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Mar 08 2010

IBP takes a much-needed look to the future

Since the early 1990s I have been a member of International Building Press, an association for journalists and public relations professionals working in the design, construction and property sector.

When I first joined, its social events and business meetings were ‘must-attend’ events where in-house PR people like me could network with our counterparts in other firms, PR consultancy staff, and – most important – journalists from the publications we might be targeting. During the course of an evening at the IBP Annual Awards dinner, for example, I could find myself talking to writers from nationals like the FT and Sunday Telegraph; I could talk about London architecture with the Evening Standard‘s opinionated columnist; and I could meet up with editors and journalists from across all the mainstream architecture, engineering and construction industry titles.

However, over time, the attraction of IBP events palled and I found myself going to fewer of them. I found attendances were dwindling. There were fewer opportunities to meet and learn about what interested the key journalists I wanted to contact on behalf of my employer (or, when freelance, my clients). And, with time at a premium, I preferred events with an information/education element (of the kind run by CIMCIG, the CIPR‘s CAPSIG, or my own Be2camp community, for example) to the less structured social events sometimes favoured by IBP.

My experience is clearly shared by other IBP members, particularly those who are recent entrants to AEC journalism and/or PR. The IBP has just reported on discussions of a ‘Futures’ group established to discuss how the IBP can make itself more relevant to the changing needs of its target professions – in particular:

  • How the IBP can better serve (and attract) younger journalist and PR members?
  • How it might seek to achieve this?
  • What kind of networking events would appeal?

Build IBP on the web

There are few surprises in the document, which like many IBP initiatives seeks to maintain a good balance between the needs of journalists and PRs, but it is clear the IBP must do more to improve its web presence. Suggestions included:

  • “The website needs to offer better information for new prospects” (there is talk of a tie-up with PR/media database provider Gorkana)
  • Building on the cachet of the IBP awards, “Having links to award winning articles on IBP website was also viewed as desirable”.
  • “people felt the IBP website should be given some attention …, as it doesn’t yet
    reflect the ‘young’ ethos, or have an easy-to-find ‘about us’ section.”
  • “It is really hard to work out how to become a member on the website.”
  • “As a member, I should be able to log in to the website, and search for other members and their contact details, just like I can on other networking sites.”

The IBP discussion also included a critique of various other organisations’ efforts to attract people to different types of events. These included Gorkana events, Estates Gazette‘s Profile group, European Young Professionals, Schmooze & Booze, Property4Media, Young Entrepreneurs in Property (“we think, now defunct”) and City University – many of which sounded very hit-or-miss.

Surprisingly, the discussion apparently didn’t include either CIMCIG or CAPSIG – both of which have run recent events bringing journalists and PR and marketing people together. Indeed, CAPSIG is hosting an event this week where Phil Clark, digital director at UBM Built Environment (publishers of Building, BD and Property Week), will be talking about how the property and construction sectors can boost PR and communications through greater use of digital media.

And if the target is young industry professionals (‘Generation Y’), perhaps early career PRs and journalists might also consider G4C, the pan-industry network established by Constructing Excellence (I met a young journalist from Construction News at a G4C meeting late last year, and I’m sure it would be mutually beneficial for him to keep in touch with G4C people).

Build IBP with Web 2.0

Thankfully, ‘digital media’ did figure in IBP’s conversations (IBP chief executive Gerald Bowey has attended at least one of my talks about use of Web 2.0 in construction PR and marketing). Ideas for future IBP events included:

  • How to use Twitter as a journalist
  • Blog night / talk from famous bloggers
  • Consider running an event online, instead of in an actual venue – a webinar
  • “Frustration that web journalists are not recognised in awards when so much of content is now digital / video / interactive.  Should the IBP move with the times a bit here? … More young members would be generated by the awards entries for these categories!”
  • “Ditto, awards for blogs. They are a part of journalistic life now, so why not recognise them?”

It’s time for ideas

I would be happy to help IBP take advantage of the enthusiasm of many professionals to use Web 2.0 tools and techniques. Here are some ideas for starters:

  • The Be2camp community (which I co-founded) has already run events that have featured journalists and PRs talking about how to make good use of Twitter and of online communities. I would be happy to run further events with IBP on this topic.
  • Similarly, many Be2camp events have been shared extensively on the web via video-streaming technologies such as Ustream.
  • The afore-mentioned Phil Clark at Building, plus other journalists such as Reed’s Adam Tinworth and Emap’s Hattie Hartman, are just a few of the potentially ‘famous’ bloggers that could talk about their online activities.
  • What about an IBP blog?
  • Be2camp, the Building Network and the Property (Week) Network are all run on the proprietary, industry-strength Ning platform. Rather than re-invent the wheel, IBP could do worse than set up its own Ning site, or run IBP as a group within one of these existing sites, or hook up with other technology providers running online property or construction communities (eg: Reorb or tCn, respectively).
  • And while you are about it, why not allow IBP members to network with their peers through LinkedIn or even Facebook? And/or set up an IBP list on Twitter?
  • And Be2camp has already started some online debate – on Google Wave, no less – about some online awards, including best built environment blog.

1 comment

  1. Will Mann

    It’s good that the IBP has started this debate, and invited ideas on how it can remain relevant to members in the age of digital publishing.

    However, in fairness to the organisation, the construction industry as a whole has been relatively slow to embrace the web, compared to other markets, as have one or two of its senior journalists. In that respect, the IBP has merely been reflecting the priorities and aspirations of its members.

    But it now seems that the ‘yoof vote’ is what counts. Feedback on the Futures report will be interesting.

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