In the dynamic world of architecture and design, effective communication is paramount. Architects and designers not only craft spaces but also narratives around them, and these narratives often require a skilled hand to bring them to the public eye. Today, we have the privilege of delving into the realm of media relations in the architectural and design industry with none other than David Lasker, President of David Lasker Communications based in Toronto.
David Lasker stands as a distinguished figure in the field of media relations, with a career spanning decades. His expertise in helping architects and designers navigate the complex landscape of media and communications has made him an invaluable resource in the industry. Through his strategic insights and innovative approaches, he has facilitated the sharing of groundbreaking architectural and design projects with the world.
In this exclusive interview, David Lasker will share his wealth of knowledge and experience. He will explore the evolving role of media relations in architecture and design, shedding light on how architects and designers can effectively communicate their vision and values to a wider audience. From crafting compelling narratives to utilizing digital platforms and traditional media, his insights promise to be a treasure trove for those seeking to elevate their presence in the industry.
RTF: What is media relations and what role does it play in a public relations campaign?
David: As a specialist in media relations, I procure coverage for my clients in the media, which in turn means that I get feature stories published about them in so-called traditional media: magazines, newspapers and their respective websites, which not only duplicate features stories appearing in the hardcopy edition of a publication, but also include web-only extras. “New” media venues such as blogs and freestanding websites are also on my media contact list.
Successful media relations gives you a presence that builds brand awareness and prestige because getting published in a respectable journal is a form of third-party endorsement. Your project occupies real estate on the page because it has been deemed newsworthy by the editor, who pays a staff writer or freelancer to write the story based on the materials in our media kit.
Editorial coverage is more credible than advertising because anyone can buy an ad. Moreover, advertising is merely tooting your own horn.
Traditional media outlets have been badly battered by the defection of advertisers to Google and Facebook. Consequently, magazines and newspapers have fewer writers on staff and lower freelance budgets. Now more than ever, journalists rely on, and are delighted to receive, a comprehensive, well-written media kit, so that they can cut-and-paste whole bleeding chunks of text from the press release into their stories, finish early and sip sherry at their local pub’s happy hour.
Indeed, our press releases have often published verbatim, word for word, comma for comma, as feature stories in trade journals.
Where does media relations stand with respect to other marketing tools? Media relations is a one-way broadcasting tool. Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.), on the other hand, is a two-way conversation. It works in a complementary way by interacting, building relationships and connecting emotionally with clients.
The biggest chunk of design firms’ marketing budgets goes to pursuits: responding to RFPs (requests for proposals). For government and large commercial work, typically, responding to proposals is how one gets the gig and keeps the cash flowing.
However, you cannot grow your firm by favouring proposals alone. Firms that favour proposals over building brand awareness eventually lose their way. They become less visible and salient. They’re no longer perceived as major players.
RTF: How does a successful media relations strategy help your clients grow their business?
David: If your work is widely published, your firm will be perceived as prestigious. You will be able to bill accordingly, and recruit the best and brightest staff members.
RTF: Who do you consider to be members of the media in 2023? Newspapers, magazines, TV news? Bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers?
David: They all have their niche, but for me, magazines and newspapers hold pride of place because they are typically perceived as being more disinterested and authoritative.
RTF: Can a design firm successfully create and execute their own DIY media relations strategy?
David: Create your own campaign? That reminds me of the old computer saying: Garbage in, garbage out. Good designers aren’t necessarily good writers; architects in particular are prone to affecting a ponderous, jargon-laden style.
RTF: How does (or how should) a company’s media relations impact the rest of their marketing strategy? How do you align media relations with the rest of an interior designer’s marketing efforts?
David: As an outsider, I’m well-positioned to provide the 40,000-foot, big-picture view.
When you begin working with an interior designer,
- How does the process work?
- What do you do for them?
- What would be expected from them?
- How do you describe success? What should the client expect in the best-case scenario?
- What is the ROI?
I look at photography of their projects to see what’s newsworthy: “cool,” original, different, inspiring. If the project is unpublished and relatively recent, it’s fodder for a media campaign.
One can easily calculate ROI on advertising or social media campaigns: Publishers can provide their circulation figures; Hootsuite Insights provides analytics and performance statistics for social media.
However, determining ROI on media relations is difficult if not impossible because the return often plays out over years. For instance, design-savvy folks who are contemplating a kitchen renovation, say, typically accumulate a bulging scrapbook of clippings from feature stories in newspapers and magazines before picking up the phone and hiring a designer.
RTF: Interior design is traditionally a highly local business. When developing a media relations plan for a new client, how do you approach local vs. national and international media sources?
David: The point of media relations is to get press hits in publications your clients read. They probably don’t read architecture and design journals published overseas.
RTF: Please name a few of the better-known design-related firms you have worked with.
David: Many “biggies” grace the Clients and Testimonials section of our website, including
RTF: How important are your relationships with members of the media to the success of your clients’ campaigns?
David: It helps to be on cordial terms with editors who are the gatekeepers at your target publications.
RTF: What goes into a good media relations pitch?
David: Of necessity, this varies depending on the project at hand. There’s no one “secret sauce.”
RTF: Many designers use a blog as a way of building brand through content marketing. How does media relations impact a designer’s content marketing efforts
David: Google recognizes not just that your name is mentioned, but also where it’s mentioned. You will rank higher in a Google search if you have been published.
RTF: When building a brand, do you focus on the company as a whole or do you highlight the principal designer as an industry thought leader?
David: Thought leaders stand out in the marketplace. They’re the ones everyone quotes and namedrops, who keynote the biggest conferences, land the TV interviews and write the bestselling business books.
To that end, we ensure that quotes from the client firm’s principal (or whoever we designate as the campaign’s “talking head”) figure heavily in every press release we write. Moreover, we make it easy for journalists to interview him or her.
RTF: How important is video in media relations?
David: Video is an important component in your social media channels; less so with traditional media.
RTF: What are media companies looking for?
David: What is the editor of the newspaper or magazine you want to appear in looking for? Read a few issues from front to back and you’ll know! Next, give them what they want.
Here are the components of a typical public relations marketing campaign:
Step 1: Information gathering and project planning:
Working with our client, David Lasker Communications (DLC) will determine project schedule, information gathering and approval protocols.
Step 2: Creating the media kit:
This is a basic tool that can serve many different purposes. It contains comprehensive information about your firm, you and projects you have undertaken in a concise, readable and organized format. It also contains high-res images. Here are a few ways it can be used.
- Its initial use is with the media. Obviously, a media kit makes it fast and easy for press to write a story about you. It is usually sent out with a press release, which contains news—a new project you have landed, completed etc. When the press approaches you, it will save you from having to answer a lot of routine questions.
- Reformatted for a non-media audience, it becomes an information kit that economically provides information a prospective client needs when deciding whether to use your services.
- The information it contains can be used to refresh your website, in brochures and as content for your social media channels.
Step 3: Media kit components:
Media kit components typically include:
- Brief introductory letter to editors
- Press release on the project du jour
- Biography backgrounder on you, the designer
- Backgrounder on your firm
- High-res images and thumbnails of photography, plans, drawings (Properly lit, superb photography, such as David Lasker Photography provides, is table stakes.)
- Cutlines (captions) for photos
- Contact sheet of thumbnail photos
- High-res headshot photo
Step 3: Creating the media contact list:
- Who should your media kit go to? Where would you like to be published? We will identify the appropriate media contacts. We will not send a media kit just to a publication, or to a section at a publication, but to a person—the right person—at that publication.
- Each time we do a media campaign, we will validate the media contact list because journalists tend to move around. The editor we spoke to at a certain newspaper for your last media campaign may no longer work there.
Step 4: Sending the media kit to media contacts:
- We will send a personalized email message to each media contact that includes a few project photos and a link to download the complete media kit from our FTP site.
- Publications like to have exclusivity, so we prioritize the contact list, send the media kit to one publication at a time and do follow up before sending the media kit to the next publication on the list.
- Our fee is $150/hr plus GST. A media campaign typically ranges from 25 to 35 hours. The first media kit requires more hours than subsequent media kits because after the company backgrounder and bios are written, they rarely require major modification.
David’s extensive media relations and expertise in writing and photography help ensure effective PR campaigns and strong results for our clients in the A&D community. Before starting his own company, David was Vice President at MarketLink Communications, where his clients included Artemide, HBF, HOK, IBI Group, Nienkamper, Teknion, Sylvania, and Global Group, Canada’s largest manufacturer of office and healthcare furniture. One of his assignments for Global was to write the firm’s 40th-anniversary history book.
David’s design stories have appeared in over 100 periodicals, from Architectural Digest to Zoomer. He has held key roles at major design publications in Canada and the U.S., including Interior Design (Canadian correspondent), where one of his cover stories introduced Yabu Pushelberg to an international audience; The Los Angeles Times (design columnist); The Globe and Mail (founding Fashion and Design Editor); Canadian Interiors (Editor‐in‐Chief); Canadian House and Home (editorial board); and OfficeInsight (Canadian correspondent).
He has been a speaker at trade shows and conventions for: Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO), Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario (AATO),
Construct Canada, IIDEX NeoCon, Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), and SIDIM Salon du Design.
As an architectural photographer, he has worked for high-profile firms including Kasian, +VG Architects (The Ventin Group), and Wilsonart.
Away from the office, David continues his first career as a musician, performing with orchestras and chamber ensembles around the GTA. (He emigrated to Canada, after graduating from Juilliard and Yale, to play principal bass in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra). He can be heard as the solo bass player on Canadian Panorama, world-premiere recordings commissioned for the Winds of the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra, on Cambria CD-1227, distributed by Naxos.