"Who's your publicist?" my girlfriend asked me over the phone recently. My answer nearly caused her to drop the phone in shock. "You did all this without a publicist?" she asked once she recovered from her disbelief.
It's true. I've managed to land spotlights in major magazines HGTV magazine, New York Magazine, Interior Design Magazine and on popular websites The Selby, Apartment Therapy and Design*Sponge. I've been a guest on nationally syndicated talk shows, and I've rubbed shoulders with icons of the industry--all without a publicist. That's not to say that I couldn't use the professional management and media connections of an experienced publicist. When I launched my business, foregoing the advice of a paid publicist was my way of cutting my teeth in the market, and of course, curbing startup costs. It is why today I am in the position to share what I've learned with you.
Until you decide a publicist is both right for you and your business budget, here are a few tried and true lessons in self-promotion that I continue to live by.
Know Your Brand Mission: Know what your brand stands for. Perfect your business model, get intimate with its source of inspiration, and be well versed in your brand's design process. Remember, you are your brand's best advocate and you should consider yourself the leading expert on the ins and outs of your business.
Be Different: Create products that stand out in your product category. If you are a textile designer, and flower motifs are a popular search, offer options that are not typical within that category; make it unique. This creates interest that generates more interest.
Network: You need to network/connect with editors. Build a relationship with the editor. Sure, it's about connecting with magazine editors on social media platforms. But don't underestimate the old-fashioned, yet not completely outdated, forms of connecting. Invite an editor to tea/coffee touch-bases. I've done it, and I know a few creative professionals who swear by editor meet-and-greets.
Attend Events: Research events sponsored by the magazines you want to be featured in. Familiarize yourself with the masthead from each publication. Introduce yourself to the top editors and associates who cover your product category.
Be Portfolio Ready: Have your bio, product images/descriptions and self portraits ready. I update mine seasonally, including my portraits, so that everything reflects the freshest, most experienced version of my brand.
Update Imagery: Hire a professional photographer--not your friend of a friend who is a hobbyist photographer. Select someone who works with the publications that you want to be featured in. You will have a better chance of being featured. And don't forget to book the makeup artist and stylist! You want to look your absolute best.
Make Connections: Send out product images in a friendly email introducing your brand. You are emailing real people so it's okay to drop the formality when appropriate (i.e., keep it real with the lingo)--especially if it suits your brand.
Schedule Product Launches: Be strategic. Design collections and plan product launches around the Spring and Fall when publications generally like to share what's new for the season.
Best of luck on your promotional journey! Follow these surefire techniques as closely and consistently as your schedule and budget allows, and you'll give your brand a solid head start. Then when you're ready to hire a publicist, you'll be all the more knowledgeable about what type of representation you should seek. But until that day, don't be surprised if your friends demand to know who represents you. Go ahead, shock them silly.