I started out in public relations for the music industry. It was hard, I hated it and I was rubbish at it. It’s only now, looking back over the past ten years that I can see quite a natural path from PR through marketing to what I do now, a form of business development which seems to be changing all the time.
The PR I did, for regional radio end of career artists was entirely campaign driven, with huge bursts of activity prior to a tour and nothing afterwards. It was a model I continued with during the Mercy days. We did some work (design, or arts event) and when we wanted people to look at it I tried to get press for it. It was always a bit hit and miss.
I *sort of* sacked off press for a while when we were shifting from Mercy to Well Made. It was frustrating not knowing what we were saying about ourselves and honestly, I don’t think the design press had the foggiest about what we were trying to achieve with our company. When we were dividing up Mercy into an arts organisation and our new design studio I knew I only wanted to keep hold of the Twitter account. It was and continues to be our best form of communication for the studio.
Social media has been a great tool for helping us generate profile for the studio. I used to think there was a secret club where designers and writers hung out, all planning who would get the next FFF studio profile. I’ve since realised that design press comes from a number of different sources for a number of different reasons.
I shared some tips on generating press to a graduate last week and thought it might be helpful to post a more coherent version of them here as well. Here goes.
1. Be Good.
This is not an opportunity for me to blow the Well Made trumpet and say “ooh, look at me, I’m the queen of good design’ but we all need to be honest here. The design press are expecting a certain standard of work. I’d say we show about 40% of our work to the design press. That’s not to say it doesn’t answer the brief and make our clients happy, it does or we’d be eating dirt night now. It’s just not always the kind of work that fires up other designers for being boundary pushing, challenging or the absolute best example of that kind of thing seen this week. Don’t send everything, just send the work you’d like to read about
2. Be Selective.
Ever feel like you’re looking at the same piece of work time and time again? Certain projects show up on every blog and in every magazine because they’re newsworthy. They’re either from the big studios are doing something completely new and/or they’re drop dead gorgeous. We don’t just consume one piece of design press a day. We check them all out, all the time. As bored as we get of the same work, so do the press. They’re looking for something new and unique that will give their publication the advantage. Don’t send every single blog the exact same project. Decide who you’d like to showcase your work and send it to them, and only them. If they don’t like it, send it to the next person on your list. PR, like business development is about being selective and creating relationships. Everybody likes to feel a bit special now and again. The time saved sending a group email over an individual one is negligible so be cool.
3. Be Loyal.
There’s a lot of design press. Some are larger than others. Starting out, you may find that you’re picked up and supported by smaller blogs and publications. As you grow it’s always polite to remember where you came from and repay the support you received. It’s far better to grow with a smaller blog and to allow your profiles to mutually benefit each other than to ditch a growing publication at the first sniff of a biggie. If you’ve got a mind blowing piece of work- share it with the guys who gave you your first profile and share the glory. Let them benefit from the retweets and comments and reblogs as a thank you for that first bit of attention. There’ll be plenty of time for the big blogs and mags later down the line. Showing a bit of loyalty now may well guarantee you press with the little guys when they’re not quite so little any more.
4. Be Nice.
This almost shouldn’t be said at all, but be nice. Be nice to every single person you ever meet until they’ve proved themselves to be an idiot. If they don’t, continue to be nice. It’s far easier than being rude. So yes, as I’ve already said, send a personal email. Ask them how they prefer to receive images and copy, if they mind being telephoned, if they would mind you adding them to your mailing list. This is just common courtesy and guarantees you don’t rub people up the wrong way. If they feature you, say thank you. Ensure you promote their article and encourage your networks to subscribe to the journalist as a way of helping to build their profile. But seriously, just be nice.
5. Be Eloquent.
Design writers are really busy people, looking to generate a huge amount of copy all day long. I’m managing to write one semi-sensible article every ten days at the moment with nine and a half of those days spent just thinking about what I’m going to write. Do the journalists a favour and have a reasoned and intelligent explanation as to why you made those particular design decisions. Write it down in a press release which they can copy and paste from or be ready to talk about it if or when they call. What were you trying to achieve? How did you do it? Why are you happy with it? What challenges did you face? Good designers are quite intuitive in their decision making and its sometimes difficult to explain why you used yellow instead of blue. Being able make those explanations will give your design a depth of understanding which readers will find interesting. Don’t blather, but don’t waste an opportunity to talk about your work either. Also, stop saying your work is minimal, crisp and clean. Buy a thesaurus and think of a different adjective ok?