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How to get PR for your studio

Getting noticed in a crowded marketplace is tough but there are a few simple steps that will make it easier to get your voice heard: presenting PR 101, thanks to the recent AM breakfast session run by the DIA.

One of the challenges of any creative business is ensuring the right people hear about your successes. Do that successfully and cold calling will become a thing of the past.

Publicist and brand strategist Esther Navarro Orejon from The Project Agency identified 3 key steps to crafting a successful pitch.

1. Know why you are seeking publicity.

What is it you are trying to sell? Is it

  • a new project
  • a profile of a key person in your organisation
  • a collaboration / brand alignment with another organisation
  • commentary on your industry
  • a project that you are hosting/curating
  • or are you pursuing a networking opportunity?

2. Who is the target market and what’s the best vehicle to get to them.

Realistic, many of us deal in specifics that are not of interest to the mass market. That makes it really important to tailor your pitch to your specific market via carefully identified vehicles.

Esther flagged that the days of blanket pitch emails is over. Media outlet get a plethora of pitches every day, so the skill is in the identification of the right vehicle to get your message to the right market.

Among other things, the vehicle may be:

  • a specialist industry magazine
  • a blog
  • an electronic direct mail to a specific list, or
  • snail mail to a specific list.

It depends on what your message is, and how long you want the message to stay around.

Industry magazines are decreasing in quantity however their value is in their presentation (everyone loves print) and the longevity of the message. Often monthly, sometimes quarterly, your message is guaranteed to be around for a long time, even long after the current issue.

Blogs are the antithesis of a quarterly magazine.

Although they can share the same market, and have arguably a larger audience than the circulation figures of magazines, blogs are short term, consumable messages. They hit a lot of people for a short space of time. Crash and burn.

And snail mail is not to be overlooked – Esther identified a great case study where snail mail was the answer. Snail mail and email are diametrically opposed. As our email inboxes overflow every morning, the number of postal items decreases, making what does come through the mail more special.

We’ve had great success using good old snail mail for our clients.

3. Craft your message.

Crafting your message is possibly the most important of all three steps. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the right person, if what you are saying is irrelevant or just plain boring.

It starts with the basics. Your message must includes:

  • why / who : who you are and why you are communicating
  • where / what : where is your market and what’s the media platform most relevant to that market and what form is your pitch going to take?
  • when : at what stage of the project are you going to start talking?

Once that’s confirmed, you can start crafting your message and the key words are concise and succinct.

Communicate regularly with one or two key messages really well rather than yearly with an encyclopedia of information. Say enough to interest the person but not so much that it takes too long to communicate your message.

Above all make sure your message in interesting so you stand out.

Tools need to include:

  • a press release tailored to a specific media outlet
  • great visuals : invest in documentation that capture what you want to sell really well
  • supporting material: like a blog or website

Esther was very giving, sharing the basics of her job and making the process of publicity sound easy but of course it’s not all about process, it’s about relationships, and that’s the value of using a PR professional.

Getting heard in a busy and crowded marketplace is far from easy. Interior designer Fiona Lynch invests in PR in the same way that she invested in her brand. Fiona commissioned Fabio Ongarato design to develop her brand and she now engages the Project Agency when she needs publicity. In her words ‘it means that she can keep doing what she does best, designing’. She would no sooner do her own publicity than do her own branding design.

A look at her website shows the results.

Why use a PR professional:

  • because getting your voice heard in a busy marketplace is tough and anything you can do to make it easier must be good
  • because PR consultants foster relationships with media outlets, making an approach from them more credible than an approach from you
  • because they have honed the skill of identifying what you have to offer and who would be most interested in that offering.

It was valuable to hear from someone from the other side of the equation. Managing Editor of Architecture Australia, Alexa Kempton is the person receiving the pitches.

Alexa emphasised two key messages: exclusivity and timelines.

Everyone loves to be published in a magazine, but when the magazine – like Architect Australia – only comes out six times per year, exclusivity is paramount.

With a two-month lead-time, it’s of no value to anyone if a story is stale before it’s finally published and that can happen if images have been continually blogged and tweeted for the previous two months. So, if that’s the market that you want, you need to keep your project under wraps. Fiona described an incident where she tried to recall an image originally pinned by her studio after it had gone viral. Now she pins and even uploads less and only after any publicity is done.

That links to the second message of understanding the timeline. Everyone works to a schedule and some media work to an extremely long schedule. Blogs may only talk branding once a month, magazines may profile packaging once a year. In most cases, it’s best to start a PR conversation earlier rather than later, especially if your project has a long lead-time.

So there’s PR 101.

The only thing I would add to this list, is what do you want to get out of it? What is the objective of getting PR?

Greg and I have watched a lot of competitor studios soar high only to crash and burn, and sometimes that’s from chasing the limelight rather than the clients.

Chasing PR can be a time consuming and therefore an expensive exercise if all you building is ‘awareness’. It is lovely to see your name in lights, but the effectiveness of a ‘broad brush’ story is hard to measure, making it difficult to judge value for money.  That said, if you are currently excelling at working with small brands and want to shift focus into a different market that has larger budgets, a PR exercise might pay for itself in your first commission.

So knowing what you want is critical. Back to Step 1.

 

Carol Mackay

 

Carol is co-founder of Mackay Branson, a design studio currently celebrating 30 years in business. More at mbdesign.com.au

PR for a design studio