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How to get your foot in the door with the media

On October 22 this year it will mark 20 years since I started as a journalist. 

Back then, I was at a regional daily newspaper writing about everything from old ladies turning 100 to murder trials.

Yep, I worked for the mainstream media. 

Now before you go hurling rotten tomatoes in my direction, hear me out. The mainstream media isn’t all bad. 

The overwhelming majority of journalists and editors really do care about what they write and want to do the right thing by people. 

One of the stories that had the most impact on me was about a teenage girl injured in a car accident.

How this then 16-year-old survived left emergency service workers stunned. It was nothing short of a miracle.

Her family agreed to do a story about her long recovery and when she finally made it home, I was invited to come and meet this remarkable young woman whose life had changed in an instant but who had such an engaging and optimistic outlook on life despite her permanent injuries.

I wrote a series of stories and carefully formulated every word, knowing that she would read them. What I didn’t know was that she loved them so much she stuck them on her bedroom wall.

I found this out when I was invited to her 18th birthday party and saw her bedroom with the clippings stuck next to her desk. To this day, I still share emails with her and have made a life-long friend.

Why am I telling you this? I want to impress upon you that most journalists care. By and large, they’re good people who take their job seriously. 

Just like real estate agents, journalists often get a bad wrap. Unfortunately, one bad apple really does taint the whole crop.

There’s actually a whole lot of good about the media, and as a real estate agent, I’d urge you to form strong relationships with your local real estate journalists.

Real estate is a hot topic in the media. Whether it be metro daily newspapers, weekly regional rags, podcasts, magazines, online media or digital videos and blogs, there’s a lot of demand for any and all things real estate.

As an agent, getting editorial coverage in the media is not only cost-effective (ie free), it can help build your personal brand and provide ‘social proof’ of your expertise.

Often, when someone Google’s an agent’s name, any news stories they’ve been in will pop up high in the search results. So it stands to reason that you should be looking to get your name in print.

But not all property stories are created equal and often knowing what makes a good real estate news story can seem like an unsolvable mystery.

An article on a house with 10 others just like it right around the corner, is just not going to cut the mustard.

So, to help you along in your quest for editorial space, I’ve put together a few tips on what you can do to make the grade and put your number on a real estate reporter’s speed dial.

1. Luxury sells

Everyone loves to see how the other half live. What they have, what they don’t have and all of the opinions that follow.

If you’ve got a luxury property coming to market, especially if it’s above $10 million, there’s a good chance the media will be interested.

If the property has eye-catching features, such as ocean views or unique architecture, that’s even better.

And if the property has a well-known or famous vendor and they’re willing to talk to the media, well, you’re pretty much home and hosed. 

2. Weird and wonderful

Not every property has to be fancy to get a story in the paper, but it does have to have something weird, wonderful, strange, different or special about it.

A few years back, I was working in Sydney and a local agent rang me to do a story on a two-bedroom cottage. It was pretty old, and didn’t really sound terribly inviting at all. 

Cue the conversation where I try and let him down gently.

Me: “Thanks so much for reaching out about the property, but it doesn’t sound like something our readership would be interested in at the …

Agent: “The house is black.”

Me: “Pardon? What do you mean the house is black?”

Agent: “The whole house is painted black. Even the front fence is black. It ruffled a few feathers in the street a couple of years ago when the owners painted it black.”

Me: “When can I come and take a look?”

Needless to say, I did a story on the cottage with a facade that was painted completely black, and it was one of the most-read stories that year. 

One agent that’s pretty adept at getting media coverage for properties with unique features is Drew Davies.

The Place Estate Agents Ascot Director has managed to secure editorial space for a property that was once the scene of a grisly murder, while another had a giant skate bowl in the living room.

3. Be prepared to mention price

I know, I know, money is such a sensitive topic of conversation, and your clients often want the price they paid/sold for to remain hush, hush. Or maybe they don’t want to make the price guide super well-known. 

But from a news perspective, price does two things:

  • It gives readers an indication of how ‘special’ a property is. Readers can use it to measure or compare a property with others on the market. The features a $3 million home has will be a lot different to that of a $15 million home. 
  • It lets readers, and property hunters, know whether the property is within their budget.

It’s worth keeping in mind that some news platforms won’t run editorials on properties without a price, while others will find other sources to give them the price point. So I’d suggest it’s better to lead that conversation rather than react to it.

4. Tug at the heartstrings

Just as an emotional connection can help sell a property, it can help get your name in print too. Any story that’s likely to create an emotional response in a reader, listener or viewer is likely a winner. 

One I recently wrote for Elite Agent did exactly that. On the surface, a Pearl Beach cottage selling for $2.5 million is uninteresting. Standard. Mundane. 

But if you add to that the fact that the home had never been offered to market since the original owner bought the land and you’ve got a story. Add to that the fact that the land originally cost 78 pounds, and you’ve got a good story. 

And if you add to that a great picture, a vendor happy to be quoted and some agent commentary about the local market, you’ve got a very good story (which you can read here).

5. Pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and whoever they are, they’re right. While those of us that are word scribes hate to admit it, it’s often a picture that grabs a reader’s attention. 

There’s no point there being an amazing story about a property if a reader can’t see it. Luckily, most agents use professional photographers, and if you can supply quality images for a story, the editor will love you for it. (Just make sure you send the hi-res ones if it’s for a print article.)

Oh, and if the picture you send has people in it, please include a caption with correctly spelt names.

6. Be deadline-driven

If a journalist rings you, call them back well before their deadline. If they say they’re doing a story for tomorrow’s paper, don’t call them back next week. That’s too late. 

Call them back now and be ready with a quote. If you don’t, they will get comments from your competition. I know for a fact that most journalists, real estate or otherwise, have a list of agents they regularly contact for comments on trends or the market in general. The agents that get their name on that special list do the following:

  • Call back in a timely fashion
  • Give quality opinions that can be quoted on the record
  • Point the journalist in the direction of more information to help their story.

7. Communication is key

A journalist can’t cover a story they don’t know about, so if you know something newsworthy, reach out to them and tell them about it. They will thank you for it.

This goes for hard news stories about the market or trends you’re noticing, as well as notable properties you have coming on the market.

If you contact a journalist with a great story and they will be the one to break it, you’ll not only score coverage, but your name will be on their good books too.

A great recent example of a CEO keeping me in the loop about a rapidly changing real estate issue came during Covid when NSW reopened and there was confusion about whether auctions and open homes could take place.

Laing+Simmons CEO, and then REINSW President, Leanne Pilkington kept me 100 per cent in the loop on the institute’s dealings with the NSW Government.

She even sent me a couple of texts on the weekend to alert me to Facebook Live Q&As she and REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin were holding to answer agents’ questions.

The result was rolling coverage (multiple deadlines met!) that not only highlighted the REINSW’s hard work, it helped keep agents up-to-date.

8. Do it for them

Just as real estate agents are busy folk, so too are journalists. The easier you make their job, the better chance you have of getting coverage. 

Think about it, if a journalist has the choice of two very similar stories and one comes with a press release and a great picture, while the other doesn’t, guess which one they will likely select? 

And finally…

Just as real estate is all about relationships, so too is generating editorial coverage. The more you work with a journalist, the more trust you build, the better it is for everyone.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.