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Friday, May 04, 2007

The Construction Writers Association and marketing

Why did I join, and want to attend the 50th annual meeting of the Construction Writers Association? Beyond the obvious observation that I am, indeed, a "construction writer" and it is rewarding and relevant for me to be near peers in who share specialized interests, I recognized real marketing advantages are possible by associating and connecting with this group.

My experience here validates this reasoning. Most CWA conference participants are either writers who construction marketers should wish to reach -- or the marketers who appreciate the importance of working with journalists and writers (and may be writers themselves for construction-related businesses. Logically, some CWA members should be starting or running their own blogs -- but I haven't seen any evidence of that yet.

For example, outgoing CWA president Sharon Holling works at Catepillar. Other conference partipants also work for Catepillar or write about the company's products. With Sharon's involvement, Catepillar has become the CWA annual conference Headline Sponsor.

What's in this for Catepillar? Consider the cost of conventional advertising, direct client promotion and sales initiatives. Ads in national publications cost tens of thousands of dollars; dealer promotions, discounts, and sales incentives cost even more, in total. But if a writer or journalist writes things that are good about Catepillar products, in a credible and relevant fashion, the company (directly at least) need not pay a cent -- in fact the best writing will be independent in nature. Even if some costs are incurred -- such as expense-paid 'try it out' trips -- the true cost to Catepillar is far less than conventional advertising, and the impact and credibility of the writing to the overall marketing effort is much greater.

In fact, of course, many of the larger contractors, as well as manufacturers as well as professional AEC firms, 'get it', and hire dedicated public relations specialists -- often with previous media experience -- to generate news releases, positive stories, and manage the process of communicating their perceptions and visions to the public.

Meanwhile, trade journal publishers like my company (and other businesses that range to the size and scope of McGraw-Hill and Associated Construction Publications -- Reed) thrive by selling advertising to the companies seeking publicity and marketing for their products and services. We attract the advertisers by delivering the readers and messages advertisers wish to connect -- and the key to that success is intelligent, relevant writing and editorial content serving the industry's needs.

CWA is highly relevant to anyone involved in the construction marketing process, especially if you are working at a national or international level. CWA members will either be qualified to communicate your message on a contract or employee basis or they will be the people you want to communicate your message to, in the publications for which they write or edit. In other words, you will either want to send your news announcements and story ideas or even pre-written promotional stories to the CWA members who have a chance to get things published; or you might want to use a CWA member to provide this communication service for you. As a marketer, it will be less expensive and much more effective than conventional paid advertising.

Incoming CWA president Mike Anderson, editor of Equipment Journal, is also a Canadian. Unfortunately, I couldn't meet him at the conference because his wife is ill and he had to cancel his participation at the last minute.

I'm looking forward to the final business and networking session this morning, before I head back to Dulles airport and my home for dinner, and will share some concluding thoughts later.

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