Serena Fokschaner is a design and interiors journalist who has contributed to and worked for a range of titles including The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Homes & Gardens, Selvedge, Brides etc. She has interviewed countless small businesses for her work and so knows first-hand the challenges of getting your story in to the media.
It was this experience which inspired her to create her PR workshops, tailored for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to know how to write a press release – and get it read.
As well as presenting her workshop at The Prince’s Trust, where she is a business mentor, Serena has led PR seminars at organisations including the British institute of Interior Design, Morley College, and The Portman Estate.
You can find out more about Serena on www.goodcoverage.co.uk
‘Christmas is a dim memory and you have already dispatched your Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day press release. So what next?
For any business, there are always fallow points in the PR calendar when you’re short of newsworthy ideas but you’d still like a bit of media coverage to boost your profile and even bring in a few sales.
So how can you drum up ideas for stories when you’re feeling uninspired? The answer is: think creatively.
Or to be more precise, try to think like a journalist. Learn how to scent out those news and feature opportunities: it’s not as daunting a task as you might think. In fact, all it takes is a bit of homework and a dash of know-how you and, with luck, you can then start to build up a roster of editorial-worthy ideas.
After that, as long as your release is punchy and perky, correctly formatted and dispatched at the right time to meet deadlines, you can begin to create a credible, year-long press campaign.
Idea 1. Do your research
Start by putting down your work and set aside a few hours to read as much press as you can. Beg, borrow or steal your favourite glossies; scour your top blogs and immerse yourself in the ‘papers from cover to cover (well, skip the soccer if that’s not your thing).
Familiarise yourself not just with the content but the format: look out for regular columns, features and pages. You might find the perfect slot for your business: it could be a ‘eco’ column or an interview with a rising designer.
Try to read between the lines, gradually honing your eye for press opportunities.
Idea 2. Spot your market
Learn to spot the differences between publications. Just as you have a defined client market; so too, the most successful papers, blogs and magazines reach out to a targeted group of readers.
Analyse the tone of the publication you’re reading. Is it gossipy and celeb-obsessed? Cool and urban? Is it middle-market or aspirational?
Once you’ve worked out the ‘house style’ of a publication you’ll have a clearer idea of who will be interested in your story and avoid wasted time spent sending out releases to unsuitable outlets.
Idea 3. Think seasonal and rituals
Christmas or Valentine’s Day are obvious seasonal events on which to peg your release. But the media calendar is also punctuated by a roster of other yearly events and rituals which provide perfect fodder for keen PRs.
For instance, as snowdrops start to nudge through frosty clods of earth, editorial thoughts turn to… spring cleaning and tidying up your stuff! So if your latest collection includes some nifty storage ideas why not pull together a snappy spring release with a store and tidy theme?
Or, if half-term’s in the offing and you have just produced a cute, sew-your-own doll for kids to make, then seize the moment and write a half-term themed release.
Scan the editorial horizon and plan ahead; summer holidays, back to school, cosy winter nights…. the list goes on.
Idea 4. Pick a colour
Every year those trend forecasters put their heads together, analyse the data, scrutinise the economic clime and come up with the colour that’s going to dominate design for the next year.
Last year it was mustard-yellow, 2013 say the colour pundits, is the year of emerald green. You will often see design pages themed around the colour of the moment so if you happen to have a gorgeously photogenic, emerald-hued product in the offing why not use that to create a release?
And red is always a good colour for Valentine’s Day and Christmas!
Idea 5. The main event
Exhibitions and anniversaries, films and national calendar fixtures like Henley or Ascot also provide perfect excuses for a press release.
Last year’s long-anticipated release of ‘The Great Gatsby’ for instance, prompted a flurry of Deco-inspired stories including products, fashion and style tips. And need we say any more about the slew of Jubilee or Olympics-inspired editorial.
So keep a sharp eye out for this year’s main events and if you happen to have a product to match, crack on and write that release!
Idea 6. Trend spotting
Another press staple is ‘the trend page’ – be it a column devoted to cork furniture, colour blocking or the renaissance in paint effects.
As a designer you’re ideally placed to pick up on trends long before they hit the press. So capitalise on your insider knowledge by coming up with a ‘trend’ press release. All you need are a few visually-arresting examples of your own work to back up the idea and you will be en route to creating an interesting story.
Idea 7. Think photo opp
The 100-foot chandelier made out of recycled Coke bottles; the bicycle-powered Christmas lights… journalists are always on the prowl for that one-off, bizarre-but-true photo opportunity.
If you have an ‘extreme’ project in the offing, why not use that as an excuse to generate some column inches?
Idea 8. The interview
Look out for those ‘themed’ interview pages, which feature ‘real’ people telling their own story, especially in the women’s press.
Popular topics include a change of lifestyle or career; beating illness (sounds morbid but always makes for inspirational reading); juggling work with children or starting your own business.
If your own back story makes for an intriguing read you could offer it to a suitable publication.
Idea 9. The case study
If you have done an interesting project for clients you could consider asking them if they would be happy to be interviewed for a case history or perhaps an ‘at home’ story.
Make sure they don’t mind being photographed first.’
If you like to read more about PR …
… then you might like to read this The Design Doctor post: Getting press is more than writing a press release, and this guest post by Mary Murtagh on Why PR matters.
If you are working in fashion or fashion industries you might like to read and get our book review of Alison Lewy’s Design Create Sell, which gives great PR tips specifically for the fashion industry.
Our Business Club members can also …
Watch our Design Dialogue: a 15 min video interview with Grant Gibson, Editor of Crafts Magazine, with his tips on how to get noticed by the press, how to approach them, and what they are specifically looking for.
Did you find this blog post useful? What tip was the best for you? Do let us know in the comments box below: