28 September 2020

In August Anna Hern, Managing Director at Ridgemount PR, joined as a panellist on our webinar, Marketing Masterclass for Manufacturers: Creating Engaging CPD Content. Following the session Anna offered to share her opinion with us on CPD and how manufacturers can create engaging CPD content for specifiers. Here’s what she had to say:

In the 30 years we’ve been working in the built environment sector, much has changed, but some things are constants. Number one on that list is the fact that people buy from organisations that they trust.

Building a brand to the point where it becomes the first choice for specifiers is definitely not an overnight process. It’s a long-term investment in building your reputation to the point where specifiers actively search out your products or choose your brand offer over an alternative whose reputation is not as strong.

Every communication a brand issues needs to reinforce that reputation. It must be accurate, consistent, relevant and engaging without exception. Reputation takes a long time to build but can be lost very quickly.

And part of the process of building a good reputation is relationship building. Not every communication should or needs to contain an overt sales message. Quite the reverse. Provide helpful, useful, relevant information and your brand establishes itself as a reliable partner when partnerships are needed.

This has always been the basis of the CPD programme. Specifiers have to undertake CPD and manufacturers are wise to help with that process. But fundamental to the CPD programme is independence. Participating should never be regarded as a direct sales opportunity – instead, it should be seen as part of a relationship-building process.

We have been advising manufacturers on their CPD content for decades and our advice hasn’t really changed all that much. Be honest, accurate relevant and interesting.

As we work with organisations that vary in size and profile, we will often recommend strategic affiliations that support a positive brand position and look for third party endorsement or recognition that adds credibility to our messages.

That is what we like about the RIBA CPD Providers Network. Going through the certification process ensures that the information is presented within set standards. This absolutely does not need to limit the creativity or entertainment of the format, but it does mean that your audience is guaranteed to be getting balanced, reliable and relevant information that will help them do their job better.

Of course any brand can produce CPD material of this quality entirely on its own, but the RIBA accreditation brings authority. Architects may have an obligation to earn their CPD points but they are definitely not short of sources and any accreditation that makes one CPD stand out from another will be helpful.

Being part of a network that actively promotes the CPD content and recognises its value by awarding additional points for accredited content is a help too.

But while we are on the subject of constants, we should also consider the very topical issue of change and remind everyone that a power point presentation is absolutely not the only way to present CPD information.

Most of our clients have relied for years on an established format of visiting architectural practices and providing a face-to-face CPD presentation. Right now, that format is simply obsolete and moving to an effective online format takes more than simply working out how to share a screen.

When everyone is working online, your presentation needs to stand out from the crowd. We’re all people and we all crave variety and entertainment, so think about different formats. If you can’t use your physical presence to engage, then you may need to focus more on graphics, video, sound and movement to inject both personality and vitality into your presentations. Why not be even more radical and experiment with animations, social media campaigns or online Q&A’s? RIBA is flexible enough to assess all presentation formats, and we at Ridgemount harbour the secret ambition to be responsible for the first RIBA certified podcast.

And don’t expect your sales force to be expert broadcasters immediately – running an engaging online event requires a very different skillset to a face-to-face presentation.

The formats are all open for exploration. What needs to be consistent is the quality and reliability of the content. Be accurate, be persuasive, use third party accreditations. Build a great reputation and sales will follow.