Miami Living: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Designing the District? What motivated you to start your own PR firm?
Timur Tugberk: I began working for myself in 2005 under the name T-Squared, focusing on interior design and events. The events went from periodic to frequent, and then many businesses started asking me to host events to connect with my people, as I have always been a connector and socialite. Promoting events taught me marketing and PR, and my degree in interior design and art history gave me a unique creative perspective.
ML: How has your business changed over the years?
Timur Tugberk: My business, which I used to call my full-time side hustle, as I have diverse corporate and agency experience to mirror and expand upon my own business, was renamed to Timur Tugberk Events, Interiors & Media. As I grew my business and my platform, I also grew my corporate career. Around 2010, I followed my heart to San Francisco, where I held numerous dream jobs, paused my full-time side hustle, and left my hometown of DC. I eventually returned back east to DC, where I made the decision to work exclusively for myself.
DC is often referred to as "the district." I am a designer, and I have worked in real estate development, urban planning, cultural engineering, and community management, in addition to design, marketing, PR, and events. The name "Designing the District" is a play on words as I do design— I design homes, I design brands, I design experiences, I design cities, and I design successful outcomes (through marketing science, brand management, and strategic design).
In addition, I've held influential roles throughoutnot only my hometown (the district) but also anywhere else I've lived (SF, NYC, LA, Miami). Designing the District alludes not only to my abilities and services but also to the cultural impact that many of my creations have on the adjacent communities.
ML: What do you think are the core values that make Designing the District successful? How have those values contributed to your firm's growth over the years?
Timur Tugberk: I believe authenticity, open-mindedness, creativity, hard work, and having fun through the process make Designing the District successful. Additionally, I do not treat every client the same, provide templated proposals, or work with businesses I can't truthfully and authentically get behind.
I design my project scopes to align specifically with the wishlist, materials, audiences, subject matter, and hopeful outcomes of each prospect. I also cannot represent something I do not believe in. Lastly, I like to tell people, "what you see is what you get with me... I am the same person as a friend as I am a colleague." If that vibes with people (friends, lovers, clients, family), then we'll be great together!
ML: With so many PR agencies in Miami, how does Designing the District differentiate itself from other agencies?
Timur Tugberk: I like to say that we are a nimble boutique PR agency with global reach and high impact. Regardless of whether we're working with 2, 4, 8, or 12 clients at one time, we commit to offering full-time-like attention to each of our clients' needs. I am not a team of 12, 20, or 50—I am a solo-preneur who contracts creatives, communicators, producers, and marketers that are the best fit for each project with whom I work. My relationships and connections allow Designing the District to provide expert quality work at boutique agency pricing.
ML: Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider to be the biggest accomplishments? And any particular goals worth sharing?
Timur Tugberk: I think the greatest accomplishment I have to date is not only creating, running, and successfully growing my own business (I did not go to school for business administration, I do not have a background in operations, business management, and business science), but that business is a full-service creative communications agency focusing on public relations and marketing (two things I learned through experience and taught myself—I've never taken a PR or marketing course in my life).
My one goal before I leave this earth is to leave a positive, memorable, and lasting impact on society. With the amount of reach I've been able to acquire over my near 20-year career, I can see how effortless and relatively simple it is, for me, to communicate with and inspire hundreds of thousands of people pretty much at the push of a button—and I'm hoping to grow that ability globally and do great things for our planet, society, and others.
ML: In today's world, where social media is a dominant force, how does your PR firm leverage influencer marketing to benefit your clients?
Timur Tugberk: This is a fun and unfair question... I have been an influencer well before the term was coined (since 2005). In today's media landscape, most of us consider influencers as "media." Curating messaging to an engaged audience is precisely what publications like Miami Living Magazine do, for example.
Platforms have the ability to manage their content and revenue (if applicable) according to their own model. I find that reaching out to my social media influencer lists is one of the most effective ways to connect. Social media users are generally more engaged than traditional readers, more likely to take action based on messaging, and social media platforms offer backend metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns and engagement. I value and respect the community of influencers I interact with across the country. Sometimes, it's easier and more authentic to communicate with a person directly rather than through email or video conferencing.
ML: Since fashion is a prominent category for your agency, could you share some current trends in the fashion, beauty, and apparel industries that your PR firm is following? And how do you stay up to date with these trends?
Timur Tugberk: The predominant trends in both the fashion and beauty industries this decade have revolved around sustainability, the use of natural materials, upcycling, and mindful sourcing. "Fast Fashion" is one of the leading contributors to environmental waste, which significantly contributes to climate change and global warming. It's evident that many smaller brands are genuinely concerned and focused on taking steps to support a better future.
As a fashion publicist, it's our responsibility to stay updated on these trends as it forms the foundation of our work. We tell stories, select images and styles to share, pitch them to the media for dissemination, provide gift ideas and products to influencers, and genuinely live and breathe the fashion and beauty world. The three walk-in closets in my home and my overflowing product shelves are a testament to the level of investment I make in having, trying, and exploring the diverse range of fashion and beauty elements required to truly understand what I'm talking about when creating news for everyone.
ML: How do you measure the success of a PR campaign? What metrics do you use?
Timur Tugberk: To measure the success of a PR campaign, we utilize several key metrics. First, we consider the estimated reach, which helps us determine the potential audience reached by our campaign efforts. Additionally, we assess the estimated media value, which quantifies the equivalent cost of the media coverage gained through the campaign.
Another important metric is the estimated social media audience, which provides insights into the size and engagement of the campaign's social media reach. Lastly, we track the number of hits or published stories that feature our campaign, as it indicates the level of media coverage obtained. In certain cases, clients may request a sales-oriented component, blending PR with marketing. In such instances, we may establish affiliate programs with media outlets and influencers, incorporating unique URLs, codes, and trackable elements to facilitate the measurement of conversions from storytelling and awareness development to user adoption and sales, which is often the ultimate objective.
ML: Finally, how do you balance your creative vision with the practical demands of running a successful PR firm?
Timur Tugberk: I consistently apply creative principles to my work and approach creative problem-solving with a design philosophy. The process of creating news itself requires creativity and vision. I am grateful for my design education, as it has allowed me to effectively translate it into the field of communications. That is why I proudly refer to our agency as "Designing the District," a "Creative Communications Agency." By infusing creativity into our practical operations, we are able to strike a balance between our creative vision and the pragmatic requirements of running a successful PR firm.