- Article by Sara Kirby
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Every week in our Q&ADR column, ADR interviews an architect, designer, object maker or industry person about who they are beyond the work – their life, inspiration, challenges and aspirations.
This week we meet Sharyn Lowe – managing director of Flaunt Media and Marketing. Lowe manages the PR for many clients in the art, architecture and design sphere, and discusses her love of design, how architects and designers can market themselves better, and who she has her money on as the next big thing in Australian design.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into PR, specifically, PR for architecture and design clients?
I started my own firm in 1995 after being PR manager for Coles Supermarkets for four years. Having your own business means you can choose a speciality and design your business to reflect your passions. I always loved art, architecture and design so quickly gravitated to promoting objects, furniture, designers and architects.
Who are some of the (architecture/design) brands that you represent?
Authentic Australian design is very important to us at Flaunt, so our PR representation of DENFAIR is our dream job. The founders of DENFAIR asked us to join the team during the planning stages of the first fair and it’s such a delight to see this amazing event grow each year. We really love to promote amazing talent – especially those that are either unknown (as DENFAIR was), or lesser known. One of the architectural firms that was lesser known when we were appointed was Technē Architects, and being able to assist the studio in building its profile was very rewarding.
What are the top benefits that a PR/marketing agency provides to an architecture or design studio?
In our experience, architects and designers are quite conservative about ‘flaunting’ their talents and projects. It’s a fine line between maintaining the artistic credibility of a firm and over exposure. If conducted correctly, PR will open doors that creative firms find challenging. However, it’s a sensitive process and needs to be extremely strategic and in line with the firm’s business goals and objectives. Our major aim is to attract more of the ‘right’ business and projects to a firm that will ensure they grow.
What would you say is the number one mistake that many architecture and design studios are making when it comes to marketing themselves?
If I were to print out the ‘about us’ sections of 10 architect and design agencies and take out their name and branding, it would be difficult to tell one from the other. There’s a mistake in everyone using the same language – nobody wanting to really stand out and stand for something. There seems to be a fear that if you’re known for something, it will exclude you from certain projects. However, like all consulting businesses, architecture and design will become increasingly specialised and I believe you should celebrate your point of view.
What, in your opinion, is one of the best works of PR in the industry?
My young team, led by Ellen Weigall, created a terrific campaign last year for Middletown café in Prahran which gained an incredible amount of coverage for the owners, but also for the branding agency, Pop&Pac, and the interior designer, Studio Tate. When you can get multi-layered PR coverage which gains so much attention both in your local market and internationally – that’s when you know you’ve done a good job.
What is something that people don’t realise about the role/work of PR agents?
PR is still a dark art. Most people don’t realise we exist and influence the information and images they consume. We also act as a confessional box for our clients, so we manage information and crises that you never see. Sometimes it’s keeping clients out of the news that’s most important.
What is it that you love about PR/marketing?
I love being a connector. Every profession has its way of communicating and in many cases, those on the inside find it difficult to reach the people who can really make a difference to their business. It’s very satisfying to cut through and work out how you can help a business grow. In some cases we might recommend a big splash of PR coverage, in other cases, we might recommend making appointments for the client with 10 key customers.
What are you passionate about/where do you find inspiration for your work?
Working with beautiful objects and projects is so inspiring. However because I always wanted to be a psychologist, I love working with business owners directly and making them happy. Most people in design are really private people so I like to get to know them well first and then put programs in place that make them feel great. I love seeing clients getting excited about the coverage we get for them. In many cases, clients become personal friends, which is fantastic.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have quite a few large development projects in the works, however, the person I’m most passionate about at the moment is Ross Didier. We believe Ross is a very understated Australian design icon, and he’s poised to make a big impact internationally. He hasn’t appointed Flaunt yet – so maybe this Q&A will make a difference. …Ross???? (Ed’s note: Didier has, as of now, appointed Flaunt)
Lowe also heads up the newly launched Niche PR, a public relations arm which expands the company’s communications offering.
For further information, contact Sharyn Lowe on 0413 747 63
Disclosure: Niche Media publishes ADR and its affiliated magazines.