Having read the title you may be expecting an article bestowing all the secrets of marketing. However, what I’m referencing is a task many of us try to complete every day – marketing work that is secret. Many of us have the pleasure of spending weeks of our working lives in environments that are not accessible to the average citizen. Petrochemical refineries, nuclear sites, military installations, sporting venues, the list goes on, and most on the list have one thing in common. They restrict your access because they have some sort of secret that they want to keep.
Now, we all know that most of them are doing a rather poor job of it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my car searched at a gate, had my cellphone confiscated while onsite and had tape or some other physical obstruction placed on the camera in my laptop so that I wouldn’t leave with any trade secrets. Of course they had me there to work so they had no problem letting me take a laser scanner in and out… but I digress. The point is here, how do you stay discreet for your client, follow a facility’s rules, and still market your work so that people have some idea what you do?
Is the point that you are working in a particular place or that you are working? If it’s the latter, then I’d look to social media. Pictures of your crew, gear, or vehicle out and about can get the point that you are active across without giving away anything about a particular project or client. If it’s about where you are, hinting can sometimes be even better than a site photo. After all, pipes at a NASA installation look just like pipes in a sanitary sewer. But, a picture from the visitor’s center with rockets in the background gets a bit more attention.
Point clouds are the best visuals you have! Once you have a site digitized, you can render some great images. Because they are rendered you have the opportunity to alter colors, pick unique camera angles, and edit out anything that you are not supposed to show. I know it’s not billable work but we are still at a stage in the development of our industry where you have a chance to show someone their first point cloud—it’s a chance you shouldn’t pass up.
Be aware of the reasons restrictions have been placed upon you. As much as I’d like to launch a guerrilla marketing campaignevery time I have a cool job, the reality is that there are often very good reasons for the restrictions. Perhaps it’s to protect trade secrets, perhaps it’s for security reasons whatever the reason(s). Find out. As they say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” You don’t want to lose your current client hoping to market to a potential client. Our motto is, “When in doubt, ask.” It’s not fun to be told “no,” but it beats losing a client or risking a lawsuit.
Don’t underestimate the risk. I learned this one the hard way. After years of working in some very sensitive areas we won a project scanning racing circuits for a video game developer. We were told to keep quiet as which circuits are included in which title(s) is a very closely guarded secret in the video game industry. Not being an avid video gamer, I had no idea the lengths that these “fan boys” would go to get information about future titles!
Note the paint striping
As it turns out, unbeknownst to us, a circuit that we scanned in Italy captured and posted footage of us scanning the track (for their own marketing purposes!). In the video you could make out our company logo on a tripod. This same circuit made their track rental calendar public so that it was obvious that the video game developer had rented the track when the footage was taken. This made it onto an online racing simulator forum and suddenly they were linking to our website and crawling our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts for images of any other circuits that we may have scanned. They found one image of a piece of hardware that I took at a circuit in Europe. I thought I had edited so that it only showed pavement and the equipment in question. However, it showed some paint striping on a rumble strip. Not being a big racing enthusiast I did not realize that the paint scheme was a sponsorship deal and only one track used it, so they now knew two of the tracks. Suddenly a guy pops up and says he remembers seeing guys with the same type of equipment at a track in North America, he checks with a friend that works in the same town as the track and BAM! Now they know three. Next thing I know I’m getting emails with links to the forum thread from an upset client. The whole event took less than 24 hours. In the end they pulled two of the three circuits from the release. Everybody lost on that one…
Make it part of your routine. While deciding what to make public can be a bit daunting, the reality is that we all have to market. You can’t do that if you do not have any media at all. It’s always a fight for us to get field personnel to stop with the “real” work and snap an image or two. I encourage everyone to find a way to make it part of the daily routine. No, you won’t use all of it every day. But, you will occasionally and all of that media is extremely valuable when it comes time to make conference materials, printed promotional materials or to update your website.
Don’t forget about metadata. We take our images into Photoshop and re-save at an appropriate size and resolution. I will occasionally upload something from my cellphone but you have to be careful because this can (depending upon your phone settings) include a lot of other information like date stamps and locations coordinates. All of the judicious framing in the world is useless if you embedded your Lat/Long in the file!