What does it mean to run a PR agency in the design world?

Let’s delve into an enlightening discussion with Hans Hjelmqvist, co-founder of the renowned PR agency, Grand Relations. Explore the depths of meaning, gain valuable recommendations, and uncover insightful perspectives

Have you ever wondered why some designers and companies are more effective than others in getting featured in magazines, blogs, and social media? I reached out to Hans Hjelmqvist, who holds the roles of CEO and Senior PR Advisor at Grand Relations PR agency in Sweden, to seek his viewpoint on the subject.

These platforms can be crucial to the success of an initiative. However, many are unaware that behind this success, there are professionals strategically working to create the right approach for getting published and recognized for their work.

Within this context, Hans Hjelmqvist shares the nuances of running a design-focused PR agency.

Grand Relations’ founding team – From left: Hans Hjelmqvist, Co-founder, CEO and Senior PR Advisor; Tove Regnander, Co-founder and Senior PR Advisor

Could you explain what Grand Relations specializes in and what its primary services are? How do you initiate and cultivate relationships with clients?

Hans Hjelmqvist:

“Grand Relations is a trailblazing PR and communications powerhouse specialized in premium brands in design, interior aesthetics, architecture, and the art of living. We orchestrate the ascent of premium brands in the Scandinavian realm and beyond.

We passionately curate partnerships with visionary brands that epitomize cutting-edge design and craftsmanship, crafting their narratives from the finest materials and sustainability commitments. Our discerning clientele demands not just expertise in PR but an intimate understanding of design’s very DNA, making strategic counsel a fundamental tenet of our work.

Venturing beyond the ordinary, our Design Management expertise orchestrates symbiotic collaborations, uniting avant-garde designers and forward-thinking enterprises in crafting zeitgeist-defining creations.

Family Night Owl by Fritz Hansen _ Hans Hjelmqvist _ Grand Relations _ running a pr agency in the design world _ clients
Family Night Owl by Fritz Hansen – Grand Relations

Our clientele isn’t a mere selection; it’s an artful fusion, a portfolio that transcends the ordinary. They must fit into the portfolio. Often, it is they who seek our PR expertise. Since we are a premium agency, we may cost a little more, justified by extensive PR industry expertise. Our seasoned senior consultants, each with over a decade of industry immersion, wield a global network, weaving threads of influence both in Scandinavia and across the world. We don’t just serve; we shape legacies.”

Can you walk me through a typical workday or the practical tasks that define your role at Grand Relations?

Hans Hjelmqvist:

“No two days are the same. Our daily pursuit revolves around crafting bespoke PR strategies, a complex blend of current needs and future vision. Thus, our journey commences with a symphony of research and analysis. We inventory our client’s strengths and challenges, and then convene creative groups to devise innovative communication concepts that leverage their advantages and address any obstacles.

These concepts then metamorphose into multifaceted manifestations, from press conferences, tours, and trips to launch events, trade fairs, artistic happenings, content creation, and the dynamic world of influencer collaborations.

Vestre, The Plus Factory (Magnor) by BIG _ Ph Einar Aslaksen
Vestre, The Plus Factory (Magnor) by BIG – © Einar Aslaksen – Grand Relations

On a daily basis, we engage in a wide range of activities. This includes interacting with journalists, strategizing with clients, researching and meeting emerging designers and architects to be able to match the right designers with the right design companies. We also organize launch events, press conferences, fairs, celebrations, press trips, and photo shoots for content production.

Additionally, participating in key international design-related PR events is a vital part of our work. We are diligent in conducting comprehensive follow-ups and analyzing PR performance.”

What methods do you employ to gauge the quality and impact of your work? How do you measure your PR achievements, and what criteria do you utilize to assess success?

Hans Hjelmqvist:

“We work with a diverse range of parameters and KPIs, from Target Reach and PR value, to measuring the quality of articles, introductions, social media engagement, and newly established connections with journalists and architects.

Our focus encompasses brand awareness, brand images, brand equity, brand positioning, and more, tailored to the specific insights and metrics that our clients desire.”

Bernadotte & Kylberg _ brand new company _ materials and craftsmanship (8)
Bernadotte & Kylberg – Grand Relations

Do you also work with independent designers, and if you do, what distinguishes that from your work with companies?

Hans Hjelmqvist:

“Over the years, we’ve collaborated extensively with individual designers. A good example is the Swedish design duo Bernadotte & Kylberg. What sets this collaboration apart from working with larger design brands is a closer collaboration and depth of involvement in planning and advisory services.

When collaborating with larger design groups such as Iittala, part of the Fiskars Group, the final process takes a little longer, involving more layers of approval. However, the fundamental approach to communication remains quite similar. But  as I said, no two assignments are the same.”

Cila chair by Arper – Grand Relations

Could you offer some suggested protocols or a step-by-step process for designers seeking to establish effective engagement with a top-tier PR agency?

Hans Hjelmqvist:

“I would like to emphasize the importance of having high-quality content, including images, contact info, and product details. This greatly facilitates us in crafting press releases that are not just promotional, but also engaging, informative and accurate.

First and foremost: consistently produce captivating visual assets for media use. Equally important is facilitating essential product loans and ensuring that your key spokespersons are both accessible and thoroughly prepared for interviews.

Collaborating with the agency for media training, and heeding their advice is also crucial. We’ve been immersed in this work every day for decades. While designers and architects excel in their domains, they often require support in communication work to reach new levels.

Dining Carimate by Fritz Hansen _ Hans Hjelmqvist _ Grand Relations _ running a pr agency in the design world _ clients
Dining Carimate by Fritz Hansen – Grand Relations

Of course, the agency’s network is also of great importance. We work with the best international design and architecture journalists on an ongoing basis. We are also the Scandinavian PR partner of the international PR agency, 14 Septembre, headquartered in Paris.

So, my checklist would read:

  • Maintain a readily accessible collection of captivating assets, including high-quality images, videos, case studies, and press material – updating them frequently
  • Stay available!
  • Craft newsworthy messages that showcase your design work, innovation, and the unique aspects of your brand
  • Make sure to evaluate the success of the PR campaign based on predefined KPIs
  • Building a successful long-term relationship with the right PR agency can be beneficial, so choose carefully, and after choosing one – trust them!”


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