Designing the Greenbuild booth for a great attendee experience

Share this :   | | | |
Designing the Greenbuild booth for a great attendee experience

For Greenbuild 2018 in Chicago, our creative team had the opportunity to totally redesign our presence on the expo hall floor. We designed a 70-by-60-foot (4,200 square feet) booth that showcased both the USGBC and GBCI brands. The ideal booth design needed to have a longevity of three years.

Our main goal was to build brand awareness for USGBC and LEED, as well as each of the GBCI brands (Parksmart, PEER, SITES, and TRUE) and their various products and services. We also wanted to be sure to provide an inviting space for attendees to learn about each of the brands, for staff to hold sales meetings with customers and for local USGBC community members to network. Part of this goal also included providing a designated space for our GBCI Certification Work Zone.

We started to design the booth from the basic floor plan, and then moved into the actual design of the physical space. One side of the space was devoted to our GBCI Certification Work Zone—this meant we included tables and chairs for meetings, a check-in desk and planters to clearly divide the space. We split the other space into two sections, one focused on USGBC’s merchandise, with a counter and shelving, and the other devoted to community meetings and networking.

We selected all the interior furniture and carpet. We also created a specific space to showcase Arc, and a spot to mount the plaque display. The entire booth space was framed by recycled cardboard walls.

Greenbuild 2018 booth layout graphic

Our next step was to design the recycled cardboard walls and focus on messaging. The interior facing walls included our USGBC logo, the LEED logo and messaging from our overall mission, such as “Better buildings are our legacy.” The goal was to create an open space showcasing the brand, without creating too much stimulation to detract from presentations or meetings. We also included mounted TVs as a way to incorporate digital signage and video within the booth.

The panels facing the exterior of the expo hall featured messaging focused on our current membership campaign. We wanted to show off that we are a diverse community of real estate leaders, governments, developers, contractors, architects, engineers, educators, innovators and companies working to build healthy, efficient and equitable buildings and communities for all.

Greenbuild 2018 booth layout graphic

USGBC booth for Greenbuild 2018 graphic

Seeing the booth go from sketches to the final product was such a cool experience! We worked on-site at Greenbuild to interact with customers, meet with members and provide further information about all of our products. Watching the space being used as suggested, and seeing people actually experience our brand in person, was rewarding for me.

This year at Greenbuild Atlanta, we will be using our booth again—but every year, we get a chance to improve the experience. In 2019, we will have new flooring provided by Interface, new digital visuals, Arc demonstrations and information, opportunities to meet the experts, merchandise for purchase and some giveaways. Will you be attending Greenbuild this year?

Reasons to visit the Greenbuild booth in 2019

Case study: Redesigning the Greenbuild international website

Share this :   | | | |
Case study: Redesigning the Greenbuild international website

This past summer, we transitioned our website for the Greenbuild international conferences from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. While this change on the back end didn’t have to mean change for our end users, we decided to leverage this opportunity to rebrand and refocus the site. Here are three key takeaways that we gathered from the process.

Create and maintain consistency in user experience.

Over time, it is easy for a website to develop minor inconsistencies in branding and presentation, and this is especially likely when multiple teams in an organization have a stake in the content. What starts out as a minor deviation to satisfy an immediate need can lead to a user experience down the line that feels less cohesive.

As always, it’s for the marketing team and brand managers to try to limit these deviations and keep the entire experience feeling unified and coherent. It helps every now and then to revisit an existing web property to clean up the inconsistencies. Scheduling regular revisits of websites, preferably in a staggered manner so that you can devote time to each one, can help you to avoid procrastinating on compounding branding problems.

One of the drivers of inconsistent branding can be a lack of adequate default options baked into the content management system. When analyzing the areas for improvement with our Drupal 7 site, we found that a lack of tools and templates meant that content managers were coming up with creative workarounds and solutions to common problems.

To combat this, we created a robust set of templates using the Paragraphs module in the Drupal 8 Core. The goal was to give content managers on the site an easy, standard set of options for adding and editing content, making brand consistency the default rather than the exception.

Achieve a sleek site with more images and less text.

Trimming text-heavy sites can be tough when every piece of information feels essential, but the truth is that nothing makes reading a site feel more like a grind than large blocks of text. Lightening the experience by removing unnecessary text and integrating photos and visual elements is a great way to keep users happy and on your site.

For the Greenbuild website, we decided to add visual appeal by separating text into colored sections, adding more decorative and illustrative images, and giving some pop to headers with colorful backgrounds. The result is a site that has more shape and texture with which the user can engage.

The redesigned Greenbuild international website uses more images

We added images, modular blocks of text and headers to the new Greenbuild international site.

Focus on what’s most important.

Of course, not all content can simply be trimmed or removed—a lot of it is important! However, being strategic in how you present this content to the user can make a big difference in how they interact with the site. While a piece of content may be important, it isn’t necessarily important to every user, every time they visit a site.

With the redesign of the Greenbuild site, we decided to rethink how we presented some of the content. For example, we took information that was common to each of our five international conferences and moved it to a separate homepage. We also took content that would be interesting to specific users, such as the schedules, and separated each piece out to its own page.

It’s a good strategy to allow your users find the content that they need, rather than making them sift through all of the content that you want to give them. The key balance to strike is making all of the information on your site easily found by those who need it, while keeping it out of the way of those who don’t.

The purpose of the Greenbuild site is first and foremost to drive attendance and engagement for the conference, and reworking the site gave us a chance to refocus on that purpose. By creating brand consistency, integrating more images and visual design, and focusing on content that promotes the key motivating factors for attending or sponsoring the events, we were able to better serve the website’s core purpose.

Read more UX tips

Tracking your marketing impact with UTM codes

Share this :   | | | |
Tracking your marketing impact with UTM codes

One of the greatest benefits of digital marketing is the ability to track the impact of online marketing tactics. By using UTM codes or parameters, digital content creators can append URLs with fields that provide transparency into a campaign’s web activity related to source, medium and name. Through this transparency, content creators can have better insight into what is working for their organization and what is not, allowing teams to make more informed decisions regarding marketing strategy and tactics.

At USGBC, we use custom URLs to track the activity generated on our websites through online articles, web content, email marketing, social media and online advertising. For marketing teams that use a number of channels or sources, this is a helpful way to gather stats for a campaign in one location. On Google Analytics, under Acquisition > Campaigns, we are able to view the users, sessions, transactions and revenue tied to each campaign, and then drill down further into the source and medium.

Here’s an example of a recent campaign to drive customers to our education course subscription package, with the custom URL we used to track the impact:

At the conclusion of the campaign, we noted that the web banner and email generated the most activity, with the email bringing in the most users and the banner bringing in the most revenue. This insight demonstrates the value of both channels in the promotion of sale opportunities, and as a result, we will continue to use these sources in future promotions.

Create a custom URL with Google’s campaign builder.

Choose the most effective format for your campaign

Top 5 takeaways from Digital Summit D.C.

Share this :   | | | |
Top 5 takeaways from Digital Summit D.C.

When it comes to digital communications, keeping up with new techniques, insights and trends is critical to being able to do your job well. As a big believer in never resting on what you know worked two years ago if you can learn what works now, I was excited to attend this year’s Digital Summit DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (which, incidentally, hosted Greenbuild in 2015 with an 84% waste diversion rate).

The presentations covered all aspects of digital marketing, such as email, social media, content marketing and UX. I focused mainly on content marketing, with a sprinkling of other topics that felt relevant to my work at USGBC.

Here’s a rundown of my top takeaways from the event:

1. SEO is a moving target.

In 2019, SEO is no longer primarily about throwing as many keywords into your content as possible. As Google’s algorithm continues to evolve, so must marketers. From Janet Driscoll-Miller, I learned that adding structured data is a best practice for webpages dealing with products, events, how-tos and FAQs. This allows rich snippets to share relevant details of your content right on the Google search results page, making them stand out even if they’re not the top result.

Several presenters mentioned the huge boost that having video on a page gives to its SEO rankings. In addition, Matthew Capala shared how factors like your content’s thoroughness and length have moved up in importance. For me, this will mean emphasizing USGBC’s evergreen content more and creating new content pieces that showcase our company’s authority as an industry resource.

2. Authenticity can’t be faked.

A common refrain at Digital Summit was “be more authentic.” Users are increasingly accessing web content via their phones, and social media has shown us how easy it is to create instant, personal snippets of content about our experiences. Customers don’t want to be told how great a product is—they want to see it, from other users, not from stock images.

Debra Mastaler explained to her audience that people actually respond more positively to less polished videos than to highly produced ones, because they seem more trustworthy.

When it comes social accounts, Carlos Gil recommended sharing behind-the-scenes views of people doing what they do every day in your industry. Gil also emphasized the importance of liking and commenting on all your reader interactions on social, so they can see the company is composed of real, responsive people.

3. Making things easy results in conversions.

In a competitive marketing landscape, according to Hilary Sutton, it’s imperative to “make the first ‘yes’ easy.” Sutton challenged the audience to think about how they can make conversion as simple as humanly possible, especially for the new customer. Start with a painless way to buy in, and then overdeliver so that users are impressed, she advised.

This theory came up in Capala’s session as well, under the concept of zero risk bias. This cognitive tendency causes people to prefer choices that have no risks associated with them, such as free trials, easy-to-cancel subscriptions and signups that don’t require a credit card number.

4. Analytics are a testing ground, not an endpoint.

Although we all use analytics to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t, marketers could take a more experimental approach to using this data, said Madeline Gryczman in her presentation. She encouraged creating a culture of “test and learn” that allows your team to set hypotheses about content performance, then to review the results, to try it again on different channels or at different times of year, and finally to reuse the best-performing aspects of your trials in future content.

Making time for more in-depth analytics can allow marketers to make better strategic decisions. Also, when sharing data with internal customers, it’s good to pay attention to the visual aspects of reports, like spacing, colors and graphics, to direct attention to the most relevant insights.

5. Community connections take work.

Another common theme at Digital Summit was that communities of members, users and customers need nurturing.

In her presentation, Leigh George emphasized that it’s critical to think about what you can do to help connect the community you serve, both on and offline. This means connecting them with one another in a meaningful way, not just with your own company or product.

Also, she said, when it comes to in-person interactions, customers seek “experiences they can’t get anywhere else” to make them value IRL events over digital opportunities. Building exclusive, creative happenings that aren’t just the same old thing will drive engagement much deeper in today’s world.

Last, how do you learn what your community needs from you, exactly? The best way to find out is to ask them. Mastaler suggests polling your users once a year, at minimum, to directly ask them what they want. To gain unfiltered insight, she says, it’s also helpful to explore message boards and social media in depth to find out what your industry is talking about in general, and how they are discussing your company in particular.

Digital Summit gave me a lot of new perspectives on the challenges we face as content professionals, plus ideas on how I can best achieve USGBC company goals in the ever-changing digital landscape. I’m excited to implement some of these new strategies going forward.

Learn about how quizzes can help your marketing

Top 2019 updates to the AP Stylebook

Share this :   | | | |
Top 2019 updates to the AP Stylebook

In March, the AP Stylebook updated its guide to all things stylistic. The publication’s annual updates are eagerly gobbled up by America’s journalists, writers, editors, PR professionals and marketers, who all want to keep up with the latest decisions in usage.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law exists in both print and online form, and is the main arbiter for consistency in English usage, grammar and style across many platforms. (Some publications, though, prefer to use Chicago style or AMA style.)

Every year, there are a few changes or new entries that create excitement, a sense of, “It’s about time they did that!” Equally common is a bit of grumbling among those of us who were used to a different style. If you missed the spring release, here’s a breakdown of the top 2019 changes.

Race and ethnicity

In a time when race-related issues and inclusivity are especially important topics in contemporary discourse, the AP has responded by creating an extensive new section of guidance for writing about these matters. Read the changes and new entries.

Highlights include updates to preferred terminology, taking into account the feedback of several journalist organizations, and instructions to be mindful of whether racial identification is even relevant to describing a person in a story. The updates also clarify the meaning of “racism” and discuss terms that are becoming outdated and should be avoided.

As a writer and editor, I feel it’s especially important to keep up with preferred terms and usage when it comes to how we talk about people. Words have power, and preferences shift. Writers have a responsibility to express things in a current and sensitive way.


The most shocking AP style update this year was also the most trivial: the directive to use of the percent symbol instead of the word in most instances. In running text, where you used to write “a 20 percent increase from last year,” you’ll now write “a 20% increase from last year.” Twitter is still chewing this one over.

USGBC uses a lot of data in our articles, so this means one less edit needs to be made when I receive an article about a LEED project that saved 40% on its energy costs through making efficiency upgrades.


The category of hyphenation received an update when AP decided that we no longer need a hyphen for compound modifiers if the modifiers are “commonly recognized as one phrase, and if the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen.”

So, using one of their own examples, “real estate transaction,” as long as the average reader would know the phrase means a transaction in real estate, not an estate transaction that is genuine, there’s no need for a hyphen.

For USGBC, this decision gives weight to the way we’ve already been styling terms like “net zero energy,” which used to be hyphenated as an adjective as recently as a couple of years ago by many outlets. However, it’s been more common usage for a while to use the term without hyphen (“a net zero energy school”).

Stay current

In another minor update, the stylebook tells us that quotation marks are no longer required for “such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows.” If you are still writing about WordPerfect, though, you probably need to update to 2019 anyway.

See more about what’s new in the 2019 update.

Learn more about using AP style

How to enforce brand guidelines

Share this :   | | | |
How to enforce brand guidelines

A logo is the fabric of any company’s identity. It not only tells the public where a product comes from, but also represents a brand’s message, values and leadership in the market. Now, have you ever wondered how an organization protects its logos?

At USGBC, we have several brand assets, but the most frequently requested is our LEED certification logo—a globally recognized symbol of leadership and excellence in green, high-performance buildings. Attaining LEED certification demonstrates leadership in implementing environmentally responsible building practices.

In addition, the certification logo is widely used to acknowledge a project’s achievement and symbolize a building’s commitment to cost savings, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments for the places in which we live, work and play. It’s important that we protect the logo, so that only eligible projects are using it to represent their projects.

The importance of brand consistency

Inconsistent branding can have many negative side effects. Maintaining brand consistency directly translates to how dependable people consider your organization, product or service to be. A product or service marketed with the wrong logo might cause a customer to lose trust in it. A website with the wrong logo may make visitors question the authenticity of the product or service being offered on the site.

The correct usage of brand assets is critical for upholding the credibility of a brand. But how do you do this?

At USGBC, we recognize that our LEED project teams are a part of a select group of leaders, and it’s important that they’re recognized as such for their hard work applying integrative design processes to better the future of our built environment. To help uphold our branding in the market, our marketing team created USGBC’s Trademark and Branding Guidelines, which includes the dos and don’ts on how to use our brand assets in your marketing materials.

While we follow these rules internally, we also rely on our members and the larger community to follow these guidelines to maintain the consistent look and feel of USGBC brand assets in their own materials. If branding guidelines are not enforced, they lose their meaning.

Here a few tips on how to diplomatically answer customer questions about your brand usage:

1. Be understanding.

I’ve become very familiar with USGBC’s Trademark and Branding Guidelines. In fact, I look at them every day. It’s important for me to remember that not everyone is looking at these guidelines as frequently as I am, though, so I often spell out the rules in an email, instead of pointing our customers to the long document.

2. Provide helpful resources.

That said, I always provide our customers with the full USGBC Trademark and Branding Guidelines document. It is a helpful resource whenever I have to enforce our policies. In a customer service-centric role, you’re typically trained to tell your customer “yes,” but that can’t always be the case when enforcing branding rules. Fall back on your guidelines, and always point out the page where the rule you’re enforcing can be found, so customers can view it easily.

Whenever it makes sense to do so, you can also point to helpful resources on your website. For example, when a user asks for a logo for their presentation, I always make sure to point them in the direction of our Why LEED for Your Clients? deck and encourage them to use any slides from the presentation. This not only helps ensure our brand is used consistently, but also helps make our customers’ job easier—that’s a win in my book.

3. Answer the question or find a resolution.

All questions have an answer or resolution, even if it’s not the one the customer was hoping for. I make sure I am either communicating the rules in a simple way or helping to provide the requested resource (or an alternate one).

Enforcing your brand guidelines can only help build your brand’s visibility and reputation in the industry. While it can sometimes feel like you’re having to play “good cop, bad cop,” it’s always important to remember that you’re protecting the value of the brand for all of its users.

Learn more about LEED branding with our design team

USGBC’s new LEED v4.1 advertising campaign

Share this :   | | | |
USGBC’s new LEED v4.1 advertising campaign

The next generation of LEED is here, and the USGBC Studio team is celebrating with a new advertising campaign. This required us to head to the drawing board and come up with a design that would showcase the new features that LEED 4.1 has to offer.

The series is meant to showcase LEED projects, and the message focuses on how LEED helps these projects deliver on their goals. Those goals include materials, performance, energy, health and human experience, interiors, carbon and simplicity.

We focused on combining color, typography and photography to create a dynamic ad layout that walks the viewer through the story. We want viewers to feel connected and inspired by these projects and how they have used LEED to create better spaces for occupants, the community and the environment.

LEED v4.1 ad campaign

The headlines are quick, the photos are energizing, and the call to action encourages you to seek out more information about LEED v4.1 on your own time. Overall, we wanted the ad campaign to inspire and motivate.

The photography comes from various project teams and offers a realistic look at current LEED projects. These project teams are the true leaders in green building.

Continue to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about our new campaign. Let us know what you think of our new advertisements—and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below!

See other LEED ad campaigns

Social media strategy for live events: Post-show reporting

Share this :   | | | |
Social media strategy for live events: Post-show reporting

Reporting in social media can be a little tricky. For me, personally, it’s the biggest lift in the three stages of social media strategy for live events—planning, executing and reporting—but this is the only moment you have to showcase your work and the successes that resulted from your event strategy.

Choose your performance toolkit.

Unlike a media report or a marketing report, where you can often plug in a date range and see exactly what statistics you’ve accomplished, a social media report requires you to get a bit more creative. It’s important to determine ahead of time what software tools will report the information that you most need.

Every social media platform has the ability to give you basic performance statistics. Additionally, there are free options galore across the internet, not to mention all of the 30-day free trials you could get lost in.

While these are not deep-dive analyses, they can be useful if your organization cannot necessarily invest in a social tracking and analytics service. Keep in mind, however, that some of the free options have a time stamp on them; so, you may want to record the data in the weeks prior to your event, as well as immediately after your event. This will give you an opportunity to note average performance numbers for comparison purposes, as you’re trying to showcase the success of your event’s performance.

Once you determine what your tools will be, you can monitor them accordingly throughout your event campaign journey.

Hunt for successes.

The hunt for success stories on social sometimes requires you to think outside the box. It’s a good idea to set some end goals for metrics when you create your event plan. However, because you’re on a 24-hour global news cycle, many factors can negatively or positively affect your ultimate performance data.

Impactful trends to look for are called key performance indicators (KPIs). USGBC’s vendor, Sprout Social, suggests these data points:

  • New followers. Your follower count isn’t the be-all and end-all of your social presence, but it is a number you should strive to tick upward. You can drill down from network to network, or look at these numbers across all accounts.
  • Reach. Note the difference between reach and impressions. Expanding your reach should translate into expanding your audience.
  • Engagement. Shares, comments and likes are valuable currencies for social marketers. Increasing engagement proves that you’re posting content that people want to see.
  • Clicks. Like engagement, click-throughs highlight compelling content. These can be divided into link clicks or promotion-specific clicks.
  • Posts. How much content is your business pushing out? If you see a correlation between more posts and higher engagement, you’re more inclined to ramp up production.
  • Traffic. The more traffic coming to your site via social, the better. You can measure this easily in Google Analytics. This tactic is less applicable for event reporting, but still interesting to note.

Once you collect all the information, it’s your duty to find a narrative that tells the story of these KPIs, from the beginning of the journey to the end. This includes lessons learned. Though the lessons may not be classified as “successes,” they provide clutch tips for when the event rolls around the following year.

Greenbuild Europe social performance

Include graphs.

Graphs are great—as long as they’re illustrating greatness. If your graph takes a dive in engagement on the day of your event, it’s not necessarily something you would want to draw attention to.

Additionally, make sure you clearly explain what your audience is looking at. Always assume you’re presenting your work to someone who has never seen a social media glossary.

Greenbuild social reporting graphic

Show, don’t tell.

It’s always a good idea to show your work and share your top-performing content.

This is a nice opportunity to highlight influencer or partner engagement. It’s not just your performance metrics that matter; showcasing how others engaged with your event hashtag is equally important, though harder to report on without access to that entity’s KPIs. Embedding these examples in your report is a great way to share these wins.

Greenbuild social media reporting

If there were any contractual commitments made to sponsors or guests, those posts are also wise to share at this point.

For more on social media event strategy, take a look at part I of this series, “The planning stage,” and part II, “Working on-site.” We hope you find success in these tools for the journey!

Learn more about social media event strategy

Social media strategy for live events: Working on-site

Share this :   | | | |
Social media strategy for live events: Working on-site

Earlier in June, we talked about the planning stage of social media strategy for events coverage. Now that we are fully prepped for our main event, it’s time to map out a strategy of execution.

We all know the theory of Murphy’s Law—”Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”—and it certainly rings true for live events. All the time and effort put into the preparation stage will show their worth once you are truly working on the fly.

Consider yourself “live” in these recommendations for social promotion on the day of your event:

Get acquainted with the space.

We’ve arrived! First things first.

Get to know the space where the event is taking place. Almost every event I have produced has been in a space I’ve only just arrived in. For larger events, such as those in convention centers, it may make sense to arrive a day earlier. The ability to navigate the area is important, because timing is essential. Events require us to be in two places at once sometimes, so the ability to get from point A to point B with ease will prove very important!

Early arrival also gives me an opportunity to collect any “calm before the storm” photos, which are always nice to have for later promotion.

Greenbuild 2018 auditorium space

Capture the space before the hordes arrive.

Communicate with the team.

As basic as this sound, it is vital. We all need a little help every now and again, and if your team knows where you may have scheduling conflicts or the aforementioned double-booking snafu, they can assist.

This time allows you to communicate those needs. I always have a “shot list” and/or a “quote list” that I give to my entire team in advance. That way, they know where I have holes, and can assume responsibility for capturing and sending that content to me in real time.

Check multimedia needs.

Another great aspect of arriving early is the opportunity to test out wifi connections and possible auxiliary connections, if necessary.

We always have a live-feed plan in place, should everything be accommodating once we arrive. If we simply cannot receive the connection we want, we will scrap certain live-feed plans we may have originally wanted. A live video that freezes and only captures every fourth word isn’t fair to audiences.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have any video included in your promotion. In such cases, we still capture short recordings or behind-the-scenes moments, and use those primarily for Instagram and Twitter.

Use stories.

Speaking of Instagram, stories are an excellent opportunity to showcase live happenings. I connect my Instagram stories to my Facebook stories—and just like that, I could have 500–1,000 views on an image that I couldn’t necessarily have used as a whole new post, but that was still worthy of a share. It’s a live album, essentially.

Get the good shot.

It’s always worth getting the shot. When I first started in this gig, I was not confident about putting myself front and center to get the best possible photograph. However, part of the job of a social media manager is to be a good smart phone photographer, and so, it’s my job to do whatever I need to capture an image that is polished and credible, and—most importantly—that wants desperately to be shared!

Amal Clooney and Mahesh Ramanujam at Greenbuild 2018

Get right up front so you can capture the speakers: here, Amal Clooney and USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam.

Thank the participants.

There are many hands that go into making an event a success. Social media is the perfect opportunity to lend some extra love to partners, sponsors, members, volunteers and any of the other individuals or companies that have helped make an impact. The same policy goes for any formal awards someone may be giving or receiving.

Example of a thank-you social post from Greenbuild Mexico

Post a shout-out to your event sponsors—in this case, for Greenbuild Mexico 2019.

Create content for both attendees and remote fans.

After my second Greenbuild final report, I began to notice that there was a high trend of people engaging with my content from a desktop device rather than a mobile device. This told me that there were tens of thousands of people not at the event who were nonetheless interested in what was happening at Greenbuild.

Since then, for all of my events, I consider the audience both on-site and off-site. Their interests are different, and it is important to acknowledge that as you create dynamic and interactive content.

These are tips that I could never have provided when I first started at USGBC. Five years and at least 100 events later, these are unique tools of the trade that I couldn’t live without!

Stay tuned for our final blog in this series: the post-production and reporting process.

Read about planning for live events coverage