from our industry, to what I wrote was so great that I wanted to share some insightful (sometimes even inspiring) comments shared by others.

I received many emails about this post. And I understand some people emailed Dave, the author, ([email protected]) and Frank, the CEO of PSMJ, ([email protected]) to share their disgust. I encourage people to do that because nobody can improve without feedback.

I have not included comments people made directly in my initial post. What I’ve included are snippets from emails sent to me and posts on LinkedIn. I’ve only included the full name when the comment was posted in a public forum.

A Note Before We Proceed

I’m all for freedom of speech. I believe that everybody’s views are important. I also understand people believe that freedom of speech is more important than “political correctness.”

But I do believe that any speech which promotes the violation of any demographic’s rights or that can be proven, by hard science, to be inaccurate…

…should be corrected or deleted. Nearly all reputable publications I know of do this as a matter of policy.

I do appreciate that they posted Melise’s response. But I’m not sure they truly understand why PSMJ, of all organizations, should not be propagating outdated and inaccurate stereotypes of marketers in the A/E (or any other) industry.

With that said, here’s what marketers are saying about PSMJ’s post:

On The Intended Audience Of PSMJ’s Article

“I think I have finally determined that my discomfort with the article is related to its “intended” audience. You see, if this article that was truly intended for a readership made up of folks who do not have a job in our industry, and are considering becoming marketers, there are a number of good points to be considered here. 

But I doubt that many folks reading an article on the PSMJ blog are likely to be unemployed recent college graduates wondering what job they should pursue. And, because of that disconnect between intended and likely readership, the article instead begins to read like a laundry list of complaints about marketing folks. And this is where my discomfort began.”

  • Melise G

General Disgust With The Article

“Wow. Just wow. As an introvert who has been in AEC marketing going on 18 years – 10 with my current firm – and quite good at what I do, I find the PSMJ post insulting.”

  • Jennifer Hier

“Super offensive and counterproductive, it’s hard enough to find great AEC marketers, and it’s often thankless grueling work. The last thing we want to do is discourage folks from the profession.”

  • Margot Kenney

“Can’t believe PSMJ is allowing this to continue.” -Kary Beck

“This reminds me of “negging” – the emotionally abusive practice of criticism to undermine someone’s confidence in order to make the abuser seem stronger.

Rather than telling people not to go into marketing unless they’re willing to work in an underfunded department, why not give them solid strategies to make the business case to expand the marketing department? A lot of AE firms have low win rates — remind firms that taking their win rate from 20% to 40% will double their revenue.

Rather than make false assumptions that certain personality traits are needed to succeed, focusing on strategies to help the actual business to grow will get a lot better results. Since professional marketers help businesses to grow… real strategies are a lot more useful than condescending, negative disqualifiers.”

  • Aaron McManus

“I take the buzzfeed-esque style article with a grain of salt. It’s just to get attention and traction to their blog. Ignore.”

  • Jennifer Huebel

On The Lingering Sexism Experienced By Some A/E Marketers

“As a male in this industry, I, for one, am so sick of the “good ole boy” mentality amongst operations personnel towards marketers. And the way I am treated within my firm as a male marketer is so much different than how my female counterparts are treated. It is disgusting.”

  • Justin

“I’m just really sad that someone in our industry, who is relatively young by the looks of him in his photo, has such a negative and narrowly honed view of our profession. If he’s been in the A/E industry for more than 20 years (in Boston no less!) and has worked with marketers as I can only assume he has, he has an incredibly insulting and disrespectful view of our work, and/or has had a poor experience with whomever is unfortunate to market in his firm….I’m also insulted PSMJ would allow this to be posted.”

  • Jen

On Changing Attitudes

“Great response to a pretty crappy article. My career in AEC marketing has been rewarding and long despite joining the industry right out of college. In my 16 years in the industry I have only worked for two firms. I’m honored to be one of the senior leaders in my firm and I get brought to the table on many matters that expand well beyond the marketing/communication goal posts of my original career choice.”

  • Dana Galvin Lancour

“Looking back on my 30 years in this industry, I think it’s been a bit harder for AEC marketers to win the respect of the “technical” personnel in our firms because, in large part, they don’t have a clue what we do. It seems to have been a generational attitude that’s fast giving way as more savvy technical principals understand the importance of marketing strategy in winning work.”

Clearly, David Whitemyer doesn’t understand what we do, and yet he’s written an uninformed article about it for a highly respected organization. Amazing.

I’ve worked with every type of firm in our industry – most people have respected my insight and expertise, and been grateful that I have a skillset they don’t. For every technical principal that said I was a great marketer because I could type really really fast (yes, it’s true, and I worked with him at 2 firms) or automatically looked my way when we needed a fresh pot of coffee in a meeting, there have been 100 who thought I was a miracle worker.”

  • Tanya

On the Often Misunderstood Importance Of A/E Business Developers

“My observation is that at struggling companies, business developers get paid a lot less than subject matter experts. In profitable companies, it’s the other way round. They understand Peter Drucker: “Because its purpose is to create a client, the business has two – and only two – functions… Marketing (you get paid for creating a customer) and innovation (you get paid for creating a new dimension of performance). Marketing and innovation produce results, all the rest are costs.”

  • Tom

What Do You Have To Say?

Did you agree with what Dave had to say about A/E marketers? Do you feel the same as the marketers who have chimed in so far? Or do you have a completely different perspective?

We’d all like to hear what you have to say.

Please join the conversation by posting a comment. I read every comment and your opinion is important.

A/E Marketers Are Not Your Gal Friday

A/E Marketers

In a time which the profession of marketing in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry seems to be gaining more and more respect…

…it is nice to be reminded, sometimes, just how ignorant people in our industry can be about our chosen field of work.

Just the other day, Lindsay Diven forwarded an article making the rounds that is getting some AEC marketing blood boiling. (UPDATE: THERE WERE REPORTS THAT THE ARTICLE WAS DOWN, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE IT IS BACK UP.)

The article is called, “8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Do A/E Marketing.” Ironically, it was posted on the PSMJ blog. PSMJ, as I understand it, is one of the bigger business/management/marketing consulting firms in our industry.

Why they would post this turd is beyond me. And I’m going to explain why it should be immediately deleted.

The Article’s Point

The point I think this article is trying to make is that marketing positions in the “A/E industry” are tough. The author, David Whitemyer, seems to believe you have to have specific traits or you’ll fail (or just wimp out and give up).

Dave says, “There’s a reason why most architecture and engineering (A/E) marketing professionals only last a few years in each firm: They’re just not ready for the speed and heavy workload.”

Oh really?!?!?

Before I Tear This Post Apart

I want to say to Dave, who I don’t believe I’ve ever met, is…

…I get it.

You’ve got to post something on the blog. You’ve probably got a quota to fill or a deadline to meet.

You’ve read that “list posts” can get traction. They’re easy to write. Just pull some list out of your butt and 500 words later you’ve got your article. Commitment met.

Many bloggers operate that way so maybe we shouldn’t hold you to a higher standard.

We’ve all got a job to do including you. So, again, I get it. It was “just content.”

But Seriously Dave?

Your list portrays a total disrespect of and ignorance regarding our profession. I don’t think that’s the image you want to portray. Nor do I think that’s an image PSMJ wants to be associated with.

What I’ll try to do here is explain why you should not only delete this post but completely reexamine your perception of our profession and the people who work in A/E marketing.

Let’s look at some of the more egregious reasons why you say marketers should stay away from the A/E industry.

You’re Introverted

Dave, I don’t know how many A/E marketers you’ve worked with. But don’t fall into believing the outdated stereotypes that have been scientifically disproven again and again.

Extroverts are not more effective at selling. Spend some time looking at the science.

In no way am I an extrovert. My wife would describe me as a hardcore introvert. Yet, it would be tough to argue my success, especially when it comes to proposals or business development.

And there are many other successful A/E marketing introverts in our industry, like Tim Klabunde (author of Network Like An Introvert).

Luckily, you don’t even need to look beyond your own statements to prove the “extrovert delusion” wrong. Later in your list, you claim:

“…according to PSMJ’s 2013 A/E Financial Performance Benchmark Survey Report, nearly half of A/E firms don’t have full-time marketing staff.”

Who do you think is bringing in all the work for those firms? Extroverts? I’m not sure how many engineering firms you’ve worked in, but let me tell you there are many introverted engineers pulling in BIG contracts.

And some of the best business developers, marketers, and proposal people I’ve had the pleasure to know are introverts or at least omniverts. If you need a list, let me know.

The most problematic assertion you make, in this section, is that marketers have to be “bubbly” people. You’d have to be crazy to think a “bubbly personality,” with all its not so subtle sexism, is your ticket to success in the A/E marketing world.

Do you honestly think HNTB hired Nancy Ursey to lead their design-build marketing strategy because of her “bubbly personality?” When I think of Nancy, I see a person whose subject matter expertise is unquestionable. I see a professional who those in the field should aspire to be.

There are many strong female role models in the A/E marketing profession. I’ve been lucky enough to list women like Laura Ricci, Ann Banning Wright, and Tracy Doyle as some of my mentors. From what I’ve experienced, they were successful because they were strong willed, insightful, persistent, and determined.

Your use of the “b word” will rightfully incite a lot of anger and should be rescinded immediately.

You Think Nobody Appreciates You

This is one of the most “jerkish” passages I think I’ve ever read. You state:

“Your skills are very different than those of the architects and engineers that surround you, and they’re essential to a firm’s marketing efforts, but it’s the architecture and engineering skills on which the firm’s strength is built. If you feel underappreciated, get over it.”

Let’s take a second because the thousands of people who will read that quote will probably need a moment here.

Take a deep breath, and let’s talk about it.

Dave, take a look at Engineering News Record’s list of the Top 500 Designers. Are you so delusional to believe that the top firms on that list are there primarily because of their architecture and engineering skills?

Sure, no firm would be up there without architecture and engineering skills. What I’m saying is how can you possibly discount their superior strategy, processes, and culture (particularly when it comes to marketing and business development). I hope you can agree that you don’t get into the top 10 on that list without marketing (which includes strategy) and business development.

When I look at a firm like AECOM, I think of their superior strategy (in particular their acquisition growth strategy).

And guess what, the president of AECOM is not even an architect or engineer. Are you saying, as someone who doesn’t “do the work,” he doesn’t deserve the same appreciation or respect that an architect or engineer in his firm gets?

Do you see how ignorant that mentality is? Or at least can you admit you probably should rethink it?

You’re Too Rigid

This is the most shocking point you make. It relates the #1 challenge people working on proposals are faced with.

You say:

“If you’re a strong A/E marketing professional, you’ve got a good handle on the schedules and tasks required to develop solid proposals and presentations. However, the reality of these schedules and tasks is that they’re probably going to change during the process – and probably at the last minute.”

Is this what PSMJ teaches in their proposal seminars?

“Just throw it together at the last minute…that’s the PSMJ way.”

I highly doubt that’s what your organization teaches.

Listen, we’ve all scrambled when getting a last minute RFP addendum. But other than that, there’s no reason you can’t submit proposals early.

If you have good people and the proper systems in place, the “last minute” nonsense is completely avoidable.

A/E marketers can get home for dinner. They can make their kid’s recital.

They are not your toilet. They are not your license to procrastinate. They are not your “gal Friday.”

In the last several years, a wealth of information has come out to help proposal teams with this problem. My book is a good starting point. But the system in The Magic of Winning Proposals can help you do this as well.

Heck, even Meg Winch just wrote an article in SMPS marketer about how proposal teams can use “lean concepts” to help address this issue.

The Bottom Line

Dave, as I’ve explained, I get that your article probably wasn’t written with bad intentions. However, I think your mindset, intentionally or unintentionally, shines through your list. Frankly, you are not the only one with these outdated ideas or misinformed conclusions.

But to see this coming from PSMJ is deeply disturbing. Your organization should be an advocate for A/E marketing. You should be a force helping our industry evolve away from long-held beliefs that stem from ignorance (and latent sexism).

I’ve only touched on the most ignorant items on your list. But nearly every item you list is questionable (at best).

I’m formally requesting that you delete this post immediately. And in the future, I hope you can exhibit more respect and a better understanding of our profession.

If You’d Like To Contribute Your Two Cents

Comments are not enabled on Dave’s blog post. But he can be reached at [email protected] And Frank Stasiowski, the CEO of PSMJ, can be reached at [email protected] I just ask that, if you choose to email, you show these people the respect you would like to see from them.

I invite anyone to air dissenting opinions in the comments to my post. I just ask that you refrain from personal attacks, which I think I’ve done here.

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