Our Role: Communications
Effective communication supports the other functions of ARB by helping increase understanding of our role with professionals and the public, raising awareness of the existence and benefits of the Register and establishing a strong network of stakeholders to support the delivery of our statutory duties.
Local Authority Project
Informed consumers can be confident they are using a genuine professional and have awareness of the protection available to them if they engage a regulated professional. Our Local Authorities Project aimed to increase awareness of the Register of Architects and make it more accessible to domestic consumers by encouraging Local Authorities to link to the online Register from relevant pages of their websites, such as pages about planning permissions or building regulations. By the end of 2017, 103 new local authority links to the online Register had been created which in turn resulted in 624 searches of the Register.
new local authority links
2017 saw the launch of our online Welcome Pack for those joining the Register for the first time. The Pack aims to help all new registrants to understand what it means to be an architect, both in terms of their new responsibilities as a professional person and what benefits it can bring. The user-friendly microsite includes sections on Registrant Services (an online tool for checking and amending registration details), working in Europe and overseas and the benefits of raising awareness of your status as an architect as well as links to other helpful organisations. We engaged with a range of stakeholders to develop the Pack and will be seeking feedback from users over the course of 2018.
Online Complaint Tool
An online tool was added to the ARB website towards the end of 2017 to allow for evidence of misuse of the title ‘architect’ in business and practice to be more easily uploaded by third parties. The dedicated online form allows complainants to move between sections of required information and upload documents easily and confidentially. We will monitor the use of the tool across 2018 to ensure it is working effectively or make improvements as necessary.
New Code of Conduct
Following public consultation, the new Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice was introduced at the beginning of 2017. It is featured on our website and was sent directly to all architects for whom we held an email address. It was also promoted though social media, leaflets, retention fee notices and our Ebulletin, and has been downloaded over 8,000 times since its launch.
Across 2017 we continued to engage with a range of stakeholders. Highlights include developing a constructive relationship with Which?, a not-for-profit charitable organisation that champions consumer causes. This led to information about ARB and the Register being published in the Which? Consumer Rights guide as well as Which? Conversation, a community website where the public can debate consumer issues that matter to them. We also secured a reference to ARB and our Local Authority project in the Planning Officers Society November Ebulletin. It was hoped that such an article would raise awareness of the project with Local Authority planning teams and encourage more links to be established, which in turn would increase our reach with the public.
Our Registrar and Chief Executive, Karen Holmes, was selected to be part of the Public Leaders Network editorial advisory board during 2017, having been nominated for the role by the then Chair of ARB. The position involved meeting four times a year with similar experts to discuss the issues that matter to public service and provide insight to the Guardian’s relevant editorial team.
ARB also took part in an event organised by Professions Together (formerly the United Kingdom Inter-professional Group) which focussed on discussions about the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive. A wide range of regulatory and professional bodies attended and shared up to date information about their preparation for the UK’s departure from the EU. Representatives from relevant Government Departments also fed into the discussions. This provided us with useful insights into the activities of others and we have since established an internal staff working group to carry out further scenario planning for the likely impacts of Brexit.
Our websites provide functional and informational support to architects and the public. In light of feedback from users and changes in technology since the last redesign, our main website, www.arb.org.uk, was entirely redeveloped and relaunched in 2017. The project sought to update the website’s content, reduce duplication of information, improve its appearance and move it to a mobile-friendly platform. As part of the redevelopment, links that allow the sharing of content easily on social media were added to every page.
By the end of 2017 there had been:
- 274,981 sessions * on the main ARB website down from 297,209 in 2016
- 310,000 sessions * on the online Register of Architects, up by 9% from 2016
- 14.5% more searches of the Register compared to 2016
- 29% more downloads of the ARB logo (equivalent to 3, 623 visits to the page) compared to 2016
* A ‘session’ refers to a user’s discrete interaction with a website.
more searches of the Register
While the drop in sessions on the main ARB website is disappointing it may, in part, be due to a break in tracking while the new website was launched in April 2017. In addition there is evidence to suggest that the smaller, redesigned website now performs more efficiently – there are fewer individual page views but users are spending more time on the pages they view and our ‘bounce rate’ has dropped, suggesting users are exploring more pages as part of their sessions.
Our presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube enables us to share timely information about our services in a variety of formats.
In 2017 we saw the following increases:
- Twitter followers up by 17% to 2,013
- Facebook likes up by 16% to 948
- LinkedIn followers up by 14% to 2,721
- YouTube video views up to 36% to 13,123
We publish our Ebulletin five times a year, usually following an ARB Board meeting. We aim to include information that is of relevance to architects and those interested in the role of ARB.
Looking at 2017 as a whole we experienced:
- An average of 12,211 unique openings of the Ebulletin email, an increase of 7% compared to 2016
- A combined total of 13,510 unique page views of our 2017 Ebulletin articles
- 3,326 unique page views of our most popular edition from February 2017
- 832 unique page views of our most popular article – a ‘Dear Architect’ item on Managing Expectations
Every year we produce an Annual Report like this one to share information on our main activities and performance during the previous year.
The Annual Report for 2016 was:
- Published online in July 2017
- Received 2,174 visits by the end of the year, an increase of 5% from 2015’s report.
Attending exhibitions aimed at consumers planning domestic construction projects is a great way for ARB to raise awareness of the Register and what the regulation of architects means for the public.
In 2017 we:
- Attended three National Homebuilding and Renovating Shows in Birmingham, Glasgow and London
- Exhibited to approximately 69,505 visitors across all three shows
- Received an estimated 1,080 visitors to our stand across all three shows
We also undertook research into the best consumer shows for our team to attend going forward. We will be using this information to plan our future engagement.
News releases allow us to raise awareness of issues relevant to the regulation of the profession and highlight events and activities we think matter. They are posted on our website and circulated with members of the press.
In 2017 there were:
- 2,597 visits to the News Release landing page on arb.org.uk
- 22 news releases
- 2,781 unique views of the 2017 releases (combined)
- 382 unique views of the most popular release
Of all the news releases published in 2017, the most popular by year end was Fraudulent attempt to register as an architect leads to conviction which describes the conviction of an individual who submitted falsified documents while applying to sit ARB’s prescribed examination. A subsequent news release detailing the sentencing of the individual was the third most popular release at year end.
In 2018 we will be commissioning comprehensive research into our stakeholder relationships to help us understand the views and needs of those we impact most and to inform strategic decision making in this area over the next three years.