Even with 10 years experience in the design industry, I'm continually learning new ways to navigate the marketing and PR waters.
You name it, I’ve done it! TV & radio appearances, print, digital, branded vehicles, PR agencies (the good, the bad and the...really bad).
Following yesterday's Q&A on the topic of outsourcing, today I am happy to share valuable insights from a few Marketing & PR experts making a splash in the home and interiors world.
Amira Hashish, Evening Standard Digital Editor (Features) and Design Columnist
Julia Burdet, Editor of Designed Magazine
Linda Taylor, Group Production Editor, The Independent
Hugo Rawlins, Director of Rawlins George PR & Marketing
Cathy Calver, VP Marketing, eporta
Designed by Woulfe 2009 - 2018
What advice would you have for young designers, hoping to gain exposure?
Tell the story behind your space or product. Offer background on who you are and why you interpreted your design in the way you did. Then, focus on what makes your work stand out.
Once you have clearly defined your vision, make sure you do your research on the relevant member of an editorial team to contact and tailor your pitch to them.
It is also worth carrying press releases and business cards with you at any design events or shows you attend. You never know who you may meet.
What media assets do you look for in your coverage?
A succinct email and press release. Images are very important. I often stumble across brilliant talent who I want to spread the word about but it is surprising how many people underestimate the importance of photography which shows off their work. If you have video content that is a great bonus.
What would a useful press release look like?
It would capture your design vision in just a few clear paragraphs. It would also include a brief bio of who you are/previous projects you have worked on. Plus, relevant contact details.
How do you research designers to profile?
I uncover lots of talent at design shows or exhibitions. Social media is a wonderful discovery tool, especially Instagram. Lots of designers or design PRs approach me as well. Plus, there is good old fashioned word of mouth.
Can you approach press as a designer or does it have to go through a PR company?
Absolutely, do approach press. PR companies can be an excellent resource but they are not always financially feasible, especially when you are starting out. I would suggest tracking down the journalists who cover your particular area of design and emailing them with a pitch and some visuals. Following journalists on Instagram or other social media platforms can give you a good idea of what subjects or angles particularly interest them. This may be a good first point of contact as well.
What should you never say or do when pitching your project to media?
Never send a blanket email to an exhaustive mailing list of journalists. It is much better to target individuals and carefully consider whether what you are pitching is relevant to the content they write about or suitable for their publication. A generic copy and paste pitch which you have sent out to every member of the press you can find a contact for is very easy to see through.
What locations do you seek for your photo shoots and how do you find them?
Usually we look for a location to fit a concept or storyline that we already have. In the new issue though it was the location – Maison Assouline on Piccadilly – that inspired the story. We find them through a combination of luck, curiosity and the privilege of being invited to see a lot of wonderful places and to meet location owners with the vision to invite us to use them!
Where do you source inspirations for your themes and how do you collaborate with the designer?
Each issue of Designed has a thread running through that ties it together while we’re working on it, and usually it’s a small detail with big significance for us. This issue was inspired by some children we met on one of our press trips in a village in Zanzibar, so the underlying themes are play, conservation and a sense of innocence and fun that most of us have lost but that we found in the designers whose work is in the new issue.
We try to meet up in person with the designers we feature, if possible at one of their projects, to get a real feeling for them and the thinking behind their work. By definition designers are creatives, so always have fascinating tales to tell.
How do you like your design sets to be lit?
Sensual and dramatic – and never direct… That will usually be from backlit or recessed lighting sources, light that comes from behind translucent marble, is reflected onto a gold shade or bounces off a rich red wall.
What should you never say/do when pitching your project to media?
Unless we can do our own location shoot, never show us images we can’t use. If they’re an exclusive somewhere else that’s just tantalising and if they’re not good enough quality that will show in print. And never say “We’d love you to feature this project… if American AD doesn’t want it”. We all like to feel special!
Why is it important for designers to be profiled on established brands like The Independent?
Designers should be featured by established brands such as The Independent in order to gain exposure of their ideas and to get their work published on a multitude of platforms. Being associated with a reputable title gives the designer credibility. The Independent is impartial and objective and can be trusted as a reliable source of information.
What kind of design features do you like to publish and why?
I like to publish features on sustainable design, created by designers who are conscious of the environment and the people within it, those using the product or creating it. Creative and edgy design that thinks outside the box and which seeks to bring order to chaos in the simplest way. All copy must be accompanied with great imagery.
What should you never say/do when pitching your project to media?
When pitching to media always be honest. The truth is always best. Don't be too grandiose or arrogant. Don't over embellish or use hyperbole. Just tell it like it is. Your integrity is the best tool in your armoury when dealing with the media.
Do clients approach you or do you approach them?
We choose our clients as much as they choose us. Most of them find us through word of mouth.
What qualities do you look for in clients and do you turn many away?
A potential client needs to have strong assets already in place (eg photography, website, social media) or have the budget to enable us to create them. The stronger the assets the better the results from any PR campaign.
There has to be mutual chemistry and we need to believe in a client’s product offering or service. If we can’t see ourselves buying into their brand on a personal level, then we will turn business away.
How is the PR landscape changing the interior design industry?
Social media has become a key medium for us to communicate our clients’ news to our press contacts and the end-users. However, we still see print as being an important medium, particularly in the luxury market, working in harmony alongside online exposure.
In recent years we’ve seen most of the publishing houses shrinking their editorial teams. Therefore, direct access has become a lot harder as their workload has increased. Strong, personal relationships are invaluable. If you’ve got a trusted name/company, they know you’re going to give them relevant content and not waste their time.
What value does a PR industry bring to the individual client?
Our value is to increase sales and create a positive image for our clients. As a PR company, we help to create and maintain a good reputation among both the media and the customers by communicating on their behalf. We present their products, services and brand as a whole in the best light possible. A positive image helps create a strong relationship with the customers, which in turn increases sales.
How should a client assess your delivery? What are the measurables?
Set your objectives from day one. If you want sales from your PR investment, make this clear to the PR agency from the start. Make sure they understand every element of your business and your goals.
We study Google analytics, website visitors, followers/likes on social media in addition to exposure in printed press through the advertising equivalent.
We track every piece of editorial for our clients. We advise our clients on how to measure our performance with their customers, such as confirming their source at the point of enquiry/sale.
Good PR doesn’t happen overnight, it has to be viewed as a long-term investment in order to measure the true value.
What is a Brand?
A brand is a relationship. This relationship is built upon all of the individual experiences one has with a company. In this way, ‘Brand’ is a completely intangible connection that exists between a person and a company — just as a relationship exists between two people. This is what makes branding so powerful: it taps into, and is defined by, human emotion and connection.
How important is a logo?
If a company is a person, then their logo is their consistent, recognisable trait. It could be a small thing that may be insignificant by itself. However, by owning and presenting it consistently, the trait becomes a signature for that person. Eventually, other people will come to associate the trait with that person, and attach meaning to it.
These deep-seated associations are why changes to logos can cause a lot of upset; it’s not the thing itself that people are upset with losing — it’s the loss of the association they had with that thing. For example, imagine that your mother was given a dramatic nose job. It’s not her nose that you would miss, it’s the loss of familiarity with her face — and all of associations that come with it. Like defining physical traits, logos are important totems of recognition, and vessels in which people place many of their most memorable experiences with a company / person. So best to do it right, once, at the beginning. Don’t be afraid to ask people's (family, friends, clients) opinions.
Where does tone of voice fit?
Next in our human analogy, we can think of the Design and Communication of a company as a person’s clothes and how they behave: how they look and how they talk. A company’s visual system and tone of voice is similar to how a person dresses and talks; It’s how they express themselves to the world.
This expression is very dependent on the Brand Framework. Why? Because it’s based on the person’s sense of self, which informs how that person / company presents itself. The better defined the Framework / sense of self, the more consistently the company / person presents themselves.
Of course, just like a person, the way that the company expresses itself — through their personal style and tone of voice — can change depending on the situation and who the person is talking to. These shifts allow the person / company to behave appropriately according to the specific audience and situation. However, the person / company’s underlying core personality traits and sense of self should remain the same, regardless of audience or context.
Do People See Brand as a Personal Relationship?
And lastly, the company’s Brand is the relationship they build with every customer they interact with. In this sense, a company’s ‘brand’ is not a singular overarching “thing” — it is distinctly created and maintained between each and every individual connected to it.
This is a delicate balance: a relationship / brand is built or damaged by every single interaction that the company has with its customers. And this relationship is incredibly important and powerful because it taps directly into — and is built upon — human emotion. Think of the loyalty a person can build for a company if the company builds its brand upon personal connections. This is why companies want to become ‘love’ brands; if love is the defining emotion of that relationship, what could be more powerful?
So to wrap this up, I thought I would finish with some points on how to build a strong relationship — and therefore, a strong brand.
Consistency and Authenticity
It’s impossible (or at the very least, incredibly frustrating) to build a relationship with someone who constantly changes how they act or represent themselves. Imagine every time you interacted with that person not knowing how they’d behave; it would be difficult to form a relationship of any meaning. The same goes for a brand. A company needs to establish who they are, what they believe in, how they speak, and what they look like…and then bring that to the table every time. Consistency builds familiarity and trust. And those, in turn, build love and loyalty.
No one wants to build a relationship with a person who isn’t being themselves. Otherwise what is the relationship built upon? People can sense inauthenticity and will actively avoid it. Even if people don’t sense it immediately, the relationship isn’t built on a substantial foundation. The same holds true for companies and their customers. Companies need to ensure that they are as authentic as possible in who they are and what they offer. This authenticity will build a stronger relationship with their customers — one that can can last.
This is an important one, and one that can be easily overlooked. Think of relationships that are purely transactional: generally people aren’t worried about swapping them for a relationship with someone else if they can offer more. There’s no emotion in the relationship and therefore, there’s nothing tying them to it beyond the service. If companies functioned in the same way, building feature after feature, serving purely as a transaction for their customers the relationship is incredibly fragile. As soon as they don’t have as much to offer as their competitor, the customer will drop them. It’s an endless race to stay ahead.
Now think of a relationship that’s based on more than transactions. An emotional bond has been created: perhaps the person knows you better than others do, perhaps there’s history there, or perhaps they once went beyond what was expected of them. This is the basis of a substantial relationship — and this is much harder to swap for a relationship with someone else.
Think of how you can build a relationship / brand that goes beyond the transaction. The deeper the emotional connection, the better — because this is where loyalty and love are built. Your company will see long-term benefits from this relationship, because you’ll no longer be in a race to release the next feature.
It takes time!
The reality is, relationships take time to build. Imagine meeting someone new and expecting them to love, trust, and be loyal to you immediately. It’s unrealistic. Brands, just like relationships, take a lot of time and nurturing to build. It takes effort and consistency. When building a brand, remember that you can’t expect instantaneous results; it takes time to build a deep relationship, and you need to have patience to reap the rewards.
Every interaction counts — especially the first.
Lastly, remember that each and every interaction you have in your relationship matters to the other person. Every time you do something great for them they remember it, and the relationship grows. And every time you let them down, they remember that, too — and your relationship weakens. Relationships are essentially the sum of all of these interactions over time. And remember, the first interaction is one of the most powerful and memorable ones. Your first impression of someone — whether good or bad — often plays a large part in the relationship that follows. If you think about this when making decisions, it will help you more carefully consider every interaction your company has with its customers: is it building that relationship, or detracting from it?
So in conclusion…
A brand is not a logo, a set of assets, a design system, or even a collection of touchpoints. A brand is an intangible bond between a company and a person. And if we define them this way, as a relationship, then brands require constant nurturing, time, and thought. But that’s also what makes them incredibly powerful forces — that have the potential to make a lasting impact on people’s lives.
Where does Brand fit in the Marketing Mix?
Your Brand is your foundation in which all other areas of marketing then fit. The other pillars of marketing - Paid Media, Social activity, CRM and of course all the content that powers them, will have this brand story weaved in, so always start here.