A new UK-based Construction Enquirer e-newsletter service started today. Following last November’s demise of Contract Journal (see Goodbye, CJ), this new venture is managed by two former print journalists, Aaron Morby and Grant Prior, and in a construction market where the two surviving mainstream titles, Construction News and Building magazine, have both imposed paywalls, it provides a free daily web-based news service that is likely to prove popular with professionals in a low-margin and cash-strapped industry (and will also provide another outlet, of course, for PR and marketing professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction, AEC, sector).
The e-shots stress that Construction Enquirer updates are “Blackberry, iPhone and Palm friendly” (no concessions to the growing number of smartphone users on Android, however – at least, not yet), and – underlining its differentiation from its mainly print-based peers – the website also emphasises there is no paper-based option.
However, almost as soon as the first e-newsletter arrived in people’s in-boxes, people started relaying their initial responses via Twitter (“It’s very red”). Those unfamiliar with its origins were asking if the founders were themselves on Twitter (in fact, Aaron has a Twitter account which was used just once nine months ago, while I don’t think Grant Prior is active on Twitter at all), or if the publication itself was on Twitter. From the website, there didn’t appear to be a Twitter account, but after a bit of searching I eventually found @ConstructionEnq (first tweet on 23 April: “We are alive!“).
It looks like Twitter has been something of an after-thought for Construction Enquirer:
- The Twitter feed has no avatar (just the default ‘tweety-bird).
- The background hasn’t been customised in any way – no logo, no distinctive colour scheme reflecting the branding.
- There is no location (it’s a London-based venture) and no link to the Construction Enquirer website.
- There is no 160-character profile about Construction Enquirer.
- News updates are posted with a lame preamble “New blog post: ” – Surely, ‘latest news’, ‘industry update’ or something else could have been used?
- No effort’s been made to market the service via Twitter pre-launch. For example, I would have proposed starting to follow industry people weeks ago (nobody‘s been followed yet!). I would also have started to countdown to the launch date so that the eventual arrival of the e-newsletters became an eagerly anticipated event. With no such pre-launch campaign, it is hardly surprising that, as at 4pm BST today, @ConstructionEnq had only four followers (one of them me).
- Several construction PR people began discussing Construction Enquirer and talking about it without any response from the publishers. Surely, the first publication date is when you most anxiously monitor the feedback channels and respond promptly to questions or suggestions?
Also, for people like me who like to check their news via a feed-reader, there didn’t – at first sight – appear to be an RSS service available from Construction Enquirer. Looking a little more closely, though, I found that my browser (the Firefox derivative, Flock) had identified an RSS feed that I could add to my reader. Perhaps the “How to get your daily Enquirer” could usefully have been expanded to offer additional Twitter and RSS avenues?
Having helped launch several business-to-business online ventures over the years, I know that it is easy for deadlines to slip and for some ‘nice to have’ promotional ideas to get overlooked in the rush to finally get something to market, so perhaps we should give Construction Enquirer time to cross a few t’s and dot a few i’s. But web 2.o adds new tools to the PR and marketing toolbox, and – particularly where the service is web-oriented – businesses launching new B2B initiatives should be making sure that they understand and have covered most of the offline and online channels likely to be used by their potential customers. And, these days, that includes Twitter.