The Fast Lane: A cool place to work


This article first appeared in The Zweig A/E Marketing Letter (ISSN 1549-9588)
Issue # 149. Originally published 10/2/06


When new graduates are looking for a place of employment, they consider a firm’s use of electronic media in their decisions.


Go to a college job fair and that’s what every new graduate seems to be looking for these days— a cool place to work. It almost doesn’t matter what your firm does, where it is located, what its people are like, or what the physical work environment will be. All they want to know is, “Is it a cool place to work?”


One of the ways “coolness” is defined has to do with the tools your firm uses, particularly the electronic tools for both production and communication. CAD and e-mail, of course, are givens, but GIS is not yet found on every desktop in every office. And not every computer has that neat program where you can start from a satellite in orbit and zoom in on your project site, then show what the site will be like when the project is built, and then zoom back out to space, leaving the Earth as a little jewel glistening against the black night of the vacuum, like the closing shot in a classic sci-fi movie.


One of the things these new graduates are looking at is your use of electronic media for communications— web sites, company intranets, blogs, etc. It is generally assumed that a company which uses all of the latest electronic communications media must be loaded with cool folks.


The prospective employee looks at all of these capabilities and imagines him or herself getting to use all of them anytime.


“And how does this apply to the marketing of A/E/C services?” you ask.


The answer lies in how we utilize electronic communication these days.


Think for a moment and see if the following example is you.


When you need to ask a question of someone else in the office, you don’t walk across the hall, you don’t pick up the telephone— you open Outlook, or whatever e-mail program you use, and start to type. Using e-mail, what could be a 30-second conversation might take half a day. But that’s okay. It just seems like a much more desirable form of communication than actually interacting with someone directly.


Similarly, when you need to get information to your peers or clients, you e-mail it; when you need to get larger blocks of information to your clients, you use an FTP site; and when you need to get information out to a broader community, such as the general public, you put the data on your company web site.


Sound familiar? All these methods and media have one thing in common: they message only in one direction at a time. They are efficient ways to deliver information. Unfortunately, as convenient and efficient as they might be, messaging outward is not the same thing as communicating.


Where real communication is necessary, where one-way messaging just won’t cut it, a blog can be a very useful tool. A blog not only works in both directions— outward and inward— but it also works laterally, affording any reader the opportunity to comment on a posting and to read the comments of others. And, importantly, it’s one of those up-to-the-minute, trendy tools that help signify a company’s “coolness” to a large part of this year’s graduating class.


You can use your web site to host a blog that allows two-way communication with your clients on a 24/7 basis, and allows them to communicate with each other. Or you can create a blog on your company intranet that affords you two-way communication with the talent in your firm. All you have to do is tell your communication partners where these sites are located.


Why are we so concerned about what these brand new graduates think? There are two very important reasons.




Which of our cool competitors will they be working for, or which will they be hiring instead of us? If we’re not living at the cutting edge, we might just get cut!


Bernie Siben is an independent marketing consultant to the AEC/environmental industry. He can be reached at (559) 901-9596 or at


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