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Interiors Business School

There's no such thing as bad press, right?

While the juries out on the above, there is definitely such a thing as a bad communications plan. This article tells you how to avoid pitfalls and secure success with your communication strategy.

Having had the pleasure of hosting a Masterclass roundtable with Tim Duncan, founder of TDC PR, I thought his wise words needed to be shared with our entire audience.

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He and his team represent numerous interior designers and architects, with his firm specialising in communication strategies for the creative industries.

So his experience has been invaluable in helping us pull together the first in a series of articles on good PR practice. Here we're talking about what goes into planning a PR campaign, that gives you only great press.

1. "Firstly identify what the story is."

So you have something to say, you've finished a fantastic project, or maybe you're launching a furniture collection, whatever the reason you think you have a story to share.

Dissect the narrative, what makes it unique? What makes it pop? What makes it stand out from the 200 stories sent to an editor every day? When you know, start with that.

Consider the broader story at the same time. Maybe you've been working on a sustainable project, the ethos which is close to your heart and World Earth day is on the horizon.

You can see how the narrative snowballs into something that editors want to hear about because you've considered its relevance.

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2. "Make sure you have permission."

Before you go anywhere, check, double-check even triple check what permissions you have from a client. You don't want to approach the media, build up their hopes and then under-deliver.

Get to know publications, some like The Evening Standard only publish stories that showcase the owner too, so ensuring this is even an option early on will save you a lot of stress later down the line.

To help with this, many designers also build PR and photography clauses into their contracts to ensure that the project can be featured in whichever way they want.

But understandably some clients don't want to share their home or space with an audience. That doesn't mean; however, you can't secure press, you just need to change the narrative as Tim suggests:

A lot of people have the conundrum, 'I can't talk about a project because of a client', but there's a whole knowledge base around what they do for a client, that they can share.

3. "Does it matter when this story is shared?"

Significant print publications, such as Elle Decoration, Wallpaper and Living Etc, can work on six month lead times. They also often ask for exclusivity rights, which can mean you are sitting on a project unable to publish it on your website or social media until then.

This may be absolutely fine. There may be no rush to share the story, so decide it's well worth the wait. However, with so many options available to you now, settling for this option isn't a necessity, it's a choice.

You can showcase projects on digital media formats that have a far faster turnaround. In fact, many of these larger publications have online platforms themselves where they share stories not displayed in print format.

When it comes to planning though the best way to avoid a rush on getting a story out there is to plan your comms in advance, as Tim suggests:

Map out your comms plan to your strategy for the year ahead, to ensure that they match.

If you do have a sudden need to get in the press, say to support a significant pitch, but you have new projects to show right now, consider a different way to get your work out there. Speaking at an event or providing a quote for an opinion piece can do the trick.

You can also find emergency coverage on social media, using the #journorequest. There is a caveat shared by Tim here though, as while it can be a valuable tool, it's also a drain on time with no guaranteed results, so use with caution.

"So there is #journorequest on LinkedIn and Twitter, showing journalists who are looking for help with an article. It's a bit of a job to sit through looking at them, but it can be worthwhile, as long as you respond quickly to them."

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4. "Strategic media engagement- who are you targeting?"

Getting the right press coverage takes a lot of research and precision targeting. Building up networks of writers within your arena is a big and longer-term part of a successful communication strategy.

A good insider tip for finding out about press entities is to visit their Advertising section, this will highlight their reach, audience size and frequency of publishing, helping you suss out if they are right for you.

Do your research on who is writing in this space, who suits your story and your brand- but don't forget to look wider than you initially think.

You can also build your black book at events and trade shows where there are sure to be press covering them, just as Tim suggests:

"If you are visiting an event, make the most of them, try and meet the press- see who's writing about it. Going to the show is an investment of time, so make it work as hard as it possibly can for you."

What's more, while you are there why not find out if you could feature on the panel of a talk or have a speaking opportunity at upcoming events, just another way of getting your face out there.

Also, be strategic about casting your net, often it's assumed interiors publications are the best place to find column space, but others want to hear from you, who celebrate a designer's voice.

Don't forget national publications and even some financial business publications might have interiors and lifestyle sections, that are worth considering too.

If your communication strategy is about growing yours or a studio's personal brand, you can also look even further.

You are a designer, but you are also a business person, and that opens the doors to an entirely different audience who can be just as valuable.

"Don't marginalise yourself, because you are an in interiors people assume they'll be talking to trade media only, but there is a business story behind what you do too. And often publications want the diversity of having people from a creative industry involved."

5. "What's the best vehicle for getting the story out there."

With so many routes to take to spread the word, this is where you hone in on exactly the best route for this specific project, launch or profile, and start pulling everything together that you need to make it happen.

A lot of media are interested in finding out the opinions of experts in the design industry around big macro issues affecting the world, like sustainability.

If, as we've already discussed, your best bet is an opinion piece then pull together your thoughts on specific topics, make sure you have your company boilerplate prepared, along with the list of who you're targeting.

"Opinion pieces are a great way to stay on the press radar at quieter times when you have no new projects to share."

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For a project or product launch, imagery is king. Great photography can get you into publications you never thought possible and really elevate you above those 100's of other inbox messages.

Bring in the professionals to help. Hire a photographer who specialises in interiors and knows how to capture beautiful editorial shots, but who can also style the space, so it's picture-perfect. Just be prepared that this can include bringing in new pieces of art, object etc. that will really sell the design.

Visual assets are vital when it comes to selling stories.

A press release is still a prerequisite for project and product publications. This is where you succinctly capture the story, the key visuals, along with a sprinkling of juicy details and quotes. We will soon be releasing a how-to on great press releases so watch this space.

This can all feel like a lot to do, and if you need some support, this can be a great time to call in a PR team who do this every day.

6. "How do you plan on optimising the coverage?"

You've been featured in a publication, that's incredible! Now, what do you do with the win? Great communication plans don't stop there, great content is evergreen.

There are so many ways to increase the longevity of a project. If you write a blog or journal on your site, get a pdf of the article or take beautifully curated pictures of the publication and write about the feature on your own blog.

If you have a key project you want to announce or something important to say, don't think of it as a staccato moment in time. Think of it as part of a wider campaign. Everything you put out in the world has a longer tail. It lives on social media and Google.

Add it to the press section on your website, this is where a lot of clients will look when checking you out, so validate your profile by adding it to your site.

Have a daily reminder of your achievement by adding a link to the article in your email footer. This also means every single person who receives your email will get a chance to check it out.

And of course, there is social media, posting features on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter are great ways to spread the word.

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7. "Make sure you measure it."

As we've discussed building a press presence takes work and perseverance, but also expense. So look back at the reason you want to get a story publicised in the first place.

Often PR is about growth, of a company or a profile, so to know if it's worked, you have to set out measurable expectations for it at the beginning.

PR and comms are a symbiotic part of your business's growth process.

Is it that you want to have 'x' number of prospective client calls as a result, is it that you want to have more social followers, or do you want to receive more requests from the press.

Whatever the goal, look back and review the plan, see what worked and what didn't before you move on to the next one.

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This is the first part of a series on PR and communications. Watch this space over the coming weeks to discover what to look for in a great PR company and how to write a show-stopping press release.

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