Home design coverage still on solid ground

Despite the plunge in real-estate values, most Americans remain very proud of their homes.

Despite the plunge in real-estate values, most Americans remain very proud of their homes. So interest in home decorating and interior stories is fairly strong, even with the slumping economy and the closure of Domino magazine.

Yet with many consumers no longer able to tap their home's equity for extensive redecorations, home decor media is shifting away from aspirational coverage toward cost-effective projects.

"We have always had a desire to make sure things are accessible, but there's definitely more consideration for affordability now," says Sarah Rich, editor at Dwell magazine, adding that the current economy could even drive new readership. "People that used to look at aspirational magazines... may turn to us for designs that are more in their reach."

Cooper Smith, founder of Dallas-based Cooper Smith Agency, agrees that low-cost projects are in vogue.

"Interior design [titles] that have always been aspirational are still very glitzy and over the top," he says. "But we are seeing more how-to outlets, like This Old House Magazine, focusing more on budget projects."

This also means that firms must be more creative in pitching products that the public deems expensive.

"The economy comes up with just about every reporter, so we have to... show how you can have high-end products and interiors without breaking the bank," says Tyler Barnett, cofounder of Beverly Hills, CA-based Barnett Ellman, which represents masonry company Francois and Co. "We are also still seeing a lot of success with green angles."

The success of quasi-reality programming on HGTV and the Style Network may also be creating more home decor PR opportunities than ever before, says Stan Steinreich, president and CEO of Hackensack, NJ-based Steinreich Communications. His clients include Haynes Furniture, 1800mattress.com, and GlassTileStore.com.

"Those tend to be a mixture of promotion and editorial, but they can be pitched," he adds.

The target demographic for the home-decorating media traditionally was the 35- to 54-year-old home owner," Steinreich adds. However, "We're seeing a lot [of the] high-end going to 65- to 70-year-olds because that group now has more disposable income."

There are also many products with celebrity endorsements in the space, including Donald Trump's signature line of bedding and home room decor. Yet Dwell's Rich says she isn't swayed by a high-profile name attached to a product.

What does help, however, is great art. "For projects we're featuring," she explains, "we use our own photography, but if it's a product for the magazine, we need very high-quality images."

Smith adds that even with the proliferation of consumer titles, newspaper sections, and TV shows, "We probably spend about 85% of our efforts on trades - magazines that designers and contractors read... Those are the people often making suggestions to consumers."

Pitching... Home Decorating

  • Even in a down economy, green is still a hot home design trend, so highlight the eco-friendly features of your client's products when pitching reporters
  • Sampling is still a very effective PR strategy for home-decorating media because most reporters want to live with a product before they recommend it
  • Invest in art. Home decor is very visual, so make sure to include high-quality images with every pitch

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