PRimage-300x199Public relations may be one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood tools in the average real estate brokerage’s marketing arsenal. Yet, the more you understand public relations and how it can be fully integrated into your marketing plans and sales activities, the greater your ability will be to make both more effective.

As we begin a new year, ask yourself this question: Do you have a PR plan for 2016?

What is PR?

It’s no wonder most people are confused when trying to describe what PR really is. Trying to find one universal definition is futile: there are dozens. Here are just a handful of definitions from PR practitioners that show you the breadth and depth of what PR actually is:

  • “Public relations is the art and science of sharing genuine, credible, relevant news and information to grow, maintain and protect brand acceptance, awareness, reputation and sales, when appropriate. Public Relations creates measurable, fact- based conversations, events and activities conceived to generate positive, third party endorsements and target audience buy-in.” –Deborah Weinstein
  • “Public relations is a highly strategic discipline that’s integrated with marketing to achieve business goals. It positions companies and spokespeople with key audiences, whether internal or external. Public relations complements an integrated marketing campaign with measurable results garnered through media relations, social media, thought leadership, industry analyst relations, investor relations and/or special events.” – Jayme Soulati
  • “Public relations communicates the news, influences the news, receives the news, and responds to the news for a brand via the media. It’s the art and science of talking to the right audience in the right voice. PR is the communication hub of an organization. It influences and shapes a company’s image, reputation, brand perception and culture. PR connects a brand and its public via direct messages or editorial media including print, broadcast, radio, digital, video or social media.” –Lisa Buyer
  • “PR is the process of making a heartfelt connection between a person or organization and the people who can truly benefit from and care about their message. It’s an awareness of what makes people tick, facilitated by a desire to build communities, engage and discuss, and give voice to worthy projects. PR isn’t mass messaging, spinning truths, or a barrier between the public and the person represented. PR should make genuine connections.” -Shennandoah Diaz

What can PR do for your brokerage?

Because PR has so many different components and uses every communication channel — including social media — to connect with your targeted audiences, there are many ways to deploy a PR plan to benefit your brokerage.

For example, one of the main components of PR is publicity: activities to help you generate news coverage that helps you tell your story. The story can be about you, your brokerage, or a product, service or event your firm is offering.

The most effective stories must be newsworthy, meaning they have a broad appeal to an audience that is tuned into the communication channel (newspapers, television, trade) you are targeting. One of the best ways to connect to your audience is with research or other data that helps validate and explain the story.

If your brokerage wants to be the local voice of real estate news and information in your marketplace, providing interesting insight and commentary based on your area’s latest monthly home sales numbers is a great place to start. What can you add to the conversation, based on the data, that others are missing? How can you describe this information that piques the interest of reporters? Can you tell this story in a way that makes your quote the one the reporter uses?

Be a first responder

The most important part of generating ongoing publicity is making sure your brokerage is proactive with reporters, bloggers, influencers and others with whom you want to share your stories. This is where the skill every real estate professional has – the ability to foster terrific relationships – comes into play.

Unfortunately, despite having this skill, most real estate pros fall flat when it comes to media relations. Why? Because real estate brokerage executives typically do not understand the importance of being a first responder since they don’t really understand the rules of the game:

Rule #1: The faster you get back to a reporter, the better. We have a rule of thumb at WAV Group Communications. If a client can’t respond to a reporter in 20 minutes or less, then we will on our client’s behalf, which is the least preferred option.

When you respond first, the reporter will appreciate it and that’s how good relationships are made: by being highly accessible and responsive. If you can’t talk now, and let the reporter know why, you’ll find more flexibility in setting a mutual time that works for both of you. Even when you are not the right source, helping the reporter find the right source goes a long way as well.

Rule #2: No, you can’t review the questions in advance of an interview. Unless a reporter is doing the interview by email (which has become much more commonplace), you will not know the questions the reporter asks.

Rule #3: No, you can’t review the story before it runs. Unless you are paying for the editorial placement (and then it really is advertising and not news), the best you can hope for is with a complex story, a reporter asks for factual verification.

While there are exceptions to every rule, including these, these last two rules point to the big difference between PR and Advertising: With advertising you control the message – when it runs and what it says. With PR, the third party ultimately controls the messaging – when it runs and what it says, but the value of this information is vastly higher because of the credibility that positive publicity delivers.

More than just publicity

Publicity is the easiest example to give of Public Relations in action, but good PR will take what publicity generates and find ways to leverage this throughout one’s marketing plans and sales activity.

For example, let’s say that your brokerage’s marketing plan in 2016 includes getting a greater share of waterfront property sales. Your PR strategy includes securing a great story in your local newspaper that features a broker-owner talking about a spike in waterfront home sales. This story can be shared through multiple channels. First, the story is likely to be socialized through the newspapers’ social media channels. The brokerage can ‘like,’ share and retweet these links from this highly credible third-party source. Internally, the broker-owner can share the story with the entire team to boost morale. The sales team also can email links to the story to prospects and customers as a way to engage them in a conversation. The brokerage’s website can promote its inclusion in this story to reach even more prospects and customers. All of these activities help support marketing and sales goals, generated from just a single placement.

Again, publicity is just one component of PR, albeit a highly valuable one, but PR can do a lot more, especially when it’s integrated with sales and marketing. The more you understand what PR can do, the more it can do for you and your brokerage.

Definitions to remember

At the top of this article, a few keywords are highlighted: art and science; strategic discipline; then art and science again, followed by heartfelt connection. As you construct your PR plan for 2016, remember that it takes both an artist (writer) and a scientist (trained PR professional) to execute your strategy. It will take discipline to maintain the frequency that it takes (once a month or twice a month for most companies) for you to build relationships with the media. And lastly, good PR must be heart felt and sincere.

About WAV Group Communications

WAV Group Communications provides public relations services to real estate brokerages, MLSs, Associations of REALTORS® and real estate technology firms. Please contact us if you would like a PR/Communications Audit, PR Plan, or PR Services to support your success in 2016.

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