In a down market, it’s strategic public relations to the rescue
Real estate professionals are unique in their approaches to business, but they will agree on one thing: Real estate is a cyclical industry. Most veterans can recall up to five downturns that have impacted the South Florida market during the past three decades. Market downturns are something you learn to live with, to the extent that the best developers and brokers naturally grow gills for breathing adverse economic conditions.
You can handle today’s slowdown by not only weathering the current storm, but also maintaining a bold presence during strong economic conditions. Incorporate a strategic public relations plan into your marketing budget.
For developers and brokers, communicating with the public is the key to driving sales and generating deal flow. However, general communication only scratches the surface. A strategic, highly targeted public relations (PR) and marketing plan will help you maintain a strong corporate image, while penetrating target audiences with messages that speak directly to your business objectives.
Following are ways strategic public relations and marketing help your real estate firm during both strong and challenging economic times.
• Advertising will brand; PR will motivate and sell
For starters, public relations is a powerful form of communication in that it’s credible. The third-party credibility provided by earned editorial coverage and independent endorsements far outweighs that of advertising. Consumers are far more likely to believe journalists and product users who give independent comments on issues, products or companies. While advertising still plays a key role in generating brand awareness, it’s the credibility established through PR that ultimately drives sales and builds corporate identities.
• An aggressive approach to media relations
Instead of blaming the press for reporting slow sales, work with journalists to tell your side of the story. Media relations is much more extensive than distributing the customary press release. A strategic media relations campaign will customize the approach to publicity with the client’s business objectives in mind. Consider implementing a media tour, expert source positioning, customized story angles and bylined articles and opinion pieces.
• Drive sales, awareness through targeted marketing
Complementing the media relations effort with targeted marketing is essential for developing positive attitudes and partnerships among key audiences, such as buyers, lenders and brokers. Work to develop cross promotions with like-minded companies that service potential clients.
• Hire an exclusive partner, not a vendor
When you hire a PR firm, you’re opening the door to your company’s most valued assets and trade secrets. Make sure the PR firm has your best interests in mind. If a firm claims to only specialize in real estate, there is a good chance it’s also representing one of your competitors. Ask to see a current client list to determine conflicts of interest.
• Experienced counselors are worth the money
When faced with challenging market conditions, the last thing a client needs is an order taker. If you’re going to invest in PR as a means to increase your bottom line, then you deserve a seasoned professional managing your business. While a full-service agency may offer you a suite of services and an army of foot soldiers, there’s a good chance you won’t receive the senior-level counsel you deserve.
• Making your PR last
Incredible editorial placements don’t have an expiration date. The editorial coverage your firm generates for you should be considered one of your most valued assets. Create an online “In the News” section on your Web site, where prospects can visit to read about your firm and past successes. Incorporate the PR into your marketing materials, via print and online newsletters. Create reprints of articles that can be distributed at trade shows and at your sales center. Remember, nothing establishes instant credibility more than a third-party source.
Tadd A. Schwartz is principal and founder of Schwartz Media Strategies, a communications firm focusing on increasing a company’s bottom line through strategic media relations and marketing. Visit Schwartz-Media.com, or call 305.807.3612.