In this week's expert PR opinion we speak to Molly Schoneveld, President of The Storied Group:
Tell us about your agency?
The Storied Group is a boutique Los Angeles agency at the intersection of entertainment and lifestyle. We specialize in talent, hotels, and interior design.
And how did you get into interiors PR?
When I started my agency with a partner in 2008, one of our first clients was a designer with lots of celebrity clients.
My partner and I met while working at the biggest talent PR firm in LA. So we understood that world and each had an interest in design, it was a natural fit.
One of our next big interiors clients had been the face of a big HGTV show, but wanted to be taken more seriously in the design world.
So, over the years we launched her store and design firm, putting them on the map in the LA Arts District.
What has been the best PR campaign you have ever run as an agency?
Bringing the legendary Golden Door Spa back to life. Following a $15 million dollar refurbishment in 2014, the team at Southern California’s iconic Golden Door luxury wellness resort engaged our team. We had to spread the word and re-introduce the property to a younger, more aspirational generation while maintaining the integrity of the brand and retaining the brand’s loyal, long-time clientele.
We created a multi-faceted marketing and communications strategy encompassing celebrity/influencer relations, media outreach, and brand partnerships with the ultimate goal of breathing new life into the brand’s identity, while building interest and excitement within a new demographic.
As a company we reached out to target media outlets, telling the story of Golden Door and promoting the resort’s world class spa services, workshops, and fitness/wellness offerings as well as the reinvigorated rooms, lush new biodynamic gardens and F&B program.
We carefully selected top-tier journalists, A-list celebrities, and high-profile influencers from around the globe to experience Golden Door firsthand and conceptualized brand partnerships, secured guest speakers, curated events and pop-ups, and booked top talent for an unprecedented ad campaign—all to move the needle for the brand and reaffirm the property’s foothold as one of the world’s premier wellness destinations. In January of 2019 we were named the World’s Most Iconic Spa by Conde Nast Traveler.
What are the 3 most important lessons you have learned in PR?
1) Learn the value of saying no. If a client isn’t right, saying no opens up space for someone who is right.
2) Don’t discount your services out of fear. You can market yourself through price, so if you want better clients, making your service cheaper likely won't attract better clients.
3) Relationships are everything. It’s becoming harder and harder to maintain strong relationships in our fragmented media state, but it’s worth the effort.
How has the Coronavirus affected your industry?
Companies don’t have the money to invest in PR as much, so overall client retention is way down across our industry. It’s also changed what the media is talking about. The first two months, it was all about working from home, Zoom was trending, and the question was how are we going to make this work. Then it became about how companies and people are giving back and helping in a time of crisis. Now to get a story, it really has to be relevant to what is happening in the world right now. In design, it’s virtually impossible to get an office tour because nobody is really working out of an office.
Do you think, given the current economic crisis, that there will be an overall shift of publications going exclusively online, or do you think there will always be a place for print?
I think there will always be a place for print, but it will look very different. Rather than being a monthly “newsy” publication, it will be way less frequent and more of an art piece—something to display on your coffee table.
Do you envisage a day when social media influencers are more influential than mainstream journalists/publications?
I hope not. That’s not a dig on influencers because we work with them all the time and many of my friends are influencers, but journalists have a code of ethics that we have come to trust. It’s why many of the major news outlets like the Wall Street Journal won’t let their staff accept trips or gifts. When we start believing opinions (especially sponsored opinions through money or gifts) over well researched facts, that’s when we are really vulnerable to wrong information.
Do you think social media platforms more important in interiors PR than in other industries?
I don’t necessarily think it’s more important than in other industries, but I do think it’s important. Design is so visual and social media, especially Instagram and Pinterest, have given designers a platform to be discovered. I am a huge believer in putting the most energy into what you own, though—like your own website. Look at Tik Tok—if it does in fact get banned in the US, influencers who rely solely on that platform will be out of work. So, use social media, but don’t let it be the only way you get business.
Could an interior designer who is just starting off and has a limited budget, do their own PR?
Anyone who is savvy enough and has enough time can learn how to do just about anything in their business—PR included. The question is, do you want to spend your time doing PR or designing? PR is very time consuming. It takes lots of research and follow up. Not to mention understanding what makes a great pitch and all the nuances of protocols. If all that comes naturally to you, and you love the process, you can absolutely pitch yourself. The challenge with PR though is that it is not just about getting media placements. It’s about image and communication too. We’ve seen it time and time again during Coronavirus. Influencers and public figures who have taken to social media themselves to give a statement in response to backlash. It’s been career ending for many.
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