By Rudina HOXHA
Sharon Finnigan Kilby, Creative Director of Arthouse PR, Tuscany, Italy, sits down with Follow Business Albania to talk about her company, its business model, the major brands it advertises and how she is coping with such abnormal times we are living in due to COVID-19 pandemics
I run 3 businesses from home here in Italy:
- Arthouse PR: A leading international PR and Communications Agency working in the luxury, lifestyle and travel industries.
- Envy Italy: A luxury lifestyle and travel magazine which showcases the very best travel experiences in Italy
- Bella Terra – A garden design and landscape architecture business.
I live in the countryside (miles from anyone and anything) in Tuscany with my husband Gary who is also my business partner in Arthouse PR and our 2 children aged 19 and 15. Life is always busy here with work, gardening and restoring the house.
1.Thank you Sharon for taking our questions! Tell us a little about Arthouse and its history?
I established Arthouse PR in the UK in 2001. After spending several years working in PR, I had made some good journalist contacts in the Interior Design industry and decided to go freelance with a handful of small clients such as kitchen designers, architects and bathroom companies. Arthouse PR grew quickly, and we soon had a portfolio of 10 plus clients and an office with several key staff. From 2001 onwards the Interior Design side of the business grew, and we then also started working with hospitality clients such as golf clubs, hotels, spas, interior designers for hotels etc. From 2007 the business has supported both these industries and we now focus on the following sectors:
Interior Design and Lifestyle
Travel, Luxury, Lifestyle
More often than not, these intertwine and most of our clients fall under the ‘hospitality interiors’ banner.
In 2015 we opened our office in Italy (we moved to Tuscany full time in 2007) keeping our UK office running too but on a smaller scale. Since that time the hospitality side of our business has taken priority with many of our clients being hotels, resorts, wineries and travel designers.
2. What is the mission of Arthouse and can you mention some of the results achieved until early this year?
Arthouse PR’s key to success is introducing our clients to influential journalists worldwide. We bridge the gap between our clients’ brands and the global media. This interaction allows our clients to be represented in magazines and online all over the world.
One way of showcasing our clients to their potential client/customer/guest is through exclusive press trips. We organise authentic experiences for journalists and B2B connections such as travel agencies and wedding planners.
We have arranged 100s of press trips around the world including numerous group trips to desirable 5* destinations including Great Britain, Iceland and of course Italy. Our press trips are unique and authentic and include cultural experiences such as gastronomic events and outdoor adventures.
From Snowmobiling on a glacier in Iceland to Scuba diving in Sardinia, Truffle-Hunting in Tuscany to Wine-tasting in a Venetian Palazzo, our press trips are fun-filled and truly memorable.
3. What are the main brands Arthouse advertise and what do you offer to the new brands that are looking to promote themselves? Why should they choose Arthouse?
Our portfolio is varied but includes some prestigious hotels, interior design brands and wineries, our latest projects include:
Monterosola – Award winning contemporary wine estate in Tuscany
Villa del Golfo Lifestyle Resort – 5* luxury hospitality property in Sardinia
Marrone + Mesubim – Designers of super-sleek Italian kitchens
Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel and Suites – Sophisticated hotel property in Sardinia
Paschoe House – A chic Country House Hotel in England
Arthouse PR has exceptional press and B2B contacts globally and therefore we can specifically match clients with journalists that will, in turn, write features that showcase the client’s brand to the ‘right audience’ globally.
We now have over 20 years’ plus experience of working in the hospitality and interiors market. Our detailed knowledge allows us to generate exceptional press and media coverage for our clients.
4. Has the quarantine made you rethink of your business and the new ways to revive it in the future?
Yes absolutely. All our press and B2B trips have been postponed. We have had to diversify our methods of communications. This is two-fold: we have reverted to some more classic forms of communication and adapted to more advanced modern forms of promotion.
With no personal face to face meetings or press tours possible we have been utilising video and virtual tours. For example, sending travel agencies and travel writers videos of properties, regions, experiences which helps them to identify with the client’s offering or property. We are setting up interactive online wine-tastings, cooking classes and experiences.
More classically, we are sending wine samples to press contacts with tasting notes so they can enjoy a virtual ‘Taste of Tuscany’. We are also creating ‘goody bag’ experiences from hotels where we are mailing hampers of traditional local foods and wines.
We are upping or level of online communications and phone calls and using Linked-in to meet new contacts (we normally attend lots of industry events).
We are also planning much further ahead. For example, we are formulating new and exciting press tours for 2021 – the post COVID-19 period will be a chance to showcase new and diverse travel experiences.
5.What is the one technology trend within your industry that cannot be ignored?
Video is very big at the moment; mini travel docu-films are a great method of sharing inspiration. They can be shared quickly and can really help a hotel property convey the atmosphere of a place. Those hotels that have drone footage are in with an advantage. We will be pushing all travel businesses to invest in video after the quarantine has passed. We are working with an award-winning English film-maker in Florence to offer this service to our clients in the future.
Sharing knowledge and experiences through tutorials is massive, so for example we are encouraging our clients to share recipes, wine tasting and creative/cultural experiences.
Following a phone-meeting with Monterosola winery this morning they have agreed to produce a guide to wine tasting at home. A video tasting for each wine they make will be drip-fed to press and customers over the next few weeks.
I’m finding Linked-in very useful for connecting with potential new clients too. Instagram remains important for travel stories and positive inspiration.
6. How do you keep yourself updated? What are some of the websites or magazines or apps that you subscribe to or read ?
I read so many different sources of information, for example every day I read the Italian and English Newspapers. I read many travel blogs, magazines, face-book feeds. Trade travel and hospitality press.
Most enjoyable and favourite magazine reads include:
Attitude Design – Portugal
Wallpaper Magazine – International Interior Design
Food & Travel – UK and Italian versions
CN Traveler – UK version
How to Spend It – Financial Times supplement
Architectural Digest – US and Italian Version
ENVY ITALY Magazine – My own publication – a good prompt for new features to research
7. A big debate is going on regarding fake media and real media. How far and near do you find yourself amidst this debate?
We work only in the high-end luxury industries which is a good place to be. Our contacts are all genuine journalists and the fake news aspect does not influence our business too much thankfully.
One area of ‘fakeness’ that does impact on our clients is the issue with influencers. We have to be very careful that bloggers and influencers that approach our hotel clients for a ‘barter’ are authentic and have genuine and valuable followers. We spend a great deal of time authenticating the value of influencer reviews. We always advise our clients that it’s not the number of followers a person has but the value they bring. We are only interested in reviews and features that ‘hit the mark’ and attract real interest from possible future customers worldwide.
We want to see real results and focus only on PR activities that will benefit our clients in the long term.