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The Power of Public Relations

Public relations plays a pivotal role in the race to raise consumer awareness of your business and your brand. Leading agencies often engage the services of a professional public relations consultant, however, with some writing skills and a smart strategy, your PR can be DIY. Story by Kerry McDuling.

During my years working with the real estate industry as a PR specialist, I found one aspect to be similar across the board, be it with both multi-national organisations and small independent real estate businesses – These businesses market their clients’ properties really well, but are probably not doing the best job they could do with marketing their own business.

Have you ever heard the saying-Build a better mouse trap and the market will beat a path to your door. Unfortunately this seems to be the axiom most business owners and organisations live by today, both within the real estate industry and the business sector in general. I say “unfortunately” because it simply isn’t true. No matter how superior your customer service and cutting edge your technology and systems, if your market doesn’t know about you, how do you expect them to contact you? There are a number of ways to raise awareness of your business – some cost more than others, while some are more effective than others.

The first thing that probably comes to mind when one wants to create public and consumer awareness of their business is traditional advertising.

Anyone for advertising?
Companies advertise for a number of different reasons: to attract new customers, keep existing ones, and to confirm to recent customers they did the right thing. They advertise to create quick awareness of a new brand or a product change, and create, explain, and reinforce a brand’s positioning. They advertise to tell shareholders they are doing something active to keep the company growing. They advertise to tell government they are there. And sometimes they advertise to win awards. But most of all, they advertise because they’ve grown large enough to expect they need to.

The benefits of advertising are numerous if done correctly and via the right medium for the product/service. Be warned – traditional advertising is not necessarily the most effective form of sales lead generation for the real estate industry (people are well used to being bombarded with various advertising messages and are getting very good at “switching off” to it) and is certainly not the most cost effective method of building awareness.

Practical public relations

Imagine now that you can receive that same space (or larger) in newspapers, online, radio and TV for free. And if it were to include your photo and be taken more seriously by your readers. This is what we call public relations.

Public relations is a term many businesses may have heard of but are not entirely certain what it is, or what’s involved, and are certainly not making the best use of this brilliant tool that they could. Public relations is effectively communicating with your market. It may be something that your competitors are not doing, or are not doing well. If that is the case, communicating with your market effectively is sure to grow your business. If, however, your competitors are already communicating with your shared market, then it’s about time you started, before you get left behind in their dust.

Public relations is so effective, particularly for businesses in the real estate industry because of the role the media takes as “the watchdog of society.” The media is ethically obliged to present an honest and objective view on topical news items with the intention of advising the public what is happening in various sectors and industries locally, nationally and internationally. With this in mind, the public (the readership of newspapers and magazines, and the audience of broadcast news) rely on and trust the media to provide a balanced and accurate view of the facts.

Aside from e-newsletters sent directly to your clients and prospects (and this is a very important form of public relations that you should be engaging in on a regular and consistent basis), the best way to communicate widely with your market is through the media. This includes newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, in both the traditional and online format.

Be meticulous with media releases

One of the easiest ways to communicate with the media is through preparing and distributing a media release directly to them. Sometimes it is called a press release and other times a news release. But whatever you call it, the million dollar question remains: Why don’t more business owners and organisations make more and better use of this powerful promotional tool?

One reason may be that most people simply don’t feel confident enough to put their thoughts and ideas down on paper. Not everybody is a good (or adequate) writer. My experience in working with business owners in the real estate industry suggests it has more to do with not knowing what to write than about how to write it. The unfortunate result is that they forgo the benefits that this wonderfully simple yet powerful business-developing tool has to offer.

So, what is worthy of being put into a media release? Firstly, it has to be of interest to the reader. And when I say reader, I am referring to not only your intended prospect but also the editor or journalist to whom you have sent the release. They don’t want to hear garbage or a sales pitch. They want news.

My advice is to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and market news. As an expert in your local property market, you should have your finger on the pulse. Real estate editors of your metropolitan paper and journalists of your local newspaper want to know what the market is doing, based on enquiries your office is receiving. On a more local level, do you have any interesting or significant listings or sales? Perhaps a local historical property has come on the market, or you have reached an area sales record? Has your office reached a milestone, an anniversary or won any industry or community awards? These are all items your local newspaper would like to hear about.

Start with a strategy
Public relations requires strategy. If you send the same, or a similar message, to the media over and over again, eventually they will get sick of hearing from you and will stop opening your e-mails. If your media release contains grammatical and spelling errors, it becomes illegible and doesn’t maintain your professional image. And anyway, who are your relevant media and how do you contact them?

These questions, as well as the clever strategy of delegating jobs due to time being better spent on other tasks, are why many business owners and organisations in the real estate industry use professionals to look after their public relations requirements. If you don’t have the time or confidence to use this powerful tool to grow your business, contact a PR consultant, ideally one who specialises in the real estate industry, to discuss your requirements and how they can help grow your profile.

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Kerry McDuling

Kerry McDuling has over ten years experience in the PR sector and as a freelance journalist. Formerly the Communications Manager for an international real estate franchise, Kerry is currently the Director of McDuling PR, specialising in public relations for the real estate industry.