Three Ways Commercial Real Estate Firms Should Change Their Public Relations Strategy
Almost everyone in the commercial real estate sector approaches marketing and PR the same way: collateral materials with buildings bathed in sunshine; interviews with trade journals; market overview presentations over coffee and bagels.
They also issue press releases about deals, which the press rarely cares about unless it is a big one – and even then, writers typically want an exclusive. I was recently having lunch with a reporter who covers commercial real estate and we were discussing this. He animatedly pulled out his Blackberry and showed me an email from that day about a small lease deal from a commercial broker. “Why would anyone bother to send me that?” he asked. Of course, being in PR, I understand that brokers, REITS and developers like to show momentum however they can. And I told the reporter this. But we both agreed that there are more creative ways to do this.
Another common tactic – especially for commercial brokers – is to create quarterly reports based on market data. These reports are full of important content, but the data has become such a commodity that every brokerage firm races to produce them at the end of a quarter because only the first one out gets media attention. The process of producing these reports is so time consuming that once the data is crunched and the report is released, the time suck for the marketing and PR department is so great they have no resources left to do any other content creation.
But just as development and finance has changed in recent years, so has communication. Here are three practices that CRE firms can easily change to increase engagement, visibility and yes, lead generation.
- Develop a point of view. Rather than tout a new tenant in a press release, create content that has an authoritative perspective on an emerging neighborhood or market. Whether it’s explaining why you think cities are the next “it” location for pharmaceutical companies or using data to show why urban residential development needs to become more efficient or flexible, be thought provoking. Your insights will pique the interest of the media, as well as possible investors or tenants and could help on the community relations side, as well.
- Reinvent the quarterly/annual report. There are many more compelling ways to tell the story of market conditions. Whether it’s video or infographics; Q&As; or blog posts that are well optimized for search engine optimization, injecting creativity into this process and developing content that is more easily shared through social and syndication channels can give the information legs beyond the first day it is released and drive more traffic to your website.
- Stop treating social media like a neighbor’s cute pet. Something fun to see once in a while, but you are glad you don’t have to pick up after it every day. Real estate is a patient industry, one based on long-term relationships and long views, while not necessarily focused on what’s happening rightthissecond. That is respectable. But what is happening rightthissecond is a conversation. Do you want to be a part of it? If you are issuing press releases and reports, clearly you do. Social media allows you to participate – especially to listen – so that you can offer your expertise when someone could use it. This recent story in the New Yorker about Justin Bieber’s manager made it clear that Bieber’s worth as a singer is one thing, but the value of his Twitter following as an advertising tool is the real long-term business value.
I’ve heard many real estate firms question whether the time it takes to tend social channels is worth the results. A recent Hubspot report found that those who use Twitter average more than two times the amount of leads per month than companies that don’t use Twitter. The report also revealed that blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter led to new clients/customers for half of the businesses surveyed. Face-to-face meetings are crucial to business, yet these tools can foster new relationships as well as nurture existing ones.
As those in commercial real estate know all too well, the world has changed in recent years.
The crash may have paused many opportunities for the sector to innovate, but with the market gaining momentum, there are advantages to embracing new methods of public relations.