I have worked in media long enough that I think I’m pretty immune to it: I know that the difference between who appears in a newspaper and who doesn’t is a matter of connections and timing. Sometimes it’s sheer luck that a story appears at the same time as a news hole. That broker down the street who gets more press than you may be a better broker; she may be more knowledgeable; or she may just have a better publicist.
But I still got “the flutter” when I got a call from “The Today Show.” Although I can’t tell you what channel it’s on (this is self-preservation in the media world, this disingenuousness — if you don’t hang with the cheerleaders why keep track of who they’re dating?), I knew “The Today Show” was TV, which is higher in the hierarchy than newspapers. And for newspapers I do a lot of press stuff, mostly writing columns for small weeklies that forget to pay me, just to keep my presence out there. It’s mostly brochureware for when I go on a listing presentation: “and, of course, I’m a columnist for the X, which is widely read by potential buyers.”
So after I recovered myself, I asked the researcher how he found me.
Turns out that the nice folks at “Today” don’t read the local New York free papers, and they hadn’t found me through Inman News, either. Rather, a market comment I made to Alan Heavens of the Philadelphia Inquirer had shown up in his column, and that column got picked up in the Orlando Sentinel, and the researcher had found me on a news grab.
So the first thing I had to do, and I know this because I’m media-trained, is say the same thing to the TV researcher I had said to the paper.
Then he started to ask me all sorts of questions about how to deal with the slowing market. That was pretty much a softball, and I spoke in bullet points, and when he began sounding actually interested I knew he was on the hook.
But here’s the problem: TV is a visual medium. So to be on live national TV, they wanted to make sure I’d been on live national TV — and didn’t I mention that I don’t hang out with the cheerleaders?
Researcher: Have you been on live national TV before?
Me: Nope. But I did taped appearances weekly on a regular basis, and I was live on regional news, and the New York market’s pretty big. …
Researcher: (sighs with the world-weariness of one who knows New York is a small town): We have an appearance of you on a live financial show, anything else live?
I finally jumped that plateau by straining … explaining that my taped appearances were “pretty much” live, because it was cable and they tended to do it in one shot. Plus, I promised not to curse on the air.
So then I had said the right things, and I sounded reasonably presentable, so they needed to put me in front of a house.
Only one problem: Manhattan, where I sell, isn’t chock-full of houses.
Researcher: What are you doing on Sunday?
Me: It’s a religious holiday; I’m going to visit my in-laws and go to services. Before that, I might scope out Riverdale for some clients of mine. …
Researcher: Will you be at an open house? We need a house, with lots of “for sale” signs and stuff.
Me: I don’t sell houses. Do you want me in an apartment?
So then there was back-and-forthing about the visuals. They wanted to film me; they liked my advice; but I just couldn’t manage to look like what they wanted me to look like. Why couldn’t I just stand in front of a house, with balloons ‘n’ stuff? Because I don’t sell houses.
The one listing I had actually sold, a one-bedroom apartment, was too small; the most beautiful building my firm had a listing in has a gorgeous garden courtyard, but it’s controlled by a co-op board that would freak out when presented with TV cameras. Then I offered my firm’s showpiece listing, a $2.7 million loft; no go. I offered to walk around Riverdale (a tony suburban enclave where I would actually be shot as a trespasser if I were trailed by a TV crew). Again, no go. My last rental was in a beautiful Brooklyn townhouse, but to a celebrity kid, and I thought, hey, TV cameras are not going to be welcome at that one. …
So it turned out there was nothing I could do. I thought about calling my old Jersey partners and hijacking a house in West Orange, but that’s not who I am; I don’t sell in West Orange. The show ended up, they said, using an agent in the Midwest, presumably standing in front of a white Colonial with red trim and looking worried.
I’m disappointed, of course, but optimistic, because I believe the media has plenty of news holes and that bus will come around again. (That, in fact, was my advice to disappointed buyers: there’s always another apartment. Er, house).
And if, scratch that, when they call again, I’m going to be ready.
You go ahead and waste all the time you want looking at inventory and making sales presentations.
I’m going to go bleach my teeth.