Tomorrow's Engineer: Using PR Firms (September 1999)
Further up the pecking order, at the upper management level, the facility manager's role is to establish an operating budget, get this budget approved by management, and then stay within it. If they do this, then they have done their job again. So what is the problem?
Get The Word OutThe problem is, this "do your job quietly and don't create waves" approach is a process of the past. Occupants and upper management are asking and questioning facility group performance. In this visual world of computers, computer software presentations, Internet, and videos, building operation groups are now being pushed in the direction of applying marketing skills to get their message out.
This emphasis on marketing the operations and maintenance (O&M) activities, success stories, and current events is further heightened by outsource support service firms, which are anxious to show that they can do the job better, faster, and/or cheaper. These O&M competitors are eager to show upper management that they can run facility support services as a business and not be perceived as overhead.
Enter the facility management public relation (PR) firm. This new consultant on the scene is someone who understands the O&M business and "has walked a mile in their shoes." In addition, this is what a facility management PR firm can bring to the building service groups:
- Simple, effective visual graphs for conveying the success of the O&M group;
- Business language to replace more traditional shoptalk;
- Third-party assessment as to what could be done better;
- Website development for the O&M group;
- A web page to report on fiscal operating budget, capital planning, energy consumption, regulatory inspection preparedness, and current events; and
- Development of simple, one-page success stories (e.g., a capital project, awards, and/or citations for performance).
Visualize SuccessUpper management uses PR firms and/or their own marketing staff to compete with other firms, institutions, etc. Outsource O&M firms also have a marketing staff to effectively get the word out on their company's performance. To some extent, facility management slowly began the PR process when they started providing work uniforms for their employees. Next came customer service efforts to make sure the occupants were pleased with the O&M work. The quality process was another way to introduce customer satisfaction so facility personnel were trained in CQI (continuous quality initiative).
What is now lacking in the building service community is the application of marketing technology just as others in the business community would present themselves. Today marketing literature and presentations are visual, colorful, and computer-generated. The messages are brief and to the point. A webpage can be the medium for all this useful PR information.
So, do you need a facility management PR firm? If support services are going to compete and survive in this media frenzy, they need to use the same business tools that upper management, competition and other industries are using to market their services.