It goes against our better instincts; pitching new products or unpublished projects to editors while sheltering in place.
But after a month of Covid 19 lockdown and another on the horizon, we thought it time to check in with publications and to ask editors (both online and print) and podcasters how designers and small businesses can be a helpful resource, support their work and build respectful relationships during this difficult time. After all, we’re in this together. Here’s what they had to say.
Is it insensitive to pitch right now? Or are you still in need of projects and new products?
It’s definitely OK to pitch. Things are basically business as usual for us, albeit at home. I work only on print, and we’re closing the June issue now. We’ve planned and shot July/August, and are finalizing September. We may be looking for additional September home feature content and could be open to pick up; this is where our shoot schedule becomes a little less certain, since we’re not sure we’ll be able to get back on location or into a studio in time for fall shoots.
What are you in most need of now?
I can’t totally speak to online since I’m not involved in content planning for online, but I know we’re always interested in beautiful home tours that suit our same print aesthetic (not too high end, very personal, lived-in), and we have a special focus on how-to projects so that readers can do and learn while they’re stuck at home – we’re calling that a new series called Home School.
In addition to your daily online content schedule, have you amped up production during this time?
Yes! People are consuming more content than ever and as a home brand people are wanting to offer helpful design and decorating advice and inspiration. So in addition to our normal content we’ve launched two supplemental packages: Home Love (inspiration, things to do, ways to redecorate using what you have type of articles) and Design Unites where we are highlighting companies doing good things, like donating resources, making masks, etc. in this moment. Our home tours are also popular as are the inspiration galleries like 50 Inspiring Bedrooms. Designers should definitely submit and be a resource for that.
Have the pages of the physical magazine been affected?
We had photographed most everything for our “well section” or feature sections. But for front-of-book content we will have to do more pickup. We are working on September issue now and starting October pages too.
What are you looking for?
For both print and online we are really trying to go beyond just pretty pictures. We want a compelling story (a crazy design hurdle or something clever done to a space and feel-good stories) so there’s an added layer that is also helpful and inspiring. We need a little more than just a Dropbox link with a project.
How are you managing 11 titles at this universally challenging time?
We’re navigating every single day as a new adventure.
We’ve never been in a period of time in 36 years of being in business where we are at the slowest production pace, our offices are closed except for a few key people but our readers and audience are turning to us now more than ever for content that is comforting and inspiring.
That’s a lot of pages to fill. Have you had to change your policy on accepting photography?
We’ve have had a huge change in our stance on this because we’re not able to go into a home or showroom. Now is the time to show up and share what you have, instead of pitching super specifically. It could be the biggest lifesaver, whereas six months ago we would say let us look, or let us send a stylist and re-photograph. Our needs are completely different right now.
Have you made any changes to current production schedules?
July issue is on press and we are working on September/October issues.
Right now we are taking content submissions for all culinary, interior and lifestyle publications.
What about web content?
We’re trying to produce more content tailored to the needs of people now and what they’re searching for. For example: cute ideas for home office, how to set up school area at home, how to create a retreat in your home or how to have Easter celebrations for four people at home. Things like that.
How can a designer be a helpful resource to you now?
Simply by recognizing the situation we’re all in when pitching. Position yourself as an ally or partner instead of overly self-promotional or pushy. It’s hard to get access to places and we can’t send photographers to shoot things like we used to so we are definitely looking for material. But just be mindful of the fact that we’re all struggling. Try and be helpful but also sensitive to that in the content or ideas you are pitching.
What does that mean specifically for you and Apartment Therapy in terms of your needs?
We’re looking for ideas/photography that express small touch points of comfort and inspiration. For “tip-driven” or “how-to” stories, we are looking for budget-friendly angles of how to achieve that look.
Are you interested in what designers are doing in their home now too and are iPhone pictures acceptable?
This is definitely a great time to get familiar with the amazing tools we have in our phones. There is a great appetite to see what small tweaks designers are doing in their homes right now and iPhone pictures, if well-lit, are often ok for us right now.
What are your readers loving during this time? What’s doing well right now?
Small projects and one room small areas. Tip driven stories like 8 Small Ways to Make a Big Decorative Impact or how to creatively repurpose things we already own. Digestible, helpful idea-driven stories as well as House Tours.
What if the image has been published before?
For us, the only thing we wouldn’t want to run now is something that was published in another competing online magazine. If it’s been published in a regional magazine that’s not a problem.
Has Designers Today editorial production schedule changed?
As of April 10, our schedule has not changed. What will be changing, and this is a work in progress, is the contents of our May/June issue which comes out in late May.
What is your focus currently?
Digital is definitely a focus for us so we can reflect the day to day changes. We are bombarded by news at this time – a lot of it is not directly design-related – I never really thought we worked in a breaking news kind of field but it has changed overnight.
It’s a challenge to keep up, and our company as a whole – the BridgeTower Media Home Furnishings – is responding, taking a look at all of our titles and seeing where we compliment each other and can support one another. While self-isolating is key, connecting is more important than ever.
How do you want to be pitched during this time?
While it can seem so odd to get excited over some of the frills in times of crisis, a good portion of the design industry continues to move forward on projects and needs inspiration. Plus, when the worst of this is behind us, there will be great need for product. Clients will realize more than ever, what did not work for them during shelter in place times and will want to remedy the situation. And may I add, that we would love to hear from manufacturers, reps, product designers, retailers with trade programs, marketing professionals, and other industry leaders too. We are a trade mag and represent the interior design industry as a whole.
Are there any topics or themes that you are looking for in particular?
For May (and also ongoing digital articles)
What are you in need of most?
Projects (residential and commercial)
Designer inspiration boards or inspiration areas (we want to see the stuff you look at that feeds your creative mind)
New products, business launches/openings, collaborations, technology
Personal business stories — we love it when designers share their story openly and honestly, vulnerabilities, wins, and all the in between. Of course, what makes any story sing, is great photography to back it up.
How far in advance were you booking your podcast, pre-pandemic?
A month ago our scheduling was already booking into September.
So for the first two or three weeks of sheltering-in-place I was pulling shows that had already been recorded, some that may now seem insensitive to the moment in some way, and scrambling to re-record the intro’s and outro’s to re-set the stage.
Have you been increasing your recordings during this time?
I have added a few solo shows. But I was already completely scheduled when this happened. Currently I’m trying to keep up with and carve out extra time for all of the invitations for webinars and speaking, in addition to running Window Works.
So, content-wise, you’re still booking five-six months out?
Yes, though I’m considering the stories that people are sending me now and actions people are implementing during this time. But I’m asking them to keep track of the ROI and then let’s take a look at that in August and September and talk about it on the show.
As a freelance writer for so many publications, what shifts are you noticing?
Sadly, I’m seeing fewer travel and food-related assignments. It’s a scary time for publications that cover these things because most everything has ground to a halt with those industries. One of the most heart-breaking work-related revelations is that Delta Sky has ceased publication. It was a long-standing client for me and an outlet I’m so proud of having contributed to. I hope it comes back!
That said, I’m more grateful than ever for having diversity in my areas of coverage. I’m still covering design and architecture, some finance (I’ve been getting TONS of assignments for personal finance and mortgages – ha!), celebrities, beauty, etc… Many of my writer friends are taking (or pitching?) a ton of virus-related stories, but I feel like there’s enough of that out there. For now, I’m staying the course of my areas of expertise and it’s serving me well.
Should we be pitching the online pages and if so, what are you and your editors in need of most?
I say, continue with pitching / business as usual, with the caveat that everyone’s having a rough time and getting deluged with pitches and press releases. Have extra grace for journalists who may not be able to offer a timely response (even if they normally do!). The situation seems like it’s evolving so fast… But I really value those who have been thoughtful to ask what I need editorially and then deliver what’s promised. For instance, a local publication for which I’m a senior editor had to pivot and rush to produce a design story with sourced photos instead of the regularly scheduled home feature (b/c we couldn’t have original photos shot now!). It’s great to be able to look in my virtual Rolodex and tap people who I know will be fast to respond to provide expert insights and images. Relationships are still a HUGE key.
Have you increased posting for the online pages during this time?
Probably a bit… see aforementioned bit about mortgages and personal finance. The one thing that’s fallen off is my event coverage for publications like AD PRO. So many things are getting cancelled or postponed. I can’t wait to get to attend things in person again! (It feels like we’re all getting virtual meeting fatigue!)
And for the print pages, what months are you working on now and what are your needs at this time, if any?
I’m working on mid-to-late summer stories now for both local and national publications.
What’s changed in the way people are pitching?
When the virus first hit, there was unearthly silence and everyone from the brand side was struggling with how to pitch. It felt wrong and unseemly.
But if we are going to continue, to come out on the other end, we need content and we also have a mission to share a message of positivity. For those of us who have a platform, it really feels almost mission driven to do that.
Where are you focusing your attention?
I have been pivoting almost exclusively on creating content for the website, even though we are both print and online. Daily content has been my focus. We are a national consumer/wellness/travel/ and sustainability publication. The travel piece, however, is pretty much on hold. I’ve been focused on stories about boosting immunity and calming anxiety.
I’m thinking about what is on people’s minds.
People are also cooking now more than ever. I’ve started a series where I ask experts many for simple healthy recipes and that’s doing really well.
What about fashion?
I hope that we’re all not sitting at home in our pjs. Now people are going online and looking at things, not for things but at things and they’re storing those ideas until we get through this. The underlying commonality is that people are looking for beauty and want to experience beauty and we always will. I want to figure out a way to bring that back to life. Until then, there’s a lot we can do to uplift and inspire and to bring the world back in virtually.
What’s freelance life like these days?
Editors are not telling me to slow down. If anything they are asking if I can do more.
They are doing everything in their power to let people know that when this is all over, they’ll still be around and to prove it, we’re here now. Online.
What has changed, in terms of producing content and for your audiences, other than the obvious?
On the podcasts we’re seeing people trying to find new rhythms to the day, to force new routines. We’re now seeing a more consistent lunchtime listener where they once generally listened on commutes.
You write a lot about sports, but there’s not a lot going on out there.
People are nostalgic for the “before” time. That natural human tendency for nostalgia is very welcome right now. For example, there is no major league baseball season but I am writing a weekly piece about a year in baseball history currently. There is certainly a demand for entertainment and more content.
Because you already had episodes recorded, have you had to quickly shift your focus to reflect the times and help your listeners?
I didn’t want to sideline my pre-recorded content so I have been recording additional audio to help navigate the moment. Where normally I do one podcast a week, for April I’m issuing five.
What is your audience interested in?
Any types of uplifting content on how artists are pivoting now, not just to sustain but to thrive.
They are interested in how to evaluate online show opportunities, how to jumpstart teaching online, how to use the power of imagination to go to the positive outcomes, not just the deepest darkest places.
What’s the key to successful pitching?
Please do not pitch if you’ve never listened to the podcast. It’s better to pitch three podcast producers than ten. It’s not a numbers game.
And the way you can show that you have listened to it before you pitch is to leave a review. The way to get noticed there by the producer is to leave your review and in the last line include your full name and then your Instagram handle after that and any credential (like if you authored a book or host a podcast too).
Ok, that’s a good idea.
Often, I will screenshot the review, and tag that person on Instagram, because it also helps me.
They’re helping me create content for my Instagram channel and then I’m repaying the favor by tagging them.
Another way to give before you ask is to screenshot the iTunes player when listening to the show and share that on your Instagram story, tagging the host.
If people are wondering if this works in getting my attention and piquing interest in you, well, the answer is 100%!
So if you’re sitting on good photography – clean, evenly lit and singular spaces with a point of view — or new products, now is the time to pitch. If you need a refresher on how to formulate an effective pitch or need the art of pitching demystified, read Recipe for Press. These assets are in high demand by home and market editors everywhere and stand a good chance at getting green-lighted fast Happy Pitching!