Workshop Review: What the Media Wants
On Thursday 9/10, guests joined our expert panel for a discussion titled What the Media Wants – Media, Brand & PR Today.
The panel was moderated by Channon Hodge, Producer at CNN. Panelists include: Eleanor Gibson, Editor, Dezeen US; David Weber, CEO, Architizer; Jaime Derringer, Founder of Design Milk and Bradley Hagan, Director, Camron PR.
Video & Audio Playback
COVID has highlighted the greatest economic disparity in the last 20 years. It’s on the homepage as you see new car designs, new building designs, along with huge unemployment numbers. How do brands navigate this?
[In relation to Black Lives Matter] I think it would be nice if everyone accepts that it is a group learning proces than a moment to cancel, lash out, to punish, but that seems to be an ongoing process for everyone. The audience is very loud right now, which is good and bad.
I just finished a story about the environment and how not traveling is affecting the environment. I was abe to talk with two amazing researchers, both women, based in Sydney, Australia which is something we might not have done before. That makes diversity and inclusion so much easier. That’s one thing I hope sticks going forward.
If you have video, that should be one of the first things you say in your pitch. Varied video, not just one or two shots – something that actually looks good. We need video not just for our platform, but for all of our social platforms… in order to make a one minute video, we need ten short shots.
If you have a beautiful new hotel and you are shooting video, please don’t hire beautiful six foot tall models for the shoot. It looks fake and it doesn’t get past our editing standards. Do a friends and family event instead and tell friends and family you’ll be using the imagery for press.
How we talk about COVID and Black Lives Matter is something we’re still figuring out – an iterative process. We’re looking for cues from the community… We’re always watching the feedback we’re getting and iterating from there.
We saw people looking at microhousing, with people feeling trapped in small spaces, or “rural” and “farm” became trending searches – I think with people looking for that escapism.
COVID has changed a lot of things – telemedecine was taking forever and now, on a dime, it’s super normal to meet your doctor remotely. Just as definitions of luxury are evolving, what makes a great living space? It used to be really open – open kitchen, living space, now, if you’re going to be in that space all day with your family, you want to break that space up, create privacy, moveable walls, acoutsitc privacy is super interesting and important now. In architecture, these things take time, but interiors can be rennovated and iterated on a little bit more nimbly.
It has been really striking to watch the fabric of the city… What are streets for, should we have all this space given over to automobiles? Bang – all of a sudden, we should close off this space for restaurants. Cities are closing off entire blocks so kids can ride their bikes… It will be interesting to see the lasting impacts that will stay after we’ve been forced to experiement with these things.
You can really tell the difference between someone who is sending something out broadly with a ‘spray and pray’ strategy, and someone who is taking a thoughtful and nuanced approach to really think through how their project is connected to the larger stories in scooiety and why someone on our team might want to tell it. I think going that step deeper than thinking about the platform to the specific writer – I think that’s where press agents can make a big difference… so finding a partner to help you tell that story can be extremely helpful in landing stories.
[In relation to diversity and inclusion] The population of licensed American architects is nowhere close to the [racial] population percentages within the US as a whole. I saw some research that came out of Princeton that counted up design collaborations, and found that leading brands are doing 1% of collaborations with minority designers. From the inception of Architizer, or goal has been to democratize great design, and give people a change to show great design coming out of all parts of the world. We’re excited to try to leverage Architizer into a more inclusive place, but it’s not something that changes overnight.
Something else really excited to watch is VR, as a way to get a more immersive sense of how a building feels. It hasn’t gotten to the place where it’s really easy to transmit via media, but it’s something we’re keeping close tabs on.
We found that our great architecture stories describing rural, beautiful houses were still popular. I myself, writing about the pandemic every day, found that writing those stories was a bit of escapism for me from the news. We’re a news outlet, but we’re also a point of escape for a lot of people. We felt a responsibility to ensure we could give people a little bit of joy in that time.
I think people’s idea of luxury has probably changed over this time, so that a cabin in the woods is the most luxurious thing you can think about… It’s definitely a point of escape, but in general I think we’re changing our thinking about how we want to live and how we perceive luxury.
We recently wrote about a hair salon in New York that just opened which was designed during the pandemic and adapted it to meet with social distancing guidelines. We had before floorplan and an afer floorplan. It became a really strong story. It was simple how the changes had been made – it was a really clear and easy way to tell a story. It was an example of a strong pitch because it was so relevant to going on and it had that beautiful, clicky part to it.
Having video becomes a really strong element for any pitch. Some of our strongest stories start with a one minute video. They are so easy to share on social channels. It’s one minute long and people can get everything they need from it with some captions we’ve edited in. They are really popular. If you have video make a big deal out of it, and if you don’t have it, think about making one.
Do you wait until the storm passes and then launch? Not everyone has the luxury to make that decision; some people just have to move forward. If you are moving forward, what’s the appropriate tone to strike? …You need to be grounded in reality.
As a communications professional, we need to be really respectful of the media and understanding of what context they need to communicate to their readers and provide them wih information that can help them achieve those goals.
The challenge is: if you’re a luxury brand, you’re a luxury brand. You can’t reimagine your entire business model because we’re going through such a challenging economic period. We have seen people innovate who are luxury – which is great… but I don’t know how business can apologize for the lane they have taken – whether they are expensive or affordable. It really comes down to timing and context.
You are often tied to these global tentpole moments in which you are centering your sales and communications strategies and that has all been wiped away now. It’s giving everyone the opportunity to try something new. I’m witnessing first hand strategies that are going to be far more successful that showing up in Milan and being part of this global moment. You are able to do what is ripe for the product or give yourself more time to roll it out… We will go back to those moments, because there is so much that happens there… but we can take forward the thigns we’ve learned that really work during this time and we can go back from the things that have impaired us while we’re all so dispirate.
Even before you decide to engage the media, there is a lot of work that brands need to do beforehand. They need to put together a key messaging platform, given where we are right now, how is it relevant now, how does it exist today? You need to be really clear on that before going to the media.
[In relation to Black Lives Matter] Our first piece of advice on this was: before you communicate externally about this, communicate internally. Consumers are expecting brands to take a stand, but it can’t be the first go. It has to be a real commitment to your people and your customers that you are comitted to this issue and that you will make change.
If you’re a European company and you don’t have a partner in the US, call a friend, make a friend, find someone who can let you know what the day to day is because ultimately we’re all very sensitive these days!
We definitely received some press releases that weren’t appropriate for the time. But we also had a lot of communications professionals reaching out to us and asking us: ‘What do you want from us right now, do you want products, interiors, architecture?’ I think it’s really important for the relationships between the media and press professionals to able to have that dialogue.
We started doing more intimate video conversations, started getting more human… we care about the business enough that we don’t want these small businesses to go out of business. We need to be performing that service for them and making sure that whole ecosystem is chugging along.
People are getting together in pods… so they are not isolated. It might change the ways that we repurpose unused space in cities. It might change the ways we look at areas outside major metropolitan cities and how they are being utilized, seeing people spreading out.
We’ve been able to put design and architectrue in context with humanity. I know that designers and architects are thinking about human beings when they design their spaces, but I think on a larger scale we’re thinking about that a little bit more. Our products don’t exist in a vacum. There are people using products every day, so how does buying a product affect social change in one way or another. Those are new things we’re starting to see in these stories.
People can shoot their own footage now. The accesibility of video and what people are willing to tolerate from a quality perspective, the bar is a little lower now, so take advantage of that.
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