Editorial Director of Rue Magazine, Kelli Lamb, weighs the benefits of both print and digital press for interior designers. She also shares the perfect pitch process to manage your studio's PR strategy—no publicist required.
I'm so honored to be joined by Kelli Lamb of Rue magazine for a conversation on benefits of both print and online press as an interior designer. Over the years, Kelli has become a great friend to IDCO Studio, our clients, and attendees at Design Camp, but also to me personally. Her commitment to showcasing projects of any size, budget, or style is a true inspiration to our industry.
Kelli's the editorial director and co-principal of Rue. Kelli lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats in a gorgeous historic Spanish Hacienda. Rue was founded back in 2010 as a digital interior design magazine, but the concept evolved to include Rue Daily, a daily source for all things lifestyle and design, but in 2021 under Kelli 's fearless leadership Rue released its first ever print magazine now publishing quarterly. And if that wasn't enough, her first book Home with Rue is now available everywhere and is a constant source of inspiration permanently on my coffee table.
In this episode, we'll discuss:
The early days of Kelli's editorial career journey
Kelli's recent book launch of Home with Rue
Why diverse representation matters in shelter publications
The pros and cons of both print and digital media coverage
How to connect with editors and make your submission stand out
An excerpt from the episode:
As we record this, we are moments away from the launch of your first book Home with Rue. Tell me about what this book means to you.
KL: Well, first it's such an honor that we will be having the launch dinner as part of Design Camp, because I feel like the mission of Design Camp so beautifully reflects the community that I'd love to build with Rue or kind of my ethos of it. So bringing it to people in real life– that is so exciting. And the book I was thinking about that question, because I am kind of, of like the mindset where I'll just put my head down and do work and I don't really notice or even realize when these huge accomplishments kind of come and go. And so as we get closer to it being out in the world, I wanted to actually take a look back at what it means. And I feel like for so long, (I mean, Rue has only been in print for just over a year) we've existed in this digital realm.
I would create these things and they would kind of get a big splash online and then go the way of the algorithm, and it was sort of like these waves of like content. I feel like the book is this tangible thing that has my name on it. It's a physical representation of my passion and what I love to do. And it's also totally surreal. ‘Cause I think at the end of the day, I'm still like 13-year-old-me being like, ‘I'm gonna work in a magazine’. It's wild.
Let's talk publishing. What do you think Rue has done to help cultivate and shape the design industry?
KL: I mean, that's hard because I, like so many women, definitely have imposter syndrome. So I'm quick to brush that off. But I think something I am really proud of, that I've never compromised on, is that Rue exists to tell the story of the designers and the creatives. It's less about sell, sell, sell; it's less product-driven. It's more about the spaces and the people who live there.
I think one of the biggest compliments I've had since launching the print magazine is someone said, "you're creating something that looks like the work that we actually do" and that feels like the highest compliment. I'm translating your passions to media, and I hope that resonates with people.
Of course, a huge part of our readership is people who just love looking at beautiful spaces, but also want to be a friend of the industry itself. So how can I elevate designers? How can I help them grow their businesses? Looking back, I'll see some designers who now are so successful and I remember receiving a pitch email from them of like, "this is my very first project," and I try to remind myself of that. I have a board of all the thank you notes I've gotten from people and I try to remember that this exists to give designers and creatives and photographers a platform to show what they do.
I actually feel that digital press can be much more valuable for an interior designer than traditional print for a number of reasons. Do you have any insight if digital is as strong as print press used to be?
KL: I think the key to success for anyone trying to grow their business is actually just having well-rounded press coverage. So first I think before anyone hires a publicist or starts pitching their work themselves, they do an exploration of what they actually want out of having their work featured.
Is it new clients? Because if it's new clients in your area, a regional print magazine would be incredible because a lot of that demographic is people who are looking to hire or do a remodel. Is it just the accolades of seeing your work in print? Is Instagram followers? If you have a YouTube, any of that, like what is the goal with it? And then identifying the best plan of attack.
Print has a way of telling a really beautiful story about who you are and the work that you do, but you're absolutely right. Digital is quicker conversions, quicker followers, quicker engagement, and maybe more likely that someone on a whim will just send you a DM and say, are you taking new clients? I think there's a lot that goes into it and I always really encourage people to kind of step back and go, okay, where am I lacking? What could I build in this facet of my business?
Thanks for reading a brief excerpt of The Interior Collective Season 1, Episode 3: How to Get Published in Both Print + Digital with Kelli Lamb. You can listen to our episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or access the full episode transcription below.
Mentioned in the episode:
Rue Magazine (find a copy near you)
Kelli's Contact: email@example.com
A throwback to my first Rue publication
Photography by Madeline Harper
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Hi, this is The Interior Collective, a podcast for the business of beautiful living presented by IDCO Studio and I'm Anastasia Casey. Today's episode is all about how to get published in both print and digital.
I have a very unpopular opinion. I feel that digital press can actually be more valuable than print press these days for interior designers while being published in the pages of a glossy magazine can be the pinnacle of press for interior designers. I honestly question how much traffic is actually getting driven to the source. Meaning when something appears in a print magazine, how many people are actually clicking through to your website to inquire about working together?
Today's guest, editorial director at Rue magazine Kelli Lamb is walking us through the benefits of both print and online press and guiding us through the perfect pitch process. Over the years, Kelli has become a great friend to IDCO, our clients, and attendees at Design Camp, but also to me personally. Her commitment to showcasing homes of any size, budget, or style is a true inspiration. And I'm super honored to have her here to walk us through the journey of getting published today. Kelli's the editorial director and co-principal of Rue. Kelli lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats in a gorgeous historic Spanish Hacienda. Rue was founded back in 2010 as a digital interior design magazine, but the concept evolved to include Rue Daily, a daily source for all things lifestyle and design, but in 2021 under Kelli 's fearless leadership Rue released its first ever print magazine now publishing quarterly. And if that wasn't enough, her first book Home with Rue is now available everywhere and is a constant source of inspiration permanently on my coffee table. I actually have three copies. Welcome Kelli. I am so excited to have you here today and I am so honored to have you on our first season of The Interior Collective.
Oh my gosh. Thank you so much. I feel, I actually feel kind of like a rockstar.
You should feel like a rockstar cause I'm pretty sure you're at that level. As we record this, we are moments away from the launch of your first book Home with Rue coming out May 24th. By the time this actually airs, it will be available on newsstands everywhere, and you can purchase it directly through the link in our show notes. Additionally, we will actually be celebrating your official book launch party one week from today at Design Camp in Santa Monica. Tell me about what this book means to you.
Well, first it's such an honor that we will be having the launch dinner as part of Design Camp, because I feel like the mission of Design Camp so beautifully reflects the community that I'd love to build with Rue or kind of my ethos of it. So bringing it to people in real life– that is so exciting. And the book I was thinking about that question, because I am kind of, of like the mindset where I'll just put my head down and do work and I don't really notice or even realize when these huge accomplishments kind of come and go. And so as we get closer to it being out in the world, I wanted to actually take a look back at what it means. And I feel like for so long, (I mean, Rue has only been in print for just over a year) we've existed in this digital realm. I would create these things and they would kind of get a big splash online and then go the way of the algorithm, and it was sort of like these waves of like content. I feel like the book is this tangible thing that has my name on it. It's a physical representation of my passion and what I love to do. And it's also totally surreal. ‘Cause I think at the end of the day, I'm still like 13-year-old-me living and being like, ‘I'm gonna work in a magazine’. It's wild.
And not only are you working on a magazine, it is your magazine. And it's such a beautiful publication. I believe that by the time this episode airs, I will even be a part of the current issue of room magazine. Which is so fun that it lines up that way too.
I know, if we have time during the podcast, we'll just do a quick interview for the article.
Perfect. We'll just check that off.
Okay. So for those who have not had the pleasure of meeting you in person or heard more of your story, how did you end up at Rue and how did you transition to your role today?
Yeah, well, I had an unconventional entrance to the editorial world, but at the same time Rue had an unconventional start as well. It was launched by really talented, I mean, design bloggers doesn't do the original founding team justice, but it was founded in 2010 as kind of this celebration, like design blogs were in their heyday. And so they came together to create this digital magazine, Crystal Palecek, who, if you don't follow, please do. And Anne Sage, they were the original co-founders and they created this digital magazine that gave you the experience of a print magazine, but on your computer or tablet. And at that time I also had a blog and was very much in this world– that was where content was really living. I moved to San Francisco, I had worked in e-commerce and my blog was just like fun. It was just something to fuel my creativity. I've always been a writer. I've needed it to transport myself out of my cubicle. At that time, when I moved to San Francisco, I was like, ‘well, I'm just gonna get a job in eCommerce and I'll keep blogging’. And that of course didn't happen ‘cause it was like 2011, 2012. I was like, ‘I'm gonna go work at Facebook and they'll hire me’. No. No one even emailed me back.
So then Rue was going through some team changes and Crystal was expanding the staff and needed help. I just wrote the most passionate email of all time. That was like, ‘I know I'm a little bit older than the college student you thought you would be hiring but, please let me be a part of this. And here are writing samples.’ It was like an instant click. So, I started really at the bottom, as low as it could be and was just like, ‘What work can I do? Can I do more work? Can I make this my life?’. And that probably in hindsight was very obnoxious, but it was enthusiastic, you know?
Anastasia 00:06:50 So fast forward you started the bottom. I mean we're talking intern level, right? Intern level and then you kept proving yourself. You may call it pestering. I'll call it proving yourself. Then there was a time when Crystal and the original team were ready to spread their wings and go a different direction and then how did it become, ‘Oh, Kelli can take this over’?
Well, first of all, it is important to mention how ridiculous my friends and family must have thought I was when I was like, ‘I'm an intern’ But Ihad a little bit of motivation to see not only how I could grow within Rue, but how perhaps I could just grow within the industry and use it to meet really talented people and perhaps explore this concept of a career that I hadn't really envisioned could be a career. It could be more than just something I did for fun. I guess I did prove myself and I took on more and more work and with every year I would get, (I guess it was actually at that time, like every couple months) Crystal would be like, ‘okay, we have to change your title’.
It sort of was this natural flux of, I started taking on more and more responsibility and that gave her the freedom to slowly step away and explore her interior design business, which she, and we've talked about it since – I very much locked onto this is as my passion at the same time as she was locking into actually design is the thing that she’s most passionate about. So it was kind of this natural, really effortless. I mean, it wasn't effortless. It was a lot of hard work for many years, but the transition was really easy.
When it came time that she was ready to officially step away and not have the responsibility of business owner or any of that, it was sort of implied that I would take over editorial and then our previous publisher would then become the new owner of Rue. And so that was the phase for a couple of years, which was really fun to continue honing in on what Rue looks like and what I wanted the mission to be and take a little bit more ownership, mentally take ownership over the work that I was doing.
So skip forward again and now it's pandemic. So you think, ‘Hey, let's launch a print publication because obviously that's what someone would do. When the world is crumbling. Look us through what happened 'cause I know that it was a decision based out of ‘it's now or never’, and it's kind of ‘all in or nothing’.
And actually, I can't take the credit for having that vision. Well, the pandemic hits, everything, hits the fan. Everything goes exactly as bad… you know, advertisers fell off, our traffic plummeted. And that was really representative of everyone living on their screens. We all were working from zoom, homeschooling, getting all of our news. The internet was just like, anytime you were even reading, even the most exciting article, you'd get these news notifications popping up in the middle of the screen that were horrifying news. So I think people kind of naturally moved away. We all were in this crisis mode and an online outlet wasn't really right for us.
I had become good friends with Danny Seo who is like this media expert and he has had such a successful career. He has his own magazine. He's known as the green guru. ‘Cause sustainable living really is his world. And here I am scrambling, and he was looking at this platform that we had and the audience that we had created and realized that he could apply his business model to what we had been doing, which included print magazine. And his own magazine, probably because the only place people were going to was the grocery store, was having amazing sales. He's like ‘my business is great’ and I'm like, ‘what am I gonna do?’. So he and the previous owner had started discussing whether it be investment or a full acquisition.
What made the most sense was for him to acquire Rue and he really had the vision. And here I was, what you said earlier, ‘it's now or never, I have nothing to lose. I have nothing. I have to go for something or I have to figure out a different path ‘cause we aren't going to be sustainable much longer’. So he acquired it and then gave me the opportunity to either be an employee or be a co-owner. And so I went even more risky and I was like, I would love to invest my money.
that seems ‘here's the $5 I have and I want to go in’
And we were trying to buy a house and I decided to tell my husband, ‘I have some bad news’.
We're cutting the house budget a smidge.
Yeah. It was really like, ‘let's just, let's go for it’. I really had seen the success he had had, and also seen that people were craving something more tangible, something that could pull them away from the internet and that they could really get back to what, you know, design was their passion kind of escape into that world. And it just seemed like it was the time. Media is shifting so much with a lot of people moving away from prints. And so it was this weird thing where we knew it, it makes sense why that is happening, but you know, the public still wants it. People still crave print magazines. So it was like, okay, let's go for it. And then I've worked every day since.
Anastasia 00:13:03 Well, that's an incredible story, an incredible journey. And I just have to say how in awe and just how proud I am of you, to have this big ultimate dream for your life as a girl growing up and you've made it happen. And you've made it happen on such a larger scale than even that dream when you were little and I just am so grateful to get to watch that because I think it's just such an amazing journey and I appreciate you sharing how we got there. Thank you. I'd really like to talk Rue and publishing now. So what do you think Rue has done to help cultivate and shape the design industry?
Kelli 00:13:50 I mean, that's hard 'cause I, like so many people and so many women, definitely have imposter syndrome. So I'm, ‘oh we've done this whole thing’ – I'm quick to brush that off. But I think something I am really proud of, that I've never compromised on, is that Rue exists to tell the story of the designers and the creatives. It's less about sell, sell, sell, it's less product driven. It's more about the spaces and the people who live there.
I think one of the biggest compliments I've had since launching the print magazine is someone said ‘you're creating something that looks like the work that we actually do’ and that I'm not a designer, so that feels like the highest compliment. I'm translating your passions to media and I hope that that resonates with people.
Of course a huge part of our readership is people who just love looking at beautiful spaces, but also want to be a friend of the industry itself. So how can I elevate designers? How can I help them grow their businesses? Looking back, I'll see some designers who now are so successful. And I remember receiving, six years ago, a pitch email from them of, ‘this is my very first project with you. Run with it’. And I try to remind myself of that. I have, well, you won't see it cause it's a podcast, but a board of like all the thank you notes I've gotten from people, trying to remember this exists to give designers, and creatives, and photographers, this platform to show what they do.
Anastasia 00:15:34 I think that's such a sweet sentiment and I personally, having my own business and having certain milestones that felt like such huge goals of mine happen and then we quickly move forward and you don't take time to reflect in that big successful moment 'cause you're just onto the next. I love that you have a very visual representation to stop and remind yourself of that.
Kelli 00:16:03 Well I think it's something that helps, especially with how busy you get. I think for designers too, looking back at what the homes you're creating for clients like mean to the families that live there. We're so milestone driven. And I mean there's like 4,000 emails, nothing stops. And so remembering that human connection of what these accomplishments mean to you and mean to the people that you're helping along.
Anastasia 00:16:34 I think that's such an interesting distinction for those who have not had the pleasure of picking up a physical copy of Rue magazine, it is a beautiful publication to flip through. Kelli was so intentional of the quality of the paper, the weight of the paper. But I think from a reader's perspective, there is a different approach to what is covered. I feel like you flip through the pages of Rue and you see yourself in it. Not only you see yourself as a designer who is featured in it, but you see yourself as also the people who are using the spaces and you cover each of those projects. So holistically on both sides.
Being in the industry, I love how Rue bridges the gap between an industry publication and a home publication that someone picks up for inspiration. I'm curious if you have insights as to who you really feel like your core reader is. Is it design enthusiasts and lovers who see the beautiful cover or do you think Rue is for the designers?
Kelli 00:17:51 That's such an interesting question. And I actually give a lot of credit to my business partner, Danny for helping me. There's so many things that I never considered like with covers. And so for me, I have the standards of like I'm catering towards the industry cause I want to impress all. Then also he helps me to make sure that we're targeting people who might just be at Target in Denver and want to pick it up, think that it's like a pretty room, and just throw it in their cart like we want. So we're kind of walking this line towards making sure that the content will be really interesting and engaging if you are just someone who loves magazines or loves beautiful spaces, but also will provide resources to the industry.
So there's a nice mix of some market stories, some product focused things. And then we work with a lot of the trade shows or industry events. And so sharing a bit of that, where it might not be relevant to people who aren't doing this professionally, but maybe even it will give them an insider view to how the industry operates. I feel like everything is a balance and I always equate the magazine as this puzzle of, I have to fit all of these different pieces together and it fries my brain for a few weeks of the year. But then once the puzzle comes together, it's like, okay, I think we touched on, there will be something for everyone.
I've picked up magazines, especially when I was younger and living in a different place or didn't have a lot of money where you would feel excluded. I don't want anyone to feel excluded in any facet. So I don't want anyone to feel excluded from a financial standpoint, from a, well this is just for designers. It's very important that everyone who picks up a copy will find something that speaks to them.
Anastasia 00:19:50 One thing I know you've been very conscious of and I've really appreciated after reading the first three copies or three issues is your intention behind making Rue a more inclusive representative and leading publication. Can you talk us through what you're doing to make sure it's not all the same Southern California designers featured for instance?
Kelli 00:20:17 Well, I always joke with my husband that when I'm putting the puzzle piece of the magazine together, putting all the pieces together, making sure that it's not just me represented in the pages and I never wanted it – It's funny to be doing a podcast or have a book with my name on it. ‘Cause really it has been creating something that represents the world that we live in.
Anastasia 00:21:48 So as you put together an issue and you're starting to flip through what you think is, you know, the 70% done issue and you're like, um, there's a big gap there. All of my designers are white women and you're like, I haven't had submissions from Black designers or Indigenous designers. Do you have some sort of protocol on how to seek that out or is it really just based on who's submitting?
Kelli 00:22:14 Uh, yes and no. I'm lucky in that my business partner is a minority and can give me a lot of insight as well to make sure that I'm not screwing up or I don't have a blind spot, but I really think of it as such like I can't have a blind spot. Um, so it's rare. Fortunately, I mean the talent pool is so huge that it's rare that I would get to 70% of an issue and not have a designer who is a minority. The talent pool is really impressive.
Making sure that I'm being really cognizant every step of the way versus piecing it together to make sure that I'm fitting everyone in and it's become, it's just more genuine in the way that I would approach anything.
I ramble when I talk about it. ‘Cause it's something that I'm like truly so passionate about and something that I do worry about because yeah, especially going to print, I think for so many years, I just put my head down and worked on the website and didn't really consider the impacts that we had and just didn't really consider the platform that I had and the responsibility that would come with it. It's like the, I forget what it's called in movies, but where like the camera zooms out really fast and you're like, oh my gosh. Like, I feel like, oh my gosh, my world has gotten a lot bigger.
I take that responsibility really seriously because I could make a big mistake or I could help provide representation to young people who haven't seen themselves in magazines before. And that, I mean, that is sometimes I'm like what? That's a, that's a lot and it's three in the morning and I'm not sleeping but other times I'm like what a great position to be able to create a publication where everyone can see themselves.
Anastasia 00:25:06 Absolutely. Okay. Let's get into the juice.
Kelli 00:25:09 So I feel like that was the juice.
Anastasia 00:25:12 That was the juice, but, I know that everybody's like, great. Okay. So how can I actually get me into it? So to clarify, Rue has obviously the print publication, the print magazine that comes out quarterly Rue also has Rue Daily. And that is the lifestyle design blog, which is producing content on a very regular basis. My intro that I forbid you from listening to, 'cause I get too nervous, talked about how I have a super unpopular opinion that I actually feel that digital press can be much more valuable for an interior designer than traditional print for a number of reasons. But the primary reason is someone sitting, flipping through pages of a magazine, how likely are they actually to click over to your Instagram profile? Or I'm sorry, log into Instagram, search out your profile, follow you there, visit your website later, then inquire versus someone who came to you via a digital publication where it's already hyperlinked, they're already at their computer or on their phone, looking at things for more information. Do you have any insight as to if you feel like digital is as strong as press used to be?
Kelli 00:26:33 I think the key to success for anyone trying to grow their business is actually just having well rounded press coverage. So first before anyone hires a publicist or starts pitching their work themselves, they do kind of like an exploration of what they actually want out of having their work featured. Is it new clients? If it's new clients in your area, a regional print magazine would be incredible because a lot of that demographic is people who are looking to hire or do a remodel or any of that. Is it just the accolades of that feeling of seeing your work in print? Because it's pretty cool.
Anastasia 00:27:19 It's very cool.
Is it Instagram followers? Is it promoting your YouTube? What is the goal with it? And then identifying the best plan of attack – well, not attack, ‘cause don't attack editors. But the best, best approach, the best is figuring out your goals and then being really strategic with the press coverage that you seek out. Because print has a way of telling a really beautiful story about who you are and the work that you do. But you're absolutely right. Digital is quicker conversions, quicker followers, quicker engagement, and maybe more likely that someone on a whim will just send you a DM and say, ‘are you taking new clients’ type? I think there's a lot that goes into it and I always really encourage people to kind of step back and go, okay, where am I lacking? What could I build in this facet of my business?
Anastasia 00:28:18 Absolutely. I think that's so smart, whether we're talking about social media marketing or marketing plans in general. I talk about this at Design Camp a lot. I talk about it with our clients on a one-on-one basis, but you're so right. Deciding what is your actual true, honest goal with this effort and acknowledging if it is essentially a check mark for, ‘Hey, I was in a print publication’. It was on newsstands everywhere. That is a huge goal of mine.’ And that's amazing, but if your goal and you're being honest with yourself and you're like, ‘well really, I'm putting in this effort to get clients’. Then I want you to be really thoughtful as Kelli advised in thinking of how that's actually gonna happen. And I think her idea of a regional magazine, something that is local, is a great option for that. If you are looking to serve people locally or if you're, if you're happy to travel and you're willing to do projects across the country. Just being super intentional with what your marketing plan via press is going to be.
So Kelli, as we talk about you having still a digital publication and now a print publication, I'm interested for those listening, does that mean, I know you're big on showing spaces of different sizes, different budgets. Would you ever possibly consider a one room project or does it always need to be a full house tour?
Kelli 00:29:43 I will completely consider one room. I will even consider one photo. Like one really strong image because there are so many ways… I don't want our publication to just be home tour, home tour, home tour. From a storytelling perspective, there are other ways that I need or other approaches to share work, offer tips to people, especially perhaps people who are more inclined to not hire a designer, but they love design themselves and are looking for ideas. So one single room is amazing and it also helps from my side to break up the content that we're creating and create something new for our readers. So I really have no expectations like some, I always get that. Like I don't have any full homes, so I'm afraid to pitch you and it's, that's not necessary 'cause I'm looking for really everything.
Anastasia 00:30:45 So if someone's goal, obviously they're thrilled with being on digital, on Rue Daily, as in the digital outlet and someone's like, okay, I've got three money shots from this room, but I think it's a great room and they pitch you. We're gonna talk about the actual pitching process and pitching etiquette and all of that. Would you even consider a single room for print or is a single room likely gonna end up on digital?
Kelli 00:31:13 No, definitely a single room for prints because the front of the magazine is totally composed of shorter stories. And so I have columns that are rooms we love and home highlights, where perhaps it's not a full home tour, but like there is a kitchen, a bath and the dining room that work really well and would look beautiful together in print. Then we can definitely, you know, create a creative way to tell the story of that space without it being quite as robust as like a six page feature towards the back of the magazine. We're looking for things that are more easily digestible for the type of magazine reader that is more of a flip through. So that type of where it's just a few things. When pitching it, if you're able to call out the details that are special or you think would be interesting to read about, that's always helpful to plant the seed of like, that would be a good story.
Anastasia 00:32:13 Well, that is exciting to hear. It is exciting to know that you don't have to have a $5 million project photographed top to bottom to be able to start pitching it to press.
Kelli 00:32:24 No, never. Maybe others.
Anastasia 00:32:26 You went into it a little bit right now talking about what you're really looking for when searching for projects for the magazine or for the website. Can you talk us through maybe like your top three to five things that you're like, ‘I know that this is going to resonate with our reader specifically at Rue’.
Kelli 00:32:45 I can only speak to the way that we operate and I always worry that editors at other publications will be like, what is this girl blabbering on about? But I don't wanna be beholden to one style. And so if as a designer, you follow Rue and you read Rue and you see your style reflected back in the pages or you connect with the style of spaces. It's very likely that you'll be a good fit because I'm looking for a wide variety of spaces page to page. So you might have a really urban minimalist loft and then you turn the page and it's like a sprawling wine country estate. And so as far as style or space aesthetic that we're looking for, there's no clear answer. It's really about making sure that there's a consistent wide variety for everyone.
And so from that, if Rue is your dream publication, then we want to see it and see if it's a good fit. On the other hand with that in mind, like with the last summer issue, I got a lot of really gorgeous submissions that all were kind of in the same high end coastal look. And so it was hard to have to say no to some that were so incredible, but we just had a surplus of that look. And so keeping in mind, as you are reaching out to outlets, that's kind of the behind the scenes process that's happening as we're reviewing.
Anastasia 00:34:16 Yeah, definitely. So to someone who this all feels like a very foreign concept, a few things that I wanna make sure we note to consider when pitching — We wanna make sure that there's already professional photography, specifically when we're talking about Rue, is that correct?
Kelli 00:34:33 98% of the time we do. We do produce a few of our own shoots. I'm going to one tomorrow for the summer cover, which — stay tuned. So we do, if it's a really great space and a story that we want to tell, we are happy with just iPhone scouting shots, but most of the time I, and for quite a few reasons prefer that it has already been photographed.
First of all, 'cause our exclusivity clause is quite loose. If something runs in the magazine and it's on photography that is existing, I'm very happy for the designer to continue pitching it to outlets after our article has come out only because that will help grow their business. And I know other publications are really strict about like you can't share anything on Instagram at all ahead of the feature and it can't run with anyone else and there's all of these agreements. And I think that that isn't my mission statement.
My mission statement is to help the industry grow and be more inclusive and help people grow their businesses. So having your own photography is not only a huge asset for your own website, but if it is featured in Rue, the story can kind of have legs and walk to other publications if you wanted to.
Anastasia 00:35:52 From a personal standpoint, we have an amazing PR director now who does all of our publicity. Caroline Pinkston PR, but up until then, it was just little me emailing Kelli and pitching elsewhere. And I do want to say that the reason Kelli was selected for this episode is because of her fundamental belief and her constant conviction to her mission statement of helping designers grow. Because when we pitched my little tiny 600 square foot rental house, she was happy to pull images that were then run other places I've asked her ahead of time. Hey, I really, really, oh, even The Lake House is a great example. I had asked Kelli before. I don't think we'd even closed on the house yet. And I was like, Hey Kelli , this project is a dream. I would love for this to be our print publication debut.
I obviously thought of Rue first, but we worked with a lot of brands on that house. There was a lot of content that was gonna be valuable to me in growing our audience. And I was like, ‘am I allowed to share progress during the process of renovating this by ourselves?’ and she was so gracious to say, ‘absolutely when you get closer to being done, send me pictures, but don't hold back from sharing things along the way’.
I do want to express and set expectations for when people are looking to pitch to other publications. I guess you could say, more traditional publications in particular that there will be the exclusivity clause and if it has shown up in other places that they will often pass on a project, if it's already been out there, they wanna be the ones to break the news. What I think makes Rue so special is that Rue will always find a new way to tell the story. And that story is almost always the designer. And so for us listening Rue is just like the highest, in our opinion for the mission that goes with that.
When we talk about three important things, when pitching a project, walk us through that, what does a pitch even look like?
Kelli 00:38:09 I mean, it can be pretty simple. I've spoken to designers who held back on pitching because they were nervous, or they didn't know, or they had the draft sitting in their inbox for weeks. And I want to remove that pressure as someone who, before I was with Rue, wanted to be a freelance writer and I know that the nerves and the disappointment, if you don't hear back and really it's just an exchange of information at the start. And so, a nice introduction if I'm not familiar with your work explaining who you are or if you've been featured before.
Very simple — A brief description of the project, this is the size of the home, this is how long it took. Here are a few facts that make it different from the other submissions you might be getting today.
And then for me personally, a link to quickly scan the images as a whole. Oftentimes people will pitch and it will be a link to only five images. And they'll say, if you'd like to see more, I can send them. And that's nice. But for me personally, I've been doing this long enough that it's really helpful just to see the full picture at once instead of these back and forths of, ‘do you think, and would this be a, do you want to see more and I can tell you more about the house’.
Give the main quick-and-dirty bullet points and the gallery right off the bat, and I'll be able to make a decision much quicker versus these niceties of back and forth. I always joke, I know I said this at Design Camp, but like just double check the publication name. ‘Cause we'll get pitches that say I think this would be really perfect for, and it's an outlet that is not named Rue. And sometimes my name will be spelled wrong or just simple things like that. Keeping a professionalism of, here's the point, here's my work. Do you think it's a good fit, et cetera.
In addition to that, something that's really helpful is… Earlier in this episode we talked about setting your expectations, setting your wishlist for press coming to a pitch or an editor with that list in mind saying, will this also be shared on your Instagram, knowing what's important to you and making sure that your needs are addressed as well. ‘Cause I think press coverage should be mutually beneficial. The magazines are looking for content, they're looking for stories to tell, but you, you deserve to have your checklist met as well. It's just an exchange, to the point, as quick as possible.
Anastasia 00:40:50 Couple follow up questions there. Is it appropriate for that wishlist to be in that initial pitch email? Or is that in the second email?
Kelli 00:40:58 It's probably the second. The first one you're just gauging initial interest, but something that I really appreciate is when someone clarifies in that initial pitch email, I think this would look really great on the website or I have my heart set on print and that helps me know their expectations first and kind of flag it for mm-hmm <affirmative>. If you know their heart is set on print, can I make it work in an upcoming issue or do I know that it's better for digital? And I can explain right off the bat, I think this would be better for digital. If you're still interested, let me know. We'll move forward if you'd like the opportunity to take it to other print outlets. First, I completely respect that. No hard feelings, chat with me in a few weeks if you'd like. It's like dating. Making sure that you're all on the same page from the start is very helpful.
Anastasia 00:41:56 Absolutely. So key takeaways there, quick intro about yourself, remind them if you've submitted or worked with them before as just a quick refresher. Otherwise an initial introduction, brief description of the project with bullet points and those bullet points are the most interesting or unique facts about the project. It is a link to your project photos, not attachments. We don't wanna clog up people's inboxes and we wanna make sure that they can easily click to see them and not potentially have some sort of download error. And Kelli is spelled with an I, K E L L I Lamb, L A M B. All of her contact info, sorry, Kelli, whatever contact info she will let me publish will be listed.
But also one major tip – It can be really tricky when you're sending entire folders of images to someone, make sure you're changing your share settings to anyone with the link can view. There are a lot of times that things come through and you have to request access. And I can just imagine how frustrating that is and your likelihood of getting this editor to actually request the access drops significantly. So just make sure that your share settings are set to share with anyone with the link.
Kelli 00:43:18 You just said something that would've made my life so much easier if I just published on the website — make sure we can view it,’cause it does happen a lot. Now that you're mentioning it. That happens 50% of the time where I have to say, oh, I can't access the photos please resend.
I'm not partial to one platform. I mean, we have what we use internally, but if it's a photographer's gallery and that requires a password, provide the password. I always feel a little, not irked, but if I have to fill out to sign up to view and then they know that I viewed, but if something pops up and they haven't replied it weighs on me that they know that I looked at the gallery, but I haven't written back.
So just get the link right out of the gate so that I can access it easily and be most efficient. I mean, that's all we all want. There's so many things happening, especially we're all managing 500 spinning plates, making it as efficient as possible for both parties is great.
Anastasia 00:44:24 Right? The easier we make it for you as editors, the quicker we get an answer. So it's really beneficial to everyone. So that's just like a little blip that I've seen a few clients do. And I'm like, oh, that's such a quick, easy fix. Make sure the share settings are correct.
So let's talk about pitching cadence. I have this amazing project. I pitch it to Kelli while this would never happen with Kelli , 'cause I know she takes it so seriously to get back to submissions, but I pitch it somewhere and it's crickets. I don't hear anything. And I know that this particular publication really wants exclusivity. So I'm just sitting here. Twiddling my thumbs being like how long do I wait? We at IDCO have an opinion that it's, uh, two weeks before you can move on to something else, to another publication. Do you have any insights into the cadence of moving onto another publication with your pitch?
Kelli 00:45:14 Well, one thing I wish was a little bit more normalized and I think it's probably because you might worry that it comes off confrontational, but I don't think there's anything wrong with emailing an editor and saying ‘I haven't heard back. Could you let me know if it's still under review’ by (give them 48 hours, let's say), ‘Could you let me know if it's under review by the end of this week? If not, I'm going to take it to another publication’ and then that puts it in the editor's court. If they didn't get back to you in time and they're losing out on a great feature, then they had the chance. You can kind of be in the driver's seat and say, ‘I am taking it elsewhere’.
One thing that for me is a big no-no is pitching multiple outlets at the same time. So creating your list and pitching one at a time, I think is important. It just happened last week where I confirmed something for an issue and someone said, I'm really sorry, but another publication picked it up and they prioritize that that's the one that they wanna go with and it kind of hurt my feelings too. Cause I put not only…
Anastasia 00:46:24 Yeah, I bet.
Kelli 00:46:25 Like, Ugh, that was kind of a waste of time because I put in all this effort into securing placement. But now I also feel like I didn't get asked to the dance. And that's so silly because the other story is going to be wonderful and I'm excited to see it, but it is this thought that could have been avoided if they had separated the pitching timeline.
For me when the two week mark kind of comes, if I haven't had a chance to thoughtfully review, and my review process is admittedly a little bit slower just because of the way that I work, but I make a point to go through and reply to all of the ones that are waiting and say, I've received it, I'm just behind. I will get back to you by this day. Not everyone will do that. So I don't think there's any harm in saying specifically I'd like to move on unless you tell me you need a little more time and it's again, just an exchange of information.
Anastasia 00:47:28 Absolutely. So that process from the interior designers standpoint is you get your photos back from your photographer. They're so gorgeous. You're ready to start pitching. You make a list. You make a list of your top priority publications based upon your goals. Do you want this to be digital? 'cause you want this to go live quickly, print takes way longer. So are you looking for this to be able to be shared in the next two months? Or are you looking for this to be shared in the next six months? Sometimes a year. Think about those priorities and always think about which publication has projects like yours.
Rue is really good at having all different types of styles, but obviously there's other publications that specialize in a certain niche. And so you want to be pitching to the most appropriate publications. You send that pitch via either their submission form on their website or you pitch the editors directly via their email. You send a follow up email probably a week later, one follow up email as Kelli advised saying, Hey, if I don't hear back from you in the next 48 hours, if you are still reviewing it, please let me know. But otherwise I'm gonna take this elsewhere. So then at that two week mark, you can go ahead and pitch to your next choice public.
Kelli 00:48:46 I think that's it. It's hard to say, the world is moving at such an interesting pace that like two weeks goes by in a freaking flash, but creating a timeline that works for you in getting the images out there and then operating on that, communicating that as you're submitting, like ‘this is my ideal timeframe’. And one other thing too, is being aware of the styling of the images or the style. I always notice I'll get people that are really eager for inclusion in prints, but they've just photographed it. And so we're working a few months ahead and so peonies are out of season or whatever it looks really summary for the styling is really fall.
So being aware that from an editorial standpoint, that there might be delays based on your ideal timeline based on creating the content in general. Having in the back of your mind, what works best for you and then still being a little bit flexible when you hear back to work.
Again, everything needs to be mutually beneficial for both parties. So if the goal is to get the story out there and on as many outlets as possible, then do that and communicate that to who you're working with.
Anastasia 00:50:06 Great. Okay. So that's like the general rule of thumb formula. Obviously nothing is super black and white, but this is a really good starting point for you to start pitching. I encourage all of our listeners to pitch your work. There's so much content needed by publications now because they're putting out 5, 6, 7 articles a day. Pitch your work.
Let's go ahead and talk about establishing relationships with editors. Traditionally it was up to a publicist to find, create and foster those relationships with editors. But in my personal experience, it's been such a meaningful way for me to step in personally and establish those relationships. Talk to me about some ideas on how to initiate a relationship with an editor that feels warm and fuzzy and organic.
Kelli 00:51:03 Well, I think it's the beauty of social media. You have access to people you wouldn't have necessarily had access to before. It comes down to just really being authentic. I chuckle because sometimes I'll get a submission from someone, let them know that it's under review. And then for like two weeks, they reply to every single story that I post. And I appreciate the hustle, but I'm also like, I know that's not super authentic. You're excited and you're curious. And so it's like this engagement that makes me sometimes feel like, ‘oh, I can't post for a while cause I need to focus on work and people are really up in my DMS’. Being more genuine with engaging and the way that you would engage with your friends or other industry connections, versus suddenly you're really DMing an editor a lot and commenting on everything. Cause from my perspective, it can feel just a tiny bit overwhelming or add pressure of ‘oh, I gotta get back to that person’ and like pull me out of posting to Instagram for fun or suddenly I'm like back in it.
So I think being really authentic in getting to know them over social media or over email in a way that isn't like comments on their pets, comments on their weekends. Pitch myself. More so, you reached out and you were very genuine of, ‘I've got this project coming. It is a dream that it would be in print’ and you were of course presenting something, but it was like a really authentic human connection.
It's finding a balance of being assertive and promoting yourself, but also being aware too, of we're all humans and we want human connection versus just like these floods of ‘I need something back’. I don't know if that makes sense. Maybe it's just a few years of like thousands of DMs and being like, ah! So much!
Anastasia 00:53:17 I think this goes back to making that priority list of publications. And when you do that, look at what editors are writing articles, follow those editors and engage with those articles on the actual parent platform way before you're ready to pitch. As in, start establishing these relationships before you even have something that you're asking for so that you can get to know these people. And when they do see that pitch come through, it's like, ‘oh, it's Megan, great. What is she looking for?’. It's a much warmer version of a cold call and it's just really nice to have those friends that are editors who already know your name before reversing that formula like Kelli was describing sending the pitch and then actively engaging over and over.
Kelli 00:54:09 I have made so many friends through this job and through exactly getting to know each other on social media and then working together and then a friendship happens. I'm not saying don't ever DM someone, but you translated it perfectly of becoming the way that you would make friends with someone in real life would be kind of slow and steady, it wouldn't be a flash.
I think it comes down to wanting to give everyone… From my perspective, I want everyone to have the same fair review process. And when it's suddenly like, ‘hello, I've been following you for a long time’, but I've never, I haven't interacted with them before. And then suddenly they're interacting a lot. It's like, I know what you're up to. You're working.
Anastasia 00:54:58 Beyond that.
Kelli 00:54:59 You've got a great vibe, but I do know what you're up to and it is all just like a hustle. We all are, but it's, it's this new etiquette that people are learning to navigate. As you know, you have access to people and to their lives…
Anastasia 00:55:18 Speaking of etiquette, in our private discussions, as friends you've shared that pitches seem to be coming more and more aggressive or demanding and that it hasn't felt as good going through some work. Can you share more about that experience and advise how to ensure that your pitch does not come off that way, especially when you're writing an email and too many exclamation points could be read a different way than intended.
Kelli 00:55:50 A big part of it, and I think especially my experience of it has been that Rue has seen a different type of growth really quickly over the last two years. And it's been a different experience in that sometimes the features feel like whoever is pitching them, whether it's a publicist or a designer, it feels more high pressure or more urgent due to now having access. Now we have print, now we have more in person events again.
And so, yeah, exclamation points. That's fine. I use way too many. I use like 40 emojis, the least professional. But I mean, an instance I'm remembering is, I was going to a trade show and someone, a publicist, told their client without confirming that I would be there. And then suddenly it was like 30 DMS in just five minutes.
Like my job is on the line. I told them that you would do this. And so that was like this ‘really?’. And then I'm a people pleaser, and I don't want anyone in trouble. I want to make time and room for everyone. And that felt really like, ‘oh shoot, I don't have time to take this meeting. If I did. I would’. But now I'm feeling this kind of higher frequency energy of ‘please, please, you have to’. And so I think just dialing it back. I don't know if it's just like the world is picking up again and our social skills are picking up again, but like, there's definitely been recently, more. So this shift of like, ‘do this for me’, or ‘I need this from you’ versus ‘how can we work together and make this really nice thing together?’.
I think from that perspective– at the end of the day, a pitch is asking a publication to do something for you and you don't wanna feel that way. Like, I don't wanna feel that way. So having it feel a little bit more ‘let's work together, this will be so great’. I'm so excited knowing that it will be great for them as well, versus, please do this.
And then, even still, establishing boundaries early on. As we talked about, instead of after the story has come out, DMing at 2:00 AM on a Friday night saying how many more times are you gonna post to Instagram– that doesn't feel great.
So establishing, ‘could you share your social media plan with me if you have one’ so that you know what to expect versus feeling like you're chasing something and then coming across as urgent. I guess it's just like a lot of it. I think we're all learning, especially as we come out of this reality we are still living in, of just etiquette, social etiquette. We've all existed on our computers. We've all existed on the internet essentially. And now things are opening up and we're seeing each other again. And it's like this weird, I joke there's something in the water. Something's afoot.
Anastasia 00:58:57 So Kelli , you have been so gracious with your time. And I always like to end an episode with a little sneak peek of what might be coming down the pipeline. Can you share your vision for the future of Rue and preferably if you have any top secret secrets you would like to spill?
Kelli 00:59:17 Well, what's coming. I mean, we're continuing on. The magazine has been so well received. I'm already working on the next three issues as we speak. It's been well received enough that we're hoping to be more widely available in more retailers. And soon, by the time this airs, it will be available. All of the print issues will be available for free to our readers on the website for anyone who wasn't able to access past issues. We've had people who found out about us later and