The media landscape has changed by leaps and bounds in the past few years — so as a designer, should you still hire a publicist to get your work out into the world? In Episode 6 of the Chairish Podcast, Michael Boodro sits down with three PR industry experts — Elizabeth Blitzer, Sarah Boyd, and Lauren Urband — to discuss when hiring a publicist is a valuable investment, and when it’s not. 

Get to know our expert guests:

With nearly 20 years of experience in public relations, Lauren Urband launched her career at LaForce and Stevens and Magrino Public Relations in New York before moving to Los Angeles to work as the in-house director of public relations and marketing for Kelly Wearstler. Later, Lauren worked at Starworks and HL Group until she launched her own PR company, The Consultancy PR, in 2015. Her brand clients include Chairish, Dacor, and Design Within Reach, and her designer clients include Cortney Bishop, Kevin Isbell, and Nicole Hollis, among others.

PR industry veteran Sarah Boyd has worked in a range of realms, including interior design, luxury lifestyle, real estate, and hospitality. She previously trained at LaForce and Stephens and HL Group and then ran communications for Calvin Klein Home. Two years ago, she opened her own firm, Sarah Boyd Co., focused on strategic PR and brand development. Her clients include Beth Webb, Mark Cunningham, Progress Lighting, and Waterworks.

Elizabeth Blitzer is the founder of New York-based PR agency Blitzer & Company, which focuses on PR, marketing, and brand identity. She first worked as a school teacher in Nashville, before she came to New York and started in PR at Susan Becher and Associates. Her clients include Flair and Thomas O’Brien.

In this episode, we dive into:

  • How to expand PR opportunities beyond print magazines
  • The limitations of Instagram
  • Working with influencers
  • The value of regional publications
  • Exclusivity agreements
  • How to leverage projects on various fronts
  • The career point at which to hire a designer
  • Advice for young / newer designers
  • Choosing goals with clients

Check out these resources for more information:

  • An intro to what publicists do via Elle Decor
  • Lauren Urband’s webinar on how to generate buzz about your design business via Chairish
  • An interview with Elizabeth Blitzer via the Lifestyle Edit

Connect with Chairish and our guests on Instagram:


Michael Boodro  0:00  

This is a Chairish podcast and I’m your host Michael Boodro.

Today we’re talking about public relations and our vastly changed media landscape, where coverage of design and newspapers and shelter magazines has declined. And designers can promote their work instantly via social media. Does PR still have an impact? What can it do for a designer’s career? And is it worth the investment? I’m fortunate today to have three top design PR specialists with us. In Los Angeles we have Lauren Urband, who after working at the major New York PR firms Laforce + Stevens, and Stevens and Susan Magrino, moved to Los Angeles and worked in house for Kelly Wearstler. She launched her firm the Consultancy PR in 2015 and now works with brands including Chairish, Design Within Reach and designers Cortney Bishop, Kevin Isbell, and Nicole Hollis, among others. Welcome Lauren.

Lauren Urband  1:17  

Thank you. Happy to be here.

Michael Boodro  1:18  

I’m also pleased to welcome Sarah Boyd. Sarah trained at  Laforce + Stevens and HL group before joining the staff at Calvin Klein to run communications for Calvin Klein Home. Two years ago, she started Sarah Boyd Company focused on strategic PR and brand development for a roster including Beth Webb, Carrier and Company, Mark Cunningham, Progress Lighting and Waterworks. Hello, Sarah. Finally, we have Elizabeth Blitzer. After working as a school teacher in Nashville, Elizabeth came to New York and almost by accident ended up working with design PR powerhouse Susan Becher for 10 years. Then she founded her own firm Blitzer and Company in 2010, focusing on PR marketing and brand identity among her clients at the prestigious design shop, Flair. I believe they were one of your first clients. And designer Thomas O’Brien. Thank you for being here, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Blitzer  2:09  

Thank you for having us.

Michael Boodro  2:12  

So I wanted the three of you to talk about PR, because I know I’ve worked with all three of these wonderful women over the years. And I know how hard working they are and how dedicated they are to their clients and how much they love design. But there’s been a lot of changes, as we all know. So I wanted to get a sense. And Laura, why don’t we start with you. How do you feel your role has changed in terms of presenting your clients work, because whether they’re a designer or a brand, there are not as many traditional outlets as there once were. So how do you overcome that? How do you mitigate that? Or is it social media? What’s the answer? What do you find yourself working on more these days, Lauren?

Lauren Urband  2:53  

Yeah, no, I think that’s a great question. And something that we’re often asked by clients and prospective clients. I mean, you know, as I’m sure all of you know, all of us did, we grew up in this industry and sort of learned that print was everything. And digital was really nothing when we all started out. But now, you know, the landscape has changed so dramatically. And, you know, we really have to educate our clients who think that there’s only really two magazines that are worth anything, that there’s so much more out there. So, for our clients, we work a lot with digital publications and we work on a lot of social media takeovers, and things like that. So, you know, there’s so many different touch points to PR these days that, you can’t really focus on any one thing. You have to kind of focus on everything.

Michael Boodro  3:36  

I’m kind of focused on which of the two magazines you think are the most important.

Lauren Urband   3:42  

Yeah, but I mean, I think, you know. We are also trying to educate them that there’s more than just the two magazines that shall remain nameless. But you know, we also look at international publications, because you know, there is so much more reach that you can have on a global scale than just whatever’s immediately in front of you. So, again, it’s really about looking at every possible angle that you can on behalf of your clients, it’s not enough just to be in a handful of publications. You’re not going to reach as broad an audience as if you’re truly looking at everything.

Elizabeth Blitzer 4:13  

Right, I think you also have to be a little bit more – I mean, obviously, I think we’d all agree you have to be a lot more creative than we once were. But I think too, you have to think about the opportunity for if you’re talking about designers, the opportunities can’t just be their projects getting published in a print magazine.There are a lot of other places if you flip through a magazine, where a designer can be recognized and name called out. I mean, Michael, we’d have to tell you how few places there are in a magazine for a feature and of someone’s home. So the odds were already against us when we had 30 magazines within the space you know, and now the focus is narrowed. People are so much more savvy about how to get press on their own, which is amazing. So I think you just have to be a little bit more creative about where you’re reaching out, you know, as far as publications. Like Lauren was saying, digital outlets, but I think you can also be creative in what you’re getting for them. So many people are breaking apart projects now for really great placements, whether it’s national newspapers, of the caliber of like the Wall Street Journal, or the New York Times. I mean, they’re all doing articles on a regular basis. They’re really covering home. And I think that’s the exciting part is that there really is such an interest in the world, in the consumer world and home, that in some ways where a lot of doors have closed, a lot of new doors have opened.

Lauren Urband  5:43  

The newspaper’s reach is so huge. 

Michael Boodro  5:45  

Right. Well, you know, I was sad when the Times New York Times dropped the home section. That was kind of the low point for design, but it does seem to be coming back, and T magazine, and the real estate section, are all covering design in different ways. So I think these are great outlets. But is it hard to convince your clients? I mean, one of the things that I would think is that there’s probably now designers who think, oh, as long as I Instagram, I don’t have to do anything else. Have you found that to be the case, Sarah?

Sarah Boyd  6:12  

I mean, I think I’m lucky in that. They can be patient. And maybe young designers don’t have the patience. Maybe if some of the more experienced designers do. And they say certain projects, they really do want to see the imprint. And they can wait. Or go like, guys, you mentioned Lauren International, and some of those international books are beautiful, and the paper quality is amazing. And sometimes that’s worth the weight. Otherwise, they do trust my judgment to say, okay, this is really the right time to go Times or Off Duty. And that is so worth it. I think so many varied people read those publications, who are decision makers, and have the budget to hire a designer, and I think it’s really important to consider.

Michael Boodro  6:56  

Okay, so I have a dual part question. One of them is within the digital realm, and certainly the rise of Instagram has really accelerated, but like, a few years ago, it was all about blogs. There were whole special events for bloggers, there were dinners and special breakfast everything for bloggers. Now that seems to have diminished, or is that just me? Yeah.

Sarah Boyd  7:17  

Yeah. Isn’t that funny? There used to be Blogger day? 

Michael Boodro  7:20  

Exactly. They’re all those kinds of things, and Kips Bay had bloggers. So that has changed. But Instagram filled that void.

Elizabeth Blitzer  7:27  

Well, but I sort of beg to differ a little bit. Because, you know, I feel like for my business, I would imagine this is for all of ours, that we all work in a few categories. That is, you know, our clients, our interior designers, manufacturers, product companies. And for me, I would say the third category is sort of that retail business. And so people who are not making their own products that are selling and you know, need to get those out into the world. And what I find is that, yes, there is a lot of sort of strategy involved when we’re doing social media or PR, per se, but there is longevity, as far as how long, whatever you’re putting out into the world lasts online. But for us, you know, when we’re really doing strategy, and that oftentimes, from a product point of view involves gifting products, and high negotiation and say, if we do if we give you this and you do X, Y, and Z. You know, two Instagram posts and this blog and data. And the truth is that we’re all on a learning curve. So this is, every time we do something, we learn something about it. And I think we all get really nervous, really about, like, are we doing the thing that we need to do? And what’s interesting about social media in the last, like three or four years, is that now we’ve had a little bit of rest time to see what are the things we’re not throwing things at everything. And now what I noticed with those in those negotiations is that for us, it’s very important to have it be in a blog, I mean, some things that are less expensive that you might just have an Instagram campaign. But you know, it’s like that link lives, you can do a dedicated link. You can see where your traffic is coming from, and they stay online forever. So if you Google a company, all that stuff comes up, whereas Instagram is gone. 

Michael Boodro  9:29  

Yeah, you’re in LA. And I want to ask you about this. Yeah, the influencer thing is a huge thing. You know, if you have a couple 100,000 followers, or if you have even 50,000 of the right followers, people want your attention. And I would imagine that that’s even more so in Los Angeles, or maybe not, I don’t know. But I would imagine with so much celebrity in LA, that that’s a complex and kind of rewarding, but complex way to approach things. So how do you deal with that, Lauren? Do you encourage your clients to go after influencers or your product clients?

Lauren Urband   10:01  

Yeah, absolutely. And we do that all the time, and especially for our product clients, you know, as you referenced. For us, we almost view Instagram in particular, as another media vehicle. So, you know, we might identify a small group of influencers that we think really resonate with our brand that we’re working with. And we’ll identify a couple items that they can choose from, and we’ll, you know, gift those items. And then we negotiate. It’s a contract, really, it’s not left to chance, as it maybe was when people were still sort of learning about this category. We identify, as Elizabeth had said, how many posts, what the language is going to be, what the hashtags are going to be. If they do have a blog, if there’s, you know, additional coverage on the blog, if they’re photographing it. And do we have the ability to use those images for our own press outreach to give it more legs. But I think especially from a brand perspective, it’s a great way to showcase a product through someone else’s visual lens.

Elizabeth Blitzer   10:56  

And get photography. Like, oftentimes, we selected people based on how their photography looks, because we need more of that. Everybody needs more of that, for their own use.

Sarah Boyd  11:09  

It’s funny, I would have to say that Instagram for my experience, I mean, has been amazing, like Carrier and Company has seen incredible growth over the last year through their license collections being shown on Instagram, and then people seeing them and reposting and it’s been really great and totally organic with no gifting or anything like that. But what I saw really helps on Instagram was for events, like for Field and Supply using somebody that had over 100,000 followers, which maybe in Hollywood, maybe that doesn’t mean a lot, but in our world, over 100,000 is a lot. So like an influencer posting and visiting and taking beautiful photography, I think that drives foot traffic, which is important.

Michael Boodro  11:51  

Again, the other thing I have to get back to the second part of my two part question, which God knows what I was referring to the first part was even, but I want to ask you about regional publications, because it seems to me that with the shrinking of the mainstream national shelter magazines, regional is more important. 

Sarah Boyd  Sarah Boyd 

I love it.I just want to go on record. I love the regional press.

Michael Boodro  12:11  

Okay. You know, there’s lots. There’s Cottages and Gardens and Lauren, there’s several in California. And there’s, you know, interiors. You know, Paper City and all those magazines. So, but is it ever an issue for you that a client comes in and says, you know, I want to be an Architectural Digest, I want to be an Elle Decor, I want to be in a House Beautiful. And then you say, I think you’d be great if you were in Paper City, because this is Texas. 

Elizabeth Blitzer  12:49  

I mean, I would always say, look, there is no rhyme or reason why a project is selected. Right? I mean, is that right?

Michael Boodro  12:56  

I mean, are you saying I just did my magazine randomly!? I would beg to differ.

Elizabeth Blitzer   13:02  

What I mean is like you don’t know that for all – you know, I remember House Beautiful used to have a theme, you know, for each magazine. So if you didn’t fit, like if your project wasn’t, you know, let’s say it was not true to one theme, and it didn’t make that magazine, like sometimes get cut from the possibility of any of the other ones just based on that, or that was my understanding. 

Michael Boodro  13:31  

I can’t speak for House Beautiful, I can tell you though, when I was at head to Elle Decor, I mean, we literally published 50 houses a year, at most. And, you know, it’s often a question of, you can only do so many Hamptons homes, you can only do so many penthouse apartments. So there were definitely constraints.

Elizabeth Blitzer   13:53  

I mean, I think that’s what I mean. More than anything, sometimes you think you have the most beautiful project you’ve ever seen. And you’ve seen a ton of projects, and you think this is a no brainer, this will get in somewhere. And it doesn’t. And that’s always a weird feeling. But then I think you just have to be upfront. I always think you owe it to your client to try if they have this dream of the magazine that they want. I do think you owe it to them to try because I have had people say yes to things that I couldn’t believe they said yes to say and things they said no to that I couldn’t believe they said no to. And so I sort of have that feeling that we shouldn’t be the editors on behalf of our clients. So I think there is a channel based on what the client wants. And then sometimes they just want new business. And honestly, you get more new business from regional press just because you’re expensable.

Michael Boodro  14:45  

Yeah, I would believe that. I think as we were saying a lot of the regional magazines are quite wonderful. Lauren, what are some of your favorite regional magazines on the West Coast?

Lauren Urband 14:55  

Yeah. So I mean we work with them all but I mean I love what Modern Luxury is doing with their interiors book. I think that you know, C magazine always does a beautiful job, and California Home and Design. Design LA actually is coming back and used to be part of the LA Times and now it’s going to be with another partner that’s coming back this year, which I think everyone is excited about. That was a really exciting debut when that came out. But yeah, I mean, we’re fortunate that there’s a lot of really good publications out here. But, you know, I was actually going to mention, and we were talking about the value of regional media. I’m actually in a situation right now with a client of mine, a designer who recently moved to Los Angeles. And so getting into a regional book is really important for him as he is trying to grow his clientele here. But we’re actually, you know, because the rules change every day, as I’m sure Elizabeth and Sarah can attest to, but typically, regional books are not a conflict, interestingly enough for some of the more national publications. So we’re talking to a regional about getting his work published, and then also simultaneously about the same project in a national book.

Michael Boodro  15:59  

Oh, that’s a big change.

Elizabeth Blitzer 16:01  

Wow, I’m impressed with that. Can we talk offline?

Lauren Urband   16:08  

You know, and then with that, too, you know, do you have the opportunity for some digital press, where some of them don’t have the parameters of needing an exclusive. And we’re also talking even about broadcasts, so being able to really, you know, use these projects and leverage them for everything that you can on all fronts, I think it is a bit of magic, because, it’s about navigating the waters. And, again, they’re changing on a daily basis. But, you know, at least not being afraid to ask the question, Hey, I’ve got this exclusive going in a in a regional book, but that’s probably not a conflict for you as a national, like, it’s kind of small potatoes, you know, and not being afraid to have that dialogue. So again, fingers crossed, now that I put it out in the world, that’s actually able to happen, but I don’t know.

Michael Boodro  16:51  

I think a lot of the hard and fast barriers, when I was the editor, you know we would not have done that. But I think Instagram has really broken down a lot of those barriers, because when the designer posts something wild while they’re installing, or whatever, you know, they want to put it on their website and the Internet has changed that. So I could see how that would happen now, because it’s very hard to say to a designer, if you’re the editor of a national magazine, we want to photograph this and publish it eight months from now. But in the meantime, please don’t put it on Instagram, and please don’t put it on your web. Sometimes I say that or or you know, on Instagram, only do a small detail. You know, my feeling is that I’m charging $6. My readers are paying $6 For this magazine. So they need to get something new and fresh that they haven’t seen before. But in the days of Instagram, it’s very, very different.

Lauren Urband   17:41  

Yeah, I mean, we actually have a situation right now where we’re, we’re working with a national publication on a story with one of our designers projects, and she posted the hell out of this thing on Instagram and it’s on our website. And the magazine actually didn’t have an issue with that per se. But now that they’re going to be running it, they want it taken down and archived and then it can be put back up after the magazine, which sort of was contradictory to what I always thought which was don’t even put it up in the first place until it’s placed. But it’s interesting that now people are okay with it as long as you’re able to take it down, you know, so they have sort of that kind of clear path for when the magazine comes out.

Michael Boodro  19:00  

So I want to shift a little bit here to see how you women would approach somebody who comes to you who is a talented but young designer or somebody who’s maybe not young, but they’re just starting out in the field. How do you guide them? They come to you -o you say I love your work? You’re not ready, I’ll take you on but it’s going to be a year from now. You know, a listener who’s listening and is thinking, you know, I’ve had 10 projects done but I’m not really out in the world andI want to get my work seen. What would be the process that you would do with that designer? Like let’s start with you, Sarah,

Sarah Boyd  19:32  

I would say to, rather than hire a PR company or individual, to invest the money in your brand identity and your website and beautiful photography. That would be the most important investment and to have a stylist come and help you if you’re not so good at that piece of it. It’s a major investment. But so is PR and you need those assets first before you hire somebody like us, which is also an investment. I said this, I think at the School of Interior Design, and everybody was surprised. But if you don’t have those assets, you don’t have anything. And you need to make that investment first before you do that. And also your branding, like, what is your logo? What’s your color? What’s your maybe you’re just black and white, and that’s fine. But just make it your own.

Michael Boodro  20:19  

Very consistent and beautiful right? Yeah, right. Because I can tell you, it’s very hard to get an editor to go to a location and see projects completion because they don’t have time, right? We don’t have time. Even in New York, I rarely went and saw projects.

Sarah Boyd   20:34  

And then also, I would say, to try to attend and support industry events like here in New York, Kips Bay, of course. Go to openings at different showrooms, be present, introduce yourself, and you’ll start to get to be known.

Michael Boodro  20:51  

Then at what point then do you think they’d be ready? They’ve done the photography, they’ve been schmoozing.

Unknown Speaker  20:57  

Once you have a nice array of projects, you feel comfortable financially. You have to be comfortable with yourself, and you have to be able to be patient with the process.

Michael Boodro  21:19  

Right. Elizabeth? Would you feel the same? Yeah,

Elizabeth Blitzer  21:21  

Yeah. I think that probably, I think we all and we have many colleagues who we are all very good friends with who are in the same sort of business. And that we’ve all been sort of doing it long enough to be able to look at a body of work and know, you can’t always know, but know how successful you can be for them in the early stages. Not to say that people are not mean, the one of the great things about this, you know, the new day and age for designers is that in a lot of ways is that you can rise without us and I think that, not to say that I think that we don’t offer something that is strategic and access and stuff like that. But I mean, there are so many people who have become people that we all know, because we saw them on Instagram and editor saw them on Instagram and there is something very special about an editor discovering a designer without us. But I think that you can look at the work that’s available. And you can say like, okay, I can do something for them that is going to allow me to sleep at night by taking their money, you know what I’m saying? It’s like, I totally want to make sure that I think with the young designer and then, you know, one of the first things that I always like to say to people, when they come to me is like, what is your goal? Because getting PR doesn’t always get you more work. So it’s like, I understand that there’s great reward in being recognized for work that you do when you’re in a service business and you spend your whole life catering to clients who may or may not treat you like you know, the help. So I understand why people have a need or want to do it. And then they measure themselves by what other people are getting. But I do think that there is a place to talk about, like, what are your goals? Because, you know, sometimes it’s like, do you want to get more business? Or do you want to be famous? And those two things do not always sit side by side. They don’t coincide. And you know, a lot of people think, well, I need to do this so I can get licensing deals. Well licensing deals don’t really make money anymore. So it’s like really taking a good look. And not all of them, but a lot of them don’t because the market is saturated.

Michael Boodro  23:45  

To me, it seems like there’s almost more design going on in LA than New York, because you know, there’s so much more turnover, real estate and people are always buying new houses. So how do you deal with those designers out there who really want to get known and they want to get a higher level client with a bigger budget? I would think the competition would be quite fierce in that there’s a lot of clamoring for attention among the designers. How do you handle that? Unless I am making that up. Am I totally wrong?

Lauren Urband 24:13  

No, I think that’s right. I think, you know, LA is the land of celebrities.  And I think that that trail sort of trickles down to even the design industry. I think everyone wants to be this quote unquote, famous designer and especially having worked with Kelly wearstler for all those years, you know, there’s sort of a perception that sort of magic can be applied to anyone that we work with. 

Michael Boodro  24:36  

They want to be the next Kelly wearstler, in other words.

Lauren Urband   24:39  

Yes, there’s a lot of that, and, you know, and I appreciate it. I think it’s great, but there is only one and I think it’s about figuring out for those individuals, what is their signature, and what makes them special. In terms of how we work with designers, I mean, I think that these ladies articulated it very well in terms of when we’re bringing someone on, we definitely look at the body of work. And I think, also, I would say, you know, chemistry plays a big role in that too. Because working with a designer versus a brand, there’s a lot of personal things that you have to talk about in the sense of having to give them that rejection that you hear from a magazine, or, you know, giving them your feedback about how that’s going to ultimately impact their business. So, we often take on designers who are younger in their career, but we see a real path for them. We even will come in at the very early stages where maybe they haven’t shot their projects yet, and we’ll come in and offer guidance on who they should be working with, for photographers, or how they should be styling, or do they work with a stylist. Or, you know, kind of giving them that feedback from the very, very, very early stages.

Elizabeth Blitzer 25:50  

Or what a scouting shot looks like, you know, what, how do you take it to?

Lauren Urband 25:55  

Yeah. I think sometimes when, you know, they’re left to their own devices, they’re doing it sort of in a vacuum and they don’t know, really what a magazine is looking to see. So I think it’s also helpful for us to come in, if it’s the right fit, you know, and there’s many factors that go into that. But I think that we can have a lot of value in those early stages.

Michael Boodro  26:13  

We touched on this, but I want to ask you all about what else you do. I mean, people hear the words PR, they think exposure and media, but because the media has changed so much, have you all expanded beyond that? I’d love to talk to you about what else you do. Firstly, for your brands, but also for your designers. How do you get them to do contracts, licensing deals, even though Elizabeth says you’re not gonna make any money.

Elizabeth Blitzer  26:38  

I shouldn’t say that. I think that there are plenty of people making lots of money. 

Michael Boodro  26:45  

We did an episode on the Chairish podcast about fabric lines. And basically the agreement was very few designers are going to get rich off of their fabric lines, which I sort of knew, but it was kind of interesting to hear. Nonetheless, it’s part of brand building. And it seems to me you guys in PR are really brand builders and as marketers in a way to whether it’s an individual designer or a brand, you have to really take a very holistic and larger view of things, which I would think would be more time consuming than ever.

Sarah Boyd 27:17  

More time consuming. But in a way, I find it much more exciting, a t least from my days at Calvin Klein Home. Honestly, being on my own and working hand in hand, literally hand in hand with somebody like Mark Cunningham, who just launched his own brand, and seeing his textile line really being loved by everybody. And it’s going to launch at Legends this year which is just so exciting.

Michael Boodro  27:43  

Right, So Elizabeth, you work with a lot of brands? Gow is that different? How do you get brands to come to you and say we’re looking for a young designer?

Elizabeth Blitzer 27:53  

Well, I think you know, to start a little bit, the question that you were talking about, I think one of the things that I love so much that has happened with my business is that knock on wood, I’ve had most of my clients for a very long time. And the more you’re with them, the more you are involved in long term projects, short projects, and you really get to know the ins and outs. And in the best case scenario, they involve you in a lot of decision making. And so I think I think some of that came out of our having to change what we were able to deliver, and knowing that we needed to add more value. We couldn’t just rely on the printing press, you know, but it’s turned into something that is like, my favorite part. I love the ideas and coming up with the ideas. And then watching them come to fruition and then watching them be fruitful for the people involved too, you know, and so I think that we are like, as involved, I would say for all of us were as involved, as our clients will usually let us be in any piece of their business. And the companies in the home space are oftentimes small enough that they want us for all of that, you know. I think one thing about the longer you’re in this business, for all of us, is it’s some point you’ve either worked with or for or, or on behalf of almost everybody in every piece of this business. So it’s like, if somebody has their dream of meeting, so and so, you know, to have, a lighting collection or whatever. It is the joy of the business to be able to say let me make an introduction, so I think for the clients that I work with that are manufacturers and they’re on the side of getting licensing,I love when they bring me into the conversation early enough to be able to weigh in. You don’t always get that opportunity.

Michael Boodro  29:52  

Lauren, do you find that is the same situation for you in terms of taking your brands and your designers and sort of cross fertilizing them? 

Lauren Urband 30:02  

I mean, yeah.

Michael Boodro  30:03  

How does that work? Is it any different than LA? I mean, like, somebody to do a broad collection for somebody or whatever.

Lauren Urband   30:11  

Yeah, I think it’s the same. And I think that, you know, I like what Elizabeth had said about really being a partner and extension of the team. I think that’s a philosophy that we all probably abide by. And I find that when we work with clients that really don’t let us in, and they don’t let us sort of give them our real feedback and let us kind of guide them, that’s when we run into trouble. Not that they should listen to everything we say, certainly, we’re always open to a dialogue, but I think when they’re trying to actually dictate what we do, I feel like that’s just not an effective relationship. But with regard to our designer clients in particular, again, I agree with Elizabeth. I don’t want to get into the legalities per se. But, you know, for example, when we worked with Trip Haenisch, you know, we helped him broker a book deal with Rizzoli, actually, and that was through a relationship that we had and helped give a great book to him. It helped him link him up with a producer for the book, and had the relationship with the publisher to make that connection. And that was very rewarding, because we were involved in all the shoots, we were involved in the production, the publicity, the events, the whole thing from start to finish. But you know, even on a brand on the brand side of things, we do do a lot of partnerships. We did something with a luxury tile brand. And they told us, oh, we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary, and I’m like, okay, well, everyone has an anniversary. Magazines really don’t care about that stuff. So what can we do to make them care? And so we put together a whole program where we linked them up with 20 different designers. In hindsight, I kind of regret it, because there’s a lot of work.

Sarah Boyd 31:45  

The best ideas are always the biggest ideas.

Lauren Urband   31:49  

Right. Yeah. So you know, and then we were able to pull from our client roster too and incorporate a couple of our clients in that project and some other brands and individuals that we admired, and it ended up being an amazing thing that we did. So we love that kind of cross promotion, and whenever we can, and I’m sure that you know, these ladies do this too, but when curating sort of your client base, really thinking about how you can have those opportunities to work collaboratively across clients.

Elizabeth Blitzer  32:17  

I think we’re so collaborative. We rely on each other heavily too, you know, because you never want to do something that’s just in your best interest. You would never do that if there’s a better person out there than somebody that’s on your list. You would always I mean, I think we would all agree you’d always err on the side of like, what, what is the right thing for your client? Right? And

Lauren Urband 32:47  

And you almost know, from the look of a brand or designer and your own chemistry, what’s going to work. We just rely on each other in terms of balancing calendars, and we’re not going to compete with each other on certain nights for book signing. But to your point about anniversaries, I’ll never forget, Michael Boodro, when you said to me years ago, it was related to Urban Electric. And he’s like, oh, honey, everybody has a birthday. But guess what, you found the story and you dug deep.

Elizabeth Blitzer 33:21  

Have you ever had somebody tell you they’re like they’re turning 26?

Michael Boodro  33:29  

I want to get a sense from you guys, because the media landscape has changed. And brands are slow to change, I think especially the bigger they are. So is it harder now working with brands? In terms of getting them placement, getting them placement that they value? Do they value Instagram? Or do you think that now, these design brands are really much hipper than they were, say 30 years ago or whatever, when the world was fair, much more staid and traditional?

Lauren Boyd  33:56  

I think they’re very much attuned to what’s going on.

Elizabeth Blitzer 34:02  

I think the placements are harder to get, obviously, which is what we talked about. I actually think that doesn’t seem to be an issue as much as you would think, for the client. But I think what we then have to do to deliver value to our clients is a lot harder work. So I think that probably all of our days are longer, harder. Everything that we are accomplishing for our clients, takes a lot of effort and oftentimes legwork, you know. I think that the clients understand, you know, the new landscape. Do you agree?

Sarah Boyd  34:52  

Oh, yeah. I think I told you I recently started working with an old client from HL group, and it’s been really awesome 10 years later to be together again. And we’ve all grown up. We all get it. It’s not about exclusives necessarily anymore. It’s about, you know, digging deeper into the story. Getting events nailed down and getting the product story out there. And it’s very different.

Michael Boodro  35:18  

Right. Lauren, how about in LA? Because so many of the designers show up because of the TV and, you know, million dollar decorating and all the Bravo’s HGTV shows. Is there pressure? Do you get that from brands in that they want to link up with only specific designers or, you know, to hitch their wagon to that star so that they are celebrities? Is that an issue for you?

Lauren Urband 35:41  

I mean, I don’t necessarily even think it’s just an LA thing. I think that there’s going to be certain brands that always think that you know throwing the name out there like a Nate Berkus is always going to move the needle for them. And that may be true, but I do think that, you know, those big names are more complex and there’s more involved. And so, you know, looking at some of these quote, unquote, micro micro influencers, in tandem can also have even more benefit in some ways.

Michael Boodro  36:10  

How much time should designers spend marketing themselves and doing PR, because I think doing a design project is not unlike writing a novel or whatever. You write the book, it gets published, you think the job is over. And then you realize, oh, my God, I’ve got to make sure the world sees it. And I think designers tend to underplay that aspect of their work of, you know, they get the project, if they’re lucky enough to have enough clients, if they get wealthy clients that they can stand on the radar, and they’re happy, that’s fine. And then more power to them. But you know, if you’re a young designer, you want to get known, you get the client, you get the project, you’re happy with it, you finish it, the install goes great, the clients are very happy. But that’s not going to lead you to your next client. Yeah. And I used to say, when I was at Elle Decor, but I didn’t understand why designers needed PR, because I understood brands, but it didn’t understand I said, you know, because I would look at any project, it didn’t have to come through one of you beautiful women. But we did and we seriously looked at every project that was submitted. But now I have since come to realize that reaching out to different designers. It’s always the designers that have PR people that I hear back from right away. And there are some designers who I’ve never heard back from them at all. And this is trying to do something for them. But how do you think a designer should think about marketing and PR day to day? Because it is part of their jobs. It’s part of everybody’s job practically.

Sarah Boyd 37:30  

These days, they’re going to need to show that project that they just completed and are so happy with to potential business. So that’s why photography is so important. So whether or not they want to get it published in a regional or national publication website, they need to have that professional photography done, and have a beautiful portfolio of work to show because then how else?

Michael Boodro  37:53  

Right. And Lauren, how about you? What would your advice be to a designer, so they get an internship or they hire somebody to do their social media for them? How would you say to, you know, let’s say somebody who’s got a staff of three people, and they’re working their butt off? They’ve got some clients coming in? How should they allocate the resources of time and money in terms of PR and marketing?

Lauren Urband  38:15  

Yeah, I think it’s a great question. I mean, you know, we were talking before about how there’s all these designers that are doing huge jobs that, you know, we’ve never heard of, but I think conversely, there’s a lot of these young designers that we see everywhere, but they have no work. So I do think that there’s value to allocate a person on the team to document, if you’re at a job site, or, you know, take photos of mood boards and inspiration, all of those things to help build more of a social media portfolio for you. We always advise our clients, and I think we spoke about this a little bit on the panel, during Legends last year, but just really making sure if you are posting things on Instagram, tagging your local or your vendors, you know, and showing them love in that way and attending all of your regional events, and even maybe having some meetings with local real estate companies when they’re selling homes to talk about, you know, they are hopefully getting you on the shortlist of designers that they recommend. There’s so many things that you can be doing to market yourself as a small design business. And they’re, they all play an equally important role. I think PR is a piece of that. And certainly having someone advocate for you. So you don’t have to allocate resources because it is huge. But, you know, there’s a lot you can be doing internally as well.

Sarah Boyd  39:33  

And I think that somebody once told me when I first started my business, whatever you do, whoever you hire, just make sure that you hire a millennial, because they know how to do things that you don’t know how to do, and you don’t have the patience to learn it. And she was so right. With computers and social media, it’s like I mean, it’s not that I don’t know how to do things.  I do for sure, but it’s not what you want to be doing. But it’s second nature and I think that you know, as much as millennials get bashed, they do have a very strong sense of social media and a way of working. It can just come naturally.

Michael Boodro  40:14  

Okay, one last question. I want to see if I can ask you guys to predict the future. You know, clearly, we were talking about, you know, newspapers, magazines, blogs, which have sort of faded out and somewhat Instagram, which I think is currently and I think for the foreseeable future, probably the most immediate and impactful way to get your work out there. Is there anything you see on the horizon that’s next? Do you think, TV? Do you think cable? Do you think any form now that’s going to video?  Do you think video via YouTube?

Sarah Boyd  40:51  

I was gonna say something so old school, newsletters. I know that sounds so weird. But I think a really beautiful, focused, well designed newsletter, almost like an email, newsletter, email, or even printed.

Elizabeth Blitzer  41:10  

I don’t know how you’re gonna get everybody’s mailing address these days.

Sarah Boyd 41:13  

Now, I know, well, it’s going to be very focused. And it’s something that I always say, like, you know, I do need to read, thank you to everybody.

Elizabeth Blitzer  41:21  

And I think that that is probably a version of saying that creating your own content.

Sarah Boyd 41:26  

And I think that if it’s beautifully done, it can be so impactful, and something that somebody will keep.

Michael Boodro  41:35  

What about you, Lauren?

Lauren Urband  41:37  

Yeah, I actually don’t know. I mean, I think that those are both really interesting. I think that we’re seeing a lot more of this curated Instagram content. And it’s just a curation of content. They’re not even some of the stuff they’re selling off of there. But really, it’s just a curation of beautiful content that fits their brand aesthetic. And so I think that it’s going to be interesting to see if there’s more of these Instagram platforms or social media platforms that actually serve almost like a media like, like a publication. In a sense.

Elizabeth Blitzer  42:06  

I think the future is looking very bright, so everybody can be very hopeful.

Michael Boodro  42:09  

So I want to thank my wonderful guests, Sarah Boyd, Lauren Urband, and Elizabeth Blitzer. And I hope that all of you have taken some valuable lessons here about how to get your great work out into the world. Thank you. 

March 4, 2020

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