00:04 Ayo Abbas
Hello, it's Tuesday 23rd of June 2020, i'm Ayo Abbas and I've just recorded the latest episode of Marketing In Times of Crisis. My guest this week was Pascale Scheurer. Pascale has had a very varied career. She's worked in tech, she's worked in architecture, and she brings her insights about what she's experienced in both. We touch on topics including the importance of digital marketing, the types of leadership skills she feels are necessary to be successful today, and why we all need to build relationships and networks to thrive. She also gives us a timely reminder about how we all must be mindful of other people's personal circumstances at this present time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the episode as much as I did. I'll stop talking so you can get on and listen. If you like it, don't forget to subscribe and leave a review of what you thought. We're a new series and it really does help us to spread the word. Happy listening.
Pascale, can you tell me a bit more about your background and how you got to where you are today?
01:10 Pascale Scheurer
Sure. Thank you, Ayo. So yeah we met a while ago and probably Yeah, just around me, the last recession. And yes, I started 2002 working for Wilkinson Eyre Architects. And I'll always remember my first project was working with Kew Gardens, which meant the whole of that summer I spent basically living at Kew Gardens outside hanging out with botanists. So that was nice. It was so great. And, then we worked on schools because there was the big school building programme. Do you remember Building Schools for the Future? Yeah, the one national programme Yeah, they got scrapped and actually by Michael Gove. So anyway, yeah so we working on that and it was it was really good. Interesting, huge project. It was the project to rebuild 3600 secondary schools. Yeah, it was quite a big thing that they needed at the height they we're going to be completing one school every 36 hours.
So ambitious, and they hardly even the thing is that they hardly even got started because they'd only done the Pathfinder round in the first round when when the whole programme got cancelled, but we had actually managed to get some get some work built by then.
02:32 Ayo Abbas
But there were amazing schools done then during that period they weren't were like absolutely outstanding ones.
02:38 Unknown Speaker
Yeah, even Zaha Hadid built a school. Did you know that in South London?
02:41 Ayo Abbas
Yes. The one with the running track. I was at Arup when they did that and they worked on that.
02:44 Pascale Scheurer
Absolutely fantastic. So it's rare that we've had, you know, in our career lifetimes, a building programme like that, that was so ambitious. And that's what we built. Then as you said, we set up a women in construction network and we set up a young architects and engineers network. That was really fun. A magazine. And that was while I was still working at Wilkinson Architects. And on the basis of that, then we set up Surface To Air architects, which became its own practice and Wired architects, which was our joint venture with Pringle Brandon. Yeah, who are now part of Perkins and Will, all feels like a lifetime ago, I have to say, and post 2010. So after the recession, when they cancelled the school building programme, I decided to move onto work more in the networking side of things. So I always loved these online/offline networks. That's what I wrote my dissertation on for my master's and combining online and offline networking. So I am that took me to California in 2012, where I met Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis and a whole bunch of amazing people doing amazing things and became interested in AI and all sorts of different tech possibilities. And combining built environment with tech or looking at different things that are going to come in, in the future like IoT, Internet of Things, sensors, combining sensors, etc, drones, all of those things were sort of on the horizon but not as well known as they are now. And that's why I've been doing this since then, really. And now I'm working in leadership and executive coaching, particularly with engineers actually is my focus, it could be built environment work or also in tech. So the specific needs in terms of leadership skills that engineers are looking for. That's what I help with.
That's amazing. Especially now, in terms of tech and networking and things like that. I mean, how do you think we're doing as an industry in terms of adopting it for marketing purposes?
I think that the construction industry has always been quite traditional. And there are obviously some, some key players in the field who are quite progressive and have always been looking ahead to what tech can do, whether that's in BIM or online marketing, etc. How they manage their practices. So there's always been the sort of avant garde who wanted to integrate those practices, even when they were less well known and maybe took quite a lot of work to get going on those, you know, even just the transition from drawing board to AutoCAD or microstation was you know, took a long time.
05:57 Ayo Abbas
Quite a lot of investment
06:00 Pascale Scheurer
A lot of investment as well, it's true. It is a lot of investment. And it's a lot of sort of downtime. I think that's also something that puts people off thinking, adopting these new practices, these new technologies. It's a big learning curve for people. Absolutely it's just easier to keep doing what we've been doing before. But I have to say, having worked in London, and now I live at Marlo and Buckinghamshire when we were looking at, you know, planning applications, a lot of them are drawn by hand with a pencil.
06:31 Pascale Scheurer
sharp intake of breath.
06:32 Ayo Abbas
People actually use pencils.
Yeah, that's amazing. Are they doing virtual consultations in Marlow at the moment, man or
06:44 Pascale Scheurer
they would have to be now but it's been very much assitive. You know, you've got to understand that it's world of architecture is primarily I think 90% or so is, you know, sort of man and his dog. Yeah. Or one woman and her dog which is great, and it's fine and the world of of how, you know, housing extensions are residential extensions of that sort of world. So in a way, do you really need to spend the money to get AutoCAD or something like that? It's not what people need and it's not what plans require. So it's very different from London. And, you know, big firms are hundreds of people. But they're in the minority. That's the thing. You know, firms over 100 people are very much the minority in architecture, I know in engineering, they tend to have bigger firms. But yeah, architects are still very much a small practice as a profession.
07:43 Ayo Abbas
Do you miss it? The architectural world?
07:46 Pascale Scheurer
Sometimes I miss some aspects of it. I might actually still have, you know, still have lots of architect friends, some of whom have gone rogue like I have and
07:55 Ayo Abbas
doing different things.
07:56 Pascale Scheurer
Yeah, exactly. I've had a friend of mine who's amazing. Who I was at Oxford Brookes University where she, you know, got completely qualified for did her did her eight years getting qualified and then set up a sustainable fashion consultancy. And she's just raised half a million dollars in, in funding in the middle of in the middle of the COVID crisis. You know, you've been working on it for 10 years, but you know, she, she has this amazing community of people who are all working in sustainable fashion. I think the thing with architects is that we're so versatile and train in architecture, but you've got lots and lots of different skills and people end up in all sorts of different directions. So it's fun to to see where people have ended up that, you know, I was at college with 20 years ago,
08:45 Ayo Abbas
And what similarities and differences do you see between how tech firms and architectural firms market themselves and the things that you kind of stand out to you as being quite, I guess stark or different.
08:57 Unknown Speaker
They're very different. Tech firms they market almost entirely online. Yeah. So and if they're going to do some print marketing or some video marketing that's not online, then they will, they will be doing that as a sort of add-on to to what they're doing online. And the primary reason is because they get the analytics so they know exactly what people are responding to, and they can just adapt their marketing very, very quickly.
09:28 Ayo Abbas
And what, what do you think the architectural world can learn from that?
09:33 Pascale Scheurer
The Architecture world , like I said, it's quite, sort of, tends to stick with what it knows. Yeah. And I think they're missing out on an awful lot of possibilities in terms of what they could learn about their, their clients. In a way, it's not architecture doesn't move particularly fast. We know who our clients are. It's a fairly small base of people. You can talk to them sort of face-to-face. This is why things like MIPIM are always popular Because you know who's going to be there, they're established events. So I think marketing has been very much around events in construction.
10:11 Ayo Abbas
They have, yep.
10:12 Pascale Scheurer
And obviously, all of that has changed. And we don't know really what's going to happen in terms of those events in the next year, people have sort of been thinking, well, from September, everything will be okay. Or we'll put our event back to October. And the reality is, we don't know if those things are going to be happening again. And if they are, will they be will travel be affordable or even reliable enough? And I think a lot of companies now are looking to, to find alternatives, you know, the money they would have spent going to, for example MIPIM what are they going to do with it as marketing budget they can spend elsewhere?
10:48 Ayo Abbas
Yeah. I mean, what's quite interesting at the moment is I mean, the me in particular, I think, in some ways, not having those big events, which are you know, the staples such as MIPIM means that other things are coming to the fore. So I guess it's levelled the playing field in a way networking wise, because it makes things much more accessible. Cos I know I've met people who have said, I've always wanted to come to this event or this networking event, but I've never had the time or I'm based in Reading and the events are in London in the evening and I can't make it. I think in some ways actually locked down and and it's all been enforced on everybody has meant that it's more open to more diverse voices and faces in the industry, which for me is actually a good thing and that in that way,
11:30 Pascale Scheurer
Definitely, because it's our industry is so London centric, it always has been. And like I say, if all the big events are in London, you know, the the decision makers are in London because the Government's in London, the big funders, big agencies, they're all in London. So it's difficult if you're outside, even if you're places with a with a strong construction and architecture community like Manchester or Bristol. Yeah, it's still not not those big events. You know, all the magazines as well, if you wanted to sort of brush up with editors and journalists, you would need to be in London. Yeah. But i think you're right it does level the playing field for larger companies and for companies that are not, not in the big cities.
12:16 Ayo Abbas
Absolutely. Which I think is quite an interesting angle on all of this. And are you do other places where you think architects and engineers should be kind of looking for inspiration when it comes to how they market themselves going forward? Are there people that do it particularly? Well?
12:33 Pascale Scheurer
Yeah, so I mean, I think, you know, look at definitely look at what tech companies are doing. We seem to forget sometimes that because we work in the built environment, actually, where we spend our time is increasingly online. So it's independent of our location. And we should be thinking about, you know, built environment is competing with online environments. And therefore, if you look at what people are doing, to get people's attention online, whatnworks, that's what's going to be most useful. And I think it's very much to do with a focus on building relationships. And marketing always has been right. It's always been about brand and relationships. And and that takes time. So looking at companies that have strong relationship building, for example, on LinkedIn, which is obviously the business main business platform. Looking at what people are doing with with online advertising, and but it of course, it shifts all the time. You know, YouTube isn't as popular as it used to be now people have gone elsewhere. A lot of other platforms and are competing on video. Whereas YouTube used to be the main, the main platform, and things like podcasts, actually a very interesting terms of how people are using their time listening in and having that combination of being able to contact people through LinkedIn, being able to listen to podcasts. Watch videos do more interactive? I think that's interactive, where you're actually able to connect with people directly in an authentic way is useful. And I think it's, you can no longer sort of say, well, I don't really want to be interactive, I'm going to is too much hard work, it's too much time. I want to be able to just put an advert in front of 50,000 people in a magazine, because it works. Exactly. It's just not how it works anymore. It's much more about being targeting. Being very specific about who your audience is and who you want to talk to. And online affords you the ability to, to exactly put your information in front of people who would be interested in it, which is better for everybody.
14:49 Ayo Abbas
Absolutely. And actually, you can make more engaging information as well. There's much more tools you can use much more kind of different ways to tell that story, which I think is the most powerful thing about online is that you can there's so many different mediums. Yeah. And you can bring far more people into it. I think that's the exciting part. But I think there's not that many people that actually take that kind of digital first approach, which I think is what they should probably be moving towards, rather than always looking for print or something like that.
15:18 Pascale Scheurer
Yeah, definitely. And I think things like collaborations are still going to be important and strong. Sponsoring events was quite often, we found that, you know, just sponsoring an event is one thing, and that's almost a bit like putting an advert in a paper. I mean, you just pay for it and people see it. But actually, if it's a collaboration, where there's a really strong synergy between the two organisations, yeah. Then that obviously then makes that sponsorship, much more relevant, much more about creating conversations and showcasing in terms of if we're a consultancy, for any consultancy, or you know, your main value is the intelligence and the knowledge In the subject matter expertise of your staff. And therefore the more you can do that will actually showcase that and show potential clients how good you are at what you do. The better.
16:13 Ayo Abbas
Yeah, I think whenever I've done sponsorships, I think one of the key things is how do you make it special to me or bespoke to that company that I'm working for? Because I think otherwise if it's just the lets sponsor the land yards, it's like, you'll be lost in X amount of, you know, 20 other sponsors, and no one's ever gonna remember it. But if you do something that's different, that really does stand out, I think that's the key is trying to make something that that really fits with your brand and your company. And is memorable.
16:40 Pascale Scheurer
There is something about you know, just general visibility, General brand awareness, people seeing you in eight different places, etc, that is useful, but at the same time, the other part is that where you add value, and exactly are you adding value, if your name is on the line, you know, it just is just visibility. But if you're creating a seminar, or if you're creating a breakout room if you're offering people something that's really a value to them and useful, hosting conversations, you're bringing people together. And that's where, you know, the visibility plus the added value come together.
17:17 Ayo Abbas
So moving on. So in terms of leadership skills, which I know you work a lot on, do you think? I mean, I guess, are there things that engineers and architectural leaders should be looking at or trying to develop so that they can be better at marketing?
17:33 Pascale Scheurer
Absolutely. It comes down to being strategic and integrating business strategy, business development, marketing. And also another part which people don't tend to think about, in terms of marketing is attracting talent. So, like I said, if you're a consultant, then your primary asset is your staff and well known companies who spend most of thier time just trying to get the best people in and make sure they don't want to leave. Because and then they let them directly and they let them do do their thing once they're in and get the best deal and let them do their thing. and that's you know what a good consultancy is based on. So I find it amazing actually, when people seem to think of marketing as just about being client facing No, and not realising that actually, we're always marketing to people who might want to come and work with us. And in terms of certainly thinking about it as a young architect myself and talking to other younger people they're looking at what people are putting what companies what firms are putting out there with a critical eye of who they might want to work with in future.
18:43 Ayo Abbas
There is a whole growing kind of groundswell around employer brand employer branding, and just kind of understanding more about what you're saying to talent and future talent because as you say, you have to be putting out the right messages that really connect with people and resonate with people if you want them to join you. And also if you want your people to stay. So there is this whole kind of area that is definitely growing in importance and internal communications as well. And I think for practices, it's gonna it's going to become more and more important, especially as there's less and less talent out there to kind of choose from, and you want the best.
19:16 Pascale Scheurer
Yeah, and I think nowadays people, I think with the current crisis, and obviously the employment crisis is happening, it might, I hope, it won't encourage employers to think oh, we don't really need to spend time and money on this because they'll just be a lot of people who want jobs. And I think the reality is that the best people are always going to be, you know, headhunted and recruited. And yes, there are unfortunately, going to be lots and lots of people looking for jobs, particularly in sectors that have been badly affected, such as aviation. But ultimately, consultancy is its people. And in terms of the other side of it is that it's your people who are your marketing to your clients. Yeah. So if you start attracting the wrong people, and then the danger is really when there's a lot of work, and not a lot of people out there looking for jobs. So when you're in a real boom, period, like just before the last recession or before this one, if you have a boom period, and you struggle to get staff, the temptation is just to take you know, whoever comes in the door with you know, the basic requirements, but then what happens is that your company culture is dictated by the people it's not your company culture doesn't come down from the top as much as it's actually just lived by the people who were there. So getting the wrong people in just because you want you know, people to fill the office can be very dangerous. I think the flip side is that now people think, Oh, we don't need to be attracting talent because there's just going to be lots of people around looking for jobs, but it doesn't really work like that, particularly if you're at the very top end of your of your sector. Because even if you're the best at what you do, you've always got competition for those top staff. And you've got to find ways, particularly now everybody's looking at the ethics and the values of the company through what they're actually doing during this crisis time. If you don't get your talent retention strategy right now, and your support for your staff. Those people are going to be looking elsewhere. I think everybody, I think it's fair to say that everybody has been shaken up by COVID in terms of thinking. What am I doing with my life? And you know, where are my priorities and what do I want to do? You know, how am I going to spend my time is my career going in the right direction, people are actually much more keen to jump into something new. I see a lot of people setting up businesses thinking well things are unstable Anyway, why not? Just try and go for it? Yeah, I guess if
21:57 Ayo Abbas
you've got that dream, you've got that dream and So give it a go. And I guess now is Yeah, is now has no reason not to try. Yeah. Okay. Um, so moving on and looking back at previous recessions so obviously you were affected by Building Schools for the Future being canned. Well how did you fair end of 2008/2009 post Lehman's type of world? What happened to you there?
22:24 Pascale Scheurer
Well, the interesting thing was that we, we actually sort of heard about the recession really early around about the middle of 2007 before Lehman Brothers popped. Because what happened is we were hiring and we found that a number of students who were expecting to get their part, you know, coming out of university, part two in part one placements. Those placements are falling through. So that's a bit odd. But there was clearly a bit of a jitter we knew and a couple of times, people actually from different industry. phoned us up and said, well, architects are the canary in the mine. When when, because it was a property market crash. So those jitters were already coming through in the middle of 2007. I'd say even maybe around May 2007.
We were feeling at that earlier.
23:22 Ayo Abbas
So you kind of knew this doesn't feel right.
23:24 Pascale Scheurer
Yeah, we knew something was happening. And, and it was interesting because we were working with Pringle Brandon and they they had actually set up in the last recession in about 1990. They've been through that. So they they were very aware of this because their industry is doing interiors for big companies. And they, they just, you know, they have a very, very strong business model for whether it's recession or not, because they started in a recession. So we were looking at actually what's going to happen with schools and what did happen is we were able to hire some really great people that we probably would never have got, if it hadn't been a recession. We had amazing people who had been made redundant three times already by sort of around 2008. Wow. Yeah. So people who were really struggling, and these are really, really talented people. So we found that we had suddenly, you know, a lot more CVs coming in through the door. Yeah. And people who had been bouncing between jobs for a couple of times, and we would obviously check, their referees, we would phone them up. And they would say, Oh, we would definitely have kept them if we, we had to let them go because projects ended a new projects were not starting. It was that gap between a project ending and then they had lots of work. You know, architects have lots of work in the pipeline. Yeah, lots of potential projects. But just that point where the client actually has to commit to it. They were sort of saying, well, maybe we'll just wait a couple of months and see what happens. Now you've got
24:53 Ayo Abbas
Then you've got resource, someone sitting there just waiting. Who still has to be paid. That feast and famine type thing, isn't it? Which is, which is one of those things in this industry?
25:04 Pascale Scheurer
Absolutely. And I'm sure it's happening again. Now, I'm not sure how I'm of the difference now, if you've got the furlough option. Yeah. Which again, sort of leaves people dangling on a string rainiest and not knowing whether or not they do have a job to go back to. And I think it's difficult, particularly for young people who haven't been through a session before. It's might be very, very unusual for them. For people who are coming out of university and I particularly feel for, you know, architects who, who have to find that part one placement, part two placement and it's long haul, if you're trying to do that now it's not easy, at all. So yeah, and then so 2008, then obviously, we could see everything go down. What happened is that Gordon Brown actually decided to invest in infrastructure, and they decided to keep the economy going by investing in big projects, the kind of New Deal style 1930s style model, and one of them was with the school's projects. So they threw a whole load of money into it and said, Let's keep that going. Let's accelerate that it will keep you on working. And we need those schools anyway, we need, you know, this is a long term investment for the next hundred years. So let's keep investing in that. And it meant that suddenly, in architecture almost all the work was in within Building Schools for the Future.
26:29 Ayo Abbas
Some amazing schools were created though by some.
26:33 Pascale Scheurer
But it was incredibly high pressure on our clients. The local authorities are working in my main project within Camden. And it's a race against time knowing that they were going to cancel the programme. And if we could just get through the next gateway, then we might get the schools built. So we were looking at they had 13 secondary schools, including the special needs schools and they managed to get two built that a whole the other You know, the other other other 11 schools have done a lot of work several years of work and never got the money.
27:06 Ayo Abbas
Ah, that must have been heartbreaking, right?
27:09 Pascale Scheurer
Really painful and it didn't even work for the contractors because the contractors have put a lot of extras into those first two schools. The new build UCL sponsored global Academy and what's now mean they
27:25 Ayo Abbas
thinking they'd get stuff further down the line.
27:27 Pascale Scheurer
Absolutely. They were going to make the money back on on doing a project of 13 schools. Yeah, but actually then they only ended up building the two really expensive ones plus all the cost of spending three years doing that bit. Okay. So yeah, it was pretty painful for everybody and, you know, some great people working in those organisations and everybody was very passionate about the aspect of, you know, transforming education.
27:56 Ayo Abbas
and giving them the right school environment to work from and learn and stuff which, which to me had admirable aims, isn't it? I mean, it really did. And moving on to my final final question. So what one tip would you give to business leaders about how to market themselves now?
28:15 Pascale Scheurer
So the really important one, I think, which is that this is this is not normal times, it's pretty obvious to say but almost after three months of lockdown, we can start to feel like normal, but it's not. And I would say the main thing is, don't come across as being tone deaf in your communications about the issues that people are having. So, you know, I see it quite a lot in online marketing, you can see that people are doing a marketing campaign that was set up pre COVID. And those sort of emails are still rolling out, as if you know, with absolutely no reference to the crisis. Yeah, it was strange enough in in in March when that happened, or in April and you can see that communications had been planned in advance and hadn't been updated. Yeah, came across as being really tone deaf. And it's absolutely inexcusable if that still happening now. But the other thing is that you also can't be just focusing on crisis, crisis management and not thinking ahead, you know, for the next 18 months, but it is about relationships and it's about building goodwill. What can you offer people? How can you support people? Yeah, being a good being a good citizen of a company in the community, recognising the community has huge problems and you know, we're all in the same storm. We're not in the same boat. So if you're doing okay, then it would seem pretty tone deaf to be going out and announcing your, your latest planning approval or your latest competition went on something, knowing that a lot of other people are really, really struggling and people are losing their homes, people are losing their loved ones. You know, it's important to be to be very aware of that. And all sorts of, you know, things that have been happening recently. It's like, I genuinely think it is hard for the marketing departments to navigate what they sort of should be saying should be doing. But it's got to be genuine. It's got to be genuine. And
30:27 Ayo Abbas
actually, I think a lot of it's got to be direct. Like, I think actually, a lot of it is actually picking up that phone talking to somebody and actually going, how are you and having that conversation? I don't necessarily think it is a big broadcast message going out and we're just fantastic. Because it just doesn't feel right.
30:44 Pascale Scheurer
And I think the messages that are going out anything of the companies I see I appreciate what they're doing in their in their work, which which doesn't necessarily come across as just a marketing message. You know, actually where they are promoting other people, promoting other companies, promoting charities, etc. They're showing, you know, good work that's around. They're showing their values in a different way by using their platform to promote other organisations. And I think that, you know, it's nice to see when people are sort of going the extra mile in an authentic way. Yeah, so they're not saying I'm just doing this, but it's all about me. They are actually genuinely trying to be a good citizen. And I hope that will go that will go a long way people will remember companies that behave badly particularly with their employees, wetherspoons, Sports Direct, etc. People do remember those things sometimes for a long time. And, and also when you think what you said about employer, which you call it, my brand employer branding, how you deal with redundancies is going to leave a legacy for years. You
32:01 Ayo Abbas
Absolutely, I think the best I mean, especially people dealing with redundancy, it sounds a bit weird. But AirBNB, their CEO, I mean, he wrote like an open letter, which was, we are having to let people go, and they put in the whole support packages, you know, they had literally thought, you know, community, this is how we're going to help you, you know, this is how we made the decision making process, they were open and transparent about it. And they sent that letter internally and externally. And it was just, it was a really well thought through message. And they thought through how we actually support those people who are going and it was like, 25% of their staff were being let go. But yeah, we're going to use our HR teams and everyone to help you find new jobs and to train you up. And so it was all there as in we're gonna do what we can because you're still part of our community and our family. And it was just Yeah, I was just amazing. I saw you'd thought of it. But I guess as well, they probably got the resource to do that, admittedly.
32:56 Pascale Scheurer
Well, I mean, they're also in a huge crisis. I mean, they and I think that The relationship actually between HR and marketing is super important right now. Absolutely.
33:05 Ayo Abbas
Because there's lots of change happening.
33:07 Pascale Scheurer
And I don't know whether or not huge, hugely familiar with is how much HR and marketing would be working together in ordinary circumstances. And how much particularly from a strategic level of thinking? Or how do we, you know, how do we keep as a company, it's not just about clients. It's also about our staff and our, you know, our values and who we are as a company.
33:33 Ayo Abbas
I think in larger companies, I've seen it happening more. So internal comms as well working with HR and things like that and employer brand. The large companies are starting are doing that more. So it's definitely a growing field, but it's growing field, not just in the kind of architecture industry, but across the board for all companies, I think, and it's recognising the value in that. But yeah, thank you so much for your time. I've really, really enjoyed this conversation. We've covered a lot of ground. Really, and thanks so much for your time, Pascale. Bye.
34:06 Pascale Scheurer
34:13 Ayo Abbas
Thanks so much for listening to Marketing in Times of Crisis. I really do appreciate you taking time out of your day to tune in. Check out the show notes for useful links, including my website, where you can find out more about everything featured today, and how to get in touch we're a new podcasts so if you like what you've heard, please do subscribe so that you never miss an episode and more people get to hear about us.