The Role of Paid for Information

Information is now often freely available and people complain of ‘information overload’, but in the construction industry there is a plethora of technical information available for free as well as paid for, and as such the quality of it can differ wildly.  It’s hard to know what information to trust.

If technical information is chargeable, like that in Technical Indexes and from BSI, in NBS specifications and guidance and in reputable industry magazines and journals (which we can see from the results of the Construction Media Index) it’s expected to be correct and up to date.  In fact, there’s an explicit expectation that it will be because it’s chargeable.  When you pay for, or subscribe to, information portals you expect technical information to be of a high standard and fit for purpose. So, paying for technical information definitely has its place.

Freely available technical information such as that on manufacturers’ websites, Pinterest, YouTube, in product directories and Apps like Houzz can still be just as comprehensive and useful, but often suffers from lack of credibility and a suspicion that information might not be current.  But, knowing who has provided the information adds gravitas, for example if a manufacturer has established a name for themselves excelling at providing products which meet a need or serve a particular purpose then they will be in demand for advice on their products.  90% of architects say that manufacturers’ websites are their first choice or regularly used for product information and ideas and it’s fair to say that many manufacturers’ websites are much improved.  It’s important to note though that there is still a cost involved – be mindful of the cost of a professional’s time in talking to you and reviewing your product information and technical applications.

The fact that the government provide the Building Regulations gives them credibility despite them being freely available.  Pinterest and YouTube with their free technical information are the most popular social and information networks according to architects.  Product directories on the other hand are used by 46% of architects and given that professionals prefer some face to face or direct contact with those who know and understand their products in an increasingly complex and digital industry this makes sense.

Technical information about products is complex and it involves anticipating risk and requires human input to apply it to specific scenarios and anticipate how it will apply in situ. It needs explanation, discussion, analysis and this is becoming increasingly hard to do, especially given that delivery of information has evolved.  Many more professionals now say they use mobiles, tablets, smartphones and laptops to access information, which means they are doing this remotely and not in office hours.  But they still need to act professionally and in some cases be mindful of their professional indemnity insurance and this requires them to be informed and ‘on top of’ technical information. The face to face exchange that used to be the norm is still as vital as ever and the expertise you display and promote can set you apart from your competitors.  Complementing this now are things like blogs, video and audio podcasts. You know your products and systems and how they should be used.  Have confidence in this and be assertive in providing your technical information.  Offer variety in where you give access to information, so as many professionals as possible have access to it across the different communication channels they use.

Gavin Tadman, CIB

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To learn more about the use of social media in the construction sector see the Construction Media Index.