Our role in communications
Effective communication is central to our work. It enables us to deliver on our regulatory role of maintaining standards for the benefit of the profession and the public alike, whilst enabling the public to make informed choices.
Many stakeholders are interested in our work and we are committed to maintaining existing relationships and developing new ones. Our work impacts on many people but our core stakeholders fall into three key groups: i) the public; ii) architects and their professional bodies, and iii) students and schools of architecture. However we also have other stakeholders including the UK and EU government, other regulators, consumer bodies and other organisations operating in the construction sector. During 2014 the first phase of DCLG’s Periodic Review provided us with an excellent opportunity to take stock and reflect on how others see the regulator and the opportunities and challenges of the regulator’s role.
Throughout 2014 we continued to work closely with existing key stakeholders including the professional bodies and the schools of architecture. As part of our commitment to support the public to make informed choices and to raise awareness of the Register, we also made significant steps in building new relationships with organisations with links to consumers, including Which?, TrustMark, the Trading Standards Institute and the HomeOwners Alliance. As a small regulator with limited resources, building partnerships and encouraging advocacy of our services is an important way of raising awareness of our role.
Work began on a project to refresh the way in which our website is organised. We undertook a focus group and in-depth interviews with architects and students, which provided some excellent insights into how the information could be improved by changing the language used and the way in which it is laid out.
The ARB website received just over a quarter of a million unique visits during 2014. This represented a 10.5% increase in visitors to the website, which equates to an extra 24,000 unique visits. It is likely that this increase was linked to a number of factors including ARB’s awareness-raising activities and the creation of new webpages and metadata as well as an increased number of stakeholders’ sites linking to ARB.
Visits to the online Register also increased noticeably in 2014 with unique visits to the Register totalling almost 239,000, up 9% from 219,000 in 2013. Searches of the Register fell by 7% from 367,000 individual searches in 2013 to 341,750 in 2014 but searches of the Register still remain high with an average of over 930 searches of the Register per day.
Our social media audience grew substantially throughout 2014. One of the successes of social media has been to drive traffic to the website and the Register; over 2,100 visitors were referred to the website or the Register via social media in 2014. Our ongoing commitment to working with stakeholders paid off with key spokespeople in the sector sharing our messages, meaning that we were able to reach a wider audience.
Other Communications Highlights
Exhibitions – We exhibited at both the Grand Designs show and the National Homebuilding and Renovating show. These shows are aimed at those considering building projects. These exhibitions were held at the NEC in Birmingham and the combined total of visitor numbers for both shows was over 90,000. At these events our objective was to inform visitors about the online Register and the work of the Board. We met hundreds of consumers and advised on a range of matters in relation to our role.
Meeting your architect form – Grand Designs was used as a launch pad for our new consumer Meeting your architect form. This is a tool to help consumers through an initial conversation with an architect. It is designed to encourage consumers to discuss key points which if not clarified early on can lead to complaints. Several hundred hard copies were distributed at the exhibition and over 900 forms were downloaded from the website between mid-October – December 2014.
Logo downloads – In order to further raise awareness of the Register, we encourage architects to use the ARB logo to show their registered status. We highlighted the benefits of using the logo in our retention fee communications, the eBulletin and social media. This work has been particularly successful; visits to the logo webpage have increased by 89% from 1593 in 2013 to 3008 in 2014.
Registration route finder – In order to help applicants identify which route to registration applies to them, we developed and launched a registration route finder tool. The route finder has clear benefits in that it enables applicants to register more quickly and it reduces our costs in the form of incorrect applications and queries. It has proved extremely popular; following its launch in November 2014, there were over 900 visits to this tool in a seven-week period at the end of 2014.
We value all the feedback we receive whether it is positive or negative; we listen to it and it informs our future work. We are committed to continuous improvement and ensuring we offer value for money.
We always aim to do a good job for those who use our services. Nonetheless, occasionally things go wrong, where concerns are raised we will investigate to find out why we have fallen short of expectations and to ensure that we improve how we work for the future. We will always let you know what action we have taken or what recommendations we have made.
Action taken following feedback
What you told us: Applicants wishing to join the Register told us they were finding it difficult to identify which route to registration was applicable to their circumstances.
The action we took: We produced an online route finder tool to help applicants determine which route applies to them. The tool then directs them to the appropriate area of our website to view more detailed information and make an application.
What you told us: Stakeholders who are not registrants said they would like to receive regular updates on our work.
The action we took: Whilst the eBulletin was previously available online in PDF format we wanted to be more proactive. We opened up readership of the eBulletin so that anyone can sign up to receive it and keep up to date with our work. We also refreshed the layout to make it easier to click between articles and through to our website.
What you told us: Exam applicants told us they found it difficult to know what project material to provide for their exam and how to present it.
The action we took: We produced online videos explaining the type of information exam applicants need to provide and how best to lay it out.
What you told us: Members of the public who visited us at the Home Building and Renovating exhibition and Grand Designs said that they didn’t know what they should discuss at an initial meeting with an architect.
The action we took: We produced a ‘Meeting your architect’ form to help guide clients through an initial meeting with an architect so that they discuss the key issues which if not resolved can lead to complaints later on. We also created an online video explaining more about the work of ARB, the Register of Architects and our work to support the public make informed choices.