For those in the business of design, getting proper media coverage can be a headache-inducing hassle. For design-focused media, the endless struggle is finding the right project at the right time.
Enter Kathy Kent, an ambitious 30-year-old New Yorker who has created PlaidRobot.com, a design communications business that opened its virtual doors in February. Kent, who spent two years as a business manager at an interior design firm and two years doing freelance P.R. work, found the traditional tools of public relations slow and success unpredictable. “I realized how antiquated the system was,” she says. The time and the technology were ideal, Kent decided, to move the process online.
Similar in design to a social networking website like MySpace.com, PlaidRobot.com is an “affinity hub”—a niche-oriented site for business pursuits, according to 360 Hubs Inc., the California company that designed and hosts Kent's website. In other words, whereas social networks are generally a one-size-fits-all proposition, affinity hubs are tailored to the needs of a particular market.
Designers pay a fee to subscribe to PlaidRobot.com; media can register for free. (At press time, the site had 28 designers and 43 media members, including ARCHITECT.) Once they've signed up, designers can tailor their profile, upload images, post press releases, learn what editors are searching for, and much more. On the other side, editors can search for projects using a variety of criteria, contact the designers directly, and download high-resolution images with ease. The site also offers RSS feeds from design news sources and an events calendar.
Architect William Watson, half of the two-person, year-old firm Castro Watson in New York, calls the site a great idea. “For architects (especially newer practices),” he writes in an e-mail, “introducing recent projects to publishers is a time consuming and expensive endeavor.” As a result, it can be tough for new and inventive work to get visibility.
Although PlaidRobot.com targets solo designers and firms too small to have their own communications staff, Kent says the site offers larger, more-established players benefits as well—such as the ability to specify which media outlets learn about a project or product, instead of blasting every contact on an e-mail list with a generic press release.
As for the site's name, Kent says when she researched URLs, all those with “design,” “P.R.,” and other apposite terms were taken. So she came up with a few unconventional names; PlaidRobot.com scored well with her friends in the business. “It was a struggle to find something that made sense and was memorable,” she admits. But she has no qualms about it, noting, “My favorite sites all have ridiculous names.”