Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

5 Things I Learned From Being an HGTV Designer

It was 9 p.m. on a Friday, and I was checking my end-of-the-day emails. I saw one from an HGTV producer on a new show called "100 Day Dream Home." The email read: "Karen, I'm trying to reach you about an opportunity to home decorate and stage an upcoming show."

I immediately called the producer to learn more. He explained there was a new show being filmed in my local market of Tampa, Fla., and the program needed a design professional for the big reveal—in less than a week.

While I was excited to be contacted, I also wondered why a national home improvement show would be in such a jam days before a big deadline. The producer explained: It's show biz and stuff happens. This was my first learning moment.

1. Be ready!

Whether a real estate professional, interior designer, or home stager, always be prepared to quickly jump on a great marketing opportunity. This means having your business profile visible online. That's where this story started. The producer learned about my staging company, Home Frosting, by doing a Google search.

Make sure your credentials and evidence of success are clear throughout your web presence, such as through testimonials of your great work. Timing is everything. When anyone is in a situation with a deadline, they are reaching out to many resources, not just you. The one who responds right way—with the best, most reliable info—will win the gig.

I jumped at the opportunity to present my best portfolio of work. I offered to meet the local producer the very next day. Beyond making the producer feel confident that my team was right for the job, I had my talent fees and terms ready, too. Sure, HGTV offers national publicity exposure. But I've paid my dues, and my company was bringing value to the project. I negotiated a fair compensation package for one episode with a mindset that this first project would have learning aspects and could lead to added opportunities.

Within 12 hours, we landed the job with HGTV! The project: Deliver a fully decorated 4,000 square foot home—that includes every room and two outdoor areas—in just four days.

2. You are always on stage.

Salespeople are always being judged. Be camera-ready. That Friday night when I phoned back the producer, I was being interviewed. Everything I said mattered and was weighing into that producer's decision on whether to give me the project versus another interior designer.

The concise words you choose, how you look, and your professionalism count. This rule applied at the actual filming set, too. Cameras were always running. I instructed my team: Look your best, be well-groomed, and where your Home Frosting shirts in unity.

3. Honor confidentiality.

When you are working on a national TV show where promotional investments are huge, take confidentiality seriously. Do not share pictures on social media or talk about the details prior to the episode running. (Same thing often applies as you negotiate contracts in your real estate business.) "Loose lips sink ships" is a smart way to deal with all marketing launches.

4. Avoid common faux pas when appearing on video.

The method of broadcast — whether it is for a TV show or a video for promotional purposes — transforms common elements into visual challenges. More specifically, in our case, those visual challenges became mirrors. Mirrors typically are a stager's best friends because they open up a space and can make it feel larger. However, in a film or video production, mirrors can mean trouble. They can expose the behind-the-scenes crew and equipment.

Busy patterns also are bad news, whether it's wallpaper or a jacket someone is wearing. Patterns can create a vibration or "snow effect" on the screen.

And finally, black monitors need to go. Yes, they show where you can watch your television or device, but they end up looking like a dark black hole and they don't positively add to the end result. Instead, we favored well-curated art, such as in the example below.

If you're going to appear on video, make sure you consider the aspects of your presentation—from what you choose to wear and the background in your shot.

5. Capture and leverage the experience.

Being invited to do interior design and home decorating work on a nationally televised show like HGTV is an honor and opportunity. While my firm was paid to provide home decorating services for four homes, the greatest value from this experience was brand association and visibility. That won't happen on its own with any opportunity. It's what you make of it.

From the get-go, we consciously captured compelling content from every possible angle. We engaged a professional photographer to chronicle our home design and decorating work while working on the show. My team also shot photos and video of our experiences to later share on social media, in our blog, and in our marketing materials.

Since we were a paid contributor, we knew there was no guarantee we'd have much or even any airtime that showed our faces, besides featuring our finished rooms. The crew filmed a lot of footage of Home Frosting and recorded me talking about several of the scenes. But what happens in the editing phase is always unpredictable.

We developed a multi-pronged PR plan to leverage the experiences after the segments aired. This included adding the HGTV logo mark to our website, social media channels, and all of our profiles. Next, we worked on our new and long-time resources from the project. This meant sharing content, cross promoting, and deepening the relationships.

Outside patio with wicker furniture.

Photo credit: Brett Kettler

HGTV opportunities like this don't fall out of the sky by themselves. As business owners, interior designers, home stagers, and real estate professionals, every day we need to take the right steps to set ourselves up to receive opportunities that come our way and that could have enormous power to fuel our success.


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