From Startup to Success: How Public Relations Can Propel Your Business to New Heights
Lately, we have experienced a number of PR agents reaching out to us on behalf of their interior design clients. We decided to deep dive and find out a bit more about the concept of hiring a public relations company and what the benefits would be. We hope that you enjoy our interview with the founder and owner of Blitzer & Company, Elizabeth Blitzer as she shares more about why she decided to represent the design community.
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations—or interior designers in our case—and their public.
It may seem easy … getting the attention of a local, statewide or national publication to help promote you as a professional interior designer, but the long and short of it, it really is not, and it takes time.
Promoting your firm, design style, and accomplishments in this industry can take a lot of work, but in many cases, you don’t necessarily have to do it alone. There are thousands, if not millions, of PR agents all across the country, and many of them specialize in specific niches to serve clients’ needs. We interviewed Blitzer & Company this month who happen to be specialists in interior design.
Elizabeth Blitzer, Founder, and Owner of Blitzer & Company in New York, is one of them. We had the pleasure of chatting with her recently about all things public relations. She helped walk us through some of the benefits of PR in our industry and shared why she chose this specialty in the PR world.
“Having the goal of being famous is not going to serve you or anyone else,” Blitzer shares, “but being able to show your work and see your work is a wonderful reward for the hard work you have put it. But so is having a great relationship with your clients. It’s important for designers to know that they are entering into a wonderful industry that will be so rewarding on many levels, and that is just as important as getting the attention that they also deserve time.”
Q&A With an Expert in PR
By Lindsay Field Penticuff
With more than 25 years of experience working in public relations and specifically focusing on clients who are interior designers, manufacturers, and retailers, Elizabeth Blitzer is considered quite the expert when it comes to helping creatives promote their businesses.
“I think PR used to be very straightforward. You were looking to get press in magazines and newspapers, with minimal online coverage, and now you’re just doing all things for all people,” Blitzer says.
“Everything we are doing today for the most part is somehow leveraging relationships we’ve had for so long, whether it’s trying to get a client a licensing deal or help them partner with a manufacturer. There’s no end to the connecting that has become the things that are really important to our clients.”
Blitzer is the founder and owner of New York-based Blitzer & Company, a specialized, home design-focused public relations and strategy agency. It was founded 15 years ago.
“When I moved to New York, I actually had no idea what PR was,” she says. “I sort of stumbled into a job with Susan Becher & Associates.”
Becher, who passed away last year, founded her firm about 35 years ago. Similar to what Blitzer does today, it is a boutique public relations and marketing firm specializing in the representation of home decor, lifestyle brands and personalities.
In the Q&A below, you’ll learn more about why Blitzer chose to work mostly with interior designers, manufacturers and retailers, as well as recommendations around when interior designers, specifically, should consider working with a PR firm like hers, and even how to promote your business if hiring an agent or firm is not quite in your budget just yet.
Why did you choose to specialize in PR and marketing for interior designers?
“When I stumbled into the job with Susan Becher, that was her area of expertise. … Interior design is a very small and welcoming industry, and it always has been, so I was able to find my place and build relationships.”
When taking on a new designer as a client, do you have a vetting process?
“I don’t think I really consider it a vetting process. There are so many things I have to consider when a potential client calls. Namely, what kind of bandwidth do we have to take on new business? I am a boutique firm, and that’s how I want to continue. I have three people who work with me and for me, so there are only so many clients we can take on and give them the service that they deserve to get.
“I also have to see if I can see from their work that I will be able to help them successfully. One thing I have to tell my clients – old and new – is that press is not for everybody. And that should not be the goal. The goal should be to have a good, working business, and if you are successful in getting clients and doing work where you are, that is a more important battle to fight.”
Do PR agents typically handle social media for interior design clients?
“It’s so time-consuming to do the social media for other people, so if we took on the actual job of social media, we wouldn’t have time to do other stuff. So, what I often say is that we do a ton of strategy. We help people come up with the strategy and campaigns for their social … we advise them on the kinds of things they should post, or we come up with a schedule for them.”
How important is imagery when looking for your work to be considered for media?
“It’s important for designers to have images. We can’t make something up out of thin air, and I would say images are the most important thing, and they need to be yours, photographed well and styled well. They need to be a wide range, because we get weekly requests for a roundup for designers, and they could be really random things—stair rails or the color of a front door. If you can look through that imagery and have an example of that, it all resonates with the editor or designer to say, here’s somebody to watch. You really have to have the work to back it up.”
“One thing that has been good for me and my business is a real understanding of the editors’ needs and making that a priority. When I first started, Susan said to me that the clients will come and go, but editors, those are the relationships that you are going to build your business on. The pitches have to revolve very much around what the magazines are able to put in print. They can’t write a story that doesn’t fit into the formula that is their publication. Creating the best pitch and being able to present them is the way that they then come back to you, and gives them the confidence in you to deliver things to them that are actually viable projects, product or story ideas.”
Return on investment (RIO) is important for anyone in business. What should expectations be for interior designers?
“When I take on a client, I have to make sure they know what PR is and that it is not going to have the ROI that a sales person can get. … For me, ROI trusting the clients and having a sense that we are working in a partnership, which I think that’s something you know and can feel. The results I have to deliver for my own sake is to be able to show that we are placing all the time and things are in the works. If the client feels always that they are thinking, “What am I getting out of this or paying for?,” then it’s not working.”
Are the PR and marketing rates based on a percentage? If not, what is the fee structure?
“The fees range a lot. Some people do massive projects and may charge a huge monthly fee with a beginning and end. I think my fees are average, but most people do a monthly retainer.”
What steps should a new designer take if they cannot afford to hire a PR company?
“That’s the beauty of social media! You get to tell your own story and you get to put out visuals and say who you are and what you’re working on. Really only post your own work, though, and don’t post other people’s if you can help it. Or, post well-known spaces and talk about them. It can get confusing if you post other things you’ve seen without showing what you’re doing.
“There are also ways to show process work if you don’t have enough images of the finished project. You can show your process, and design schemes. Doing things in your own house is a really great way to show the work you want to do.
“You also need to be a little more patient and know that if you have a goal of hiring someone, give yourself a year and really just work to get some of your work done so that you can have as potential photography. The photography piece is a make or break on whether to start, and you have to figure out how to build that. Do a one-off room or ask your friends for help in building up a portfolio.
“Building relationship is another good idea. Go to local events and start meeting local editors or show rooms. Make yourself available and become friends with them. Offer to become a part of whatever they may be doing with local designers.”
So, while there are many moving pieces that can come with hiring a PR and marketing firm to help your business, it is possible. Just keep in mind that it could take a little extra time and money. In the long run, it could really help you gain more success in your business—new or old.
We are thrilled that Elizabeth has taken the time to share insight into the world of PR providing tips for those hiring a PR company and those who would like to self-promote. Blitzer & Company’s client list reads like a Who’s Who of the design industry and we are all ears!