Is Public Relations Dead? How to Use PR to Grow Your Interior Design Business.Apr 01, 2022
Are you looking for new and creative ways to market your growing interior design business?
Many designers will turn toward paid advertising to get their name in front of prospective clients, but there may be another way. Public relations (PR) can be a powerful tool to turn a slow trickle of clients into a rushing torrent of inquiries.
I think most would agree that PR isn’t dead yet, but it does take a specific skill set to pull it off effectively in today’s market. Learn more about the history of public relations among small businesses and how to implement it in your interior design business here.
History of Public Relations
Interior design PR has long been part of running a successful business, but where did PR get its start? You might be surprised to learn that public relations have a long history, dating back more than 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians and Sumerians. Many historians claim that this is the first time that PR was used, though its format was crude. It consisted of messages written across walls and on stone tablets.
As you likely know it today, the public relations industry first emerged in the United States, though many people disagree on what the origins of PR looked like.
The first examples that many cite are the ads posted around towns for the circus. The three-ring circus was a traveling extravaganza heavily advertised in the towns it visited. This advertising on behalf of the circus is thought to be the origin of PR for celebrities.
Others believe that the origins of PR are related to the early U.S. railroad and oil companies. Their public relations strategy wasn’t as entertaining as the circus, but it paved the way for small and large businesses to have their own PR departments.
The very first PR firm known as The Publicity Bureau was founded in 1900. This set the stage for others to follow suit while business clients lined up for help with their advertising, marketing, and PR.
Is PR the Same as Advertising?
Many interior designers interested in a public relations strategy are a little unclear on how PR differs from advertising. While both are great strategies to implement while growing your blossoming interior design business, they have separate functions.
Advertising focuses on paid space such as print media ads, billboards, flyers, and posters. Moreover, it can also expand to include paid social media advertising in the digital age.
The basic premise here is that advertising is something that you are paying for if you want to get in front of more potential clients. Advertising is a great way to grow your business if you are careful about where you invest your dollars.
On the other hand, a public relations strategy does not necessarily cost you any money unless you hire a public relations specialist to help you out. Instead, PR focuses on marketing that you can earn by providing the media with specific information about your business.
To give you an example, PR often takes the form of a press release or a pitch to a major trade publication. When media outlets feature your business, it’s known as “earned media.” It’s like an advertisement you don’t have to pay for.
If you want to take full advantage of public relations tactics, it will require some time and effort on your part. It isn’t as simple as paying someone a few hundred dollars to create a new ad campaign for you. Instead, you will have to learn how to write a pitch and be persistent in your pursuit of new PR promises.
What Is the Purpose of PR?
Now that you know the key differences between advertising and PR, you might wonder how you decide which one to invest in. Public relations play a key role in the branding of your business, so you may want to consider hiring a PR expert to help you develop a strategy that will last your business for years to come.
What is the real purpose behind a PR strategy? For most small business owners, it promotes a variety of things:
- Keeps potential customers and the general public up to date on what the business offers
- Creates a narrative about the business that entices potential clients
- Takes advantage of opportunities for free publicity
It boils down to enhancing or building up a reputation or brand for yourself. This is why PR can be so crucial for interior designers who are just getting started with their own practice or small firm. You need to ensure that your business is positioned favorably in the marketplace and get started on the right foot.
Small businesses often find that PR is the best way to go if they want to build trust with their audience. Instead of paying to be placed in front of customers, you will have earned your spot in press releases, magazines, and more. In addition, clients can tell when you paid for advertising versus when it was freely given due to your expertise. This subtle difference can influence someone’s perception, looking more favorably toward the non-paid promotion.
How to Get Started with a Public Relations Strategy
If you are ready to dive into a public relations strategy headfirst, then it’s time to learn some simple tactics and techniques that you can use to grow your business in this way. Follow some of these key tips to help your PR strategy get off the ground.
Research Trade Publications that Target Your Audience
Keep in mind that PR is all about advertising that you did not pay for. While it is easy to call up a trade publication and purchase an advertisement out of your marketing budget, it may not have the same effect as writing an article for that publication. So get comfortable writing a pitch to share some insight with your audience.
First, make sure that you research the trade publications read by your clients. Know your target audience and what they tend to read in their spare time. One way to narrow down the list of potential applications is to create a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a fictional character representing your typical customer, guiding your efforts, and can help you to acquire more clients.
Next, when you find a promising publication, look at their editorial calendars to see what types of articles these trade publications accept and when.
Many magazines accept submissions about four to six months ahead of scheduled publication. So if you want to write a piece for the winter holidays, for example, you may need to submit it in June or July to be sure that it will be considered for one of these timely spots.
Focus on Local Media
While it can be tempting to try for national publications and media attention right away, you will likely have more success by focusing on local media. This means that you should be sharing your press releases with local news stations and outlets. In addition, offer to write a guest column for a local magazine that focuses on home décor.
Make a list of all of the resources found in your community and start to get your name in front of them, one by one. Once you have a few credentials under your belt, you can transition to a wider audience if that’s what you prefer.
Put Yourself Out There
One of the simplest public relations tactics that you can try on your own is to put yourself out there more.
Keep up with the current events in your area, whether that means in local neighborhoods, the county, or even the state. When you see another business share an article or a picture that you love, don’t be afraid to reshare it and tag them in it.
This genuine flattery may lead to a partnership between you and that company with repetition. If you aren’t sure how to do this, you may want to consider bringing on a PR professional who can help you manage these social media channels.
Growing Your Business with PR
Without the help of a PR specialist, gaining traction with these sorts of pitches can take some time. You will need to remember that public relations is a long-term game that can pay huge dividends in the months and years ahead. So try not to feel too discouraged if your first few pitches get rejected.
Keep going and bring on professional help if you fail to notice any traction after a while. At first, this may feel like a strain on your budget, but remember that you won’t be paying for advertising spots with PR.
This can save you a bundle, put you in front of more leads, and generate more trust between your business and your audience. Investing in PR tactics can be quite helpful.
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