Braden Keil died last week at the young, young age of 53. The obits mentioned that he was a longtime real estate reporter at The New York Post and — I love this phrase — a "prince of the newsroom."
But this didn’t even quite get to my friend Jason’s summation: that he pretty much single-handedly invented real estate gossip reporting. The whole idea that if Nicole Kidman or Kanye West moved somewhere, that people would want to know what the place looked like — before that fueled "TMZ" or MTV’s "Cribs," it came from Braden’s "Gimme Shelter" column.
That was a column I had the privilege of editing for two years, although I’ll tell you sometimes I thought I’d never last that long. Braden was a witty writer but also a perfectionist, and more than once the column was late because he was doing one last interview or polishing one last turn of phrase.
"Braden," I would say, "we have deadlines. The boys in the Bronx want to put out the paper."
Then he’d turn the full force of his blue-eyed matinee-idol charm on me and unleash the line I could never counter: "But it has to be just right."
So in honor of Braden Keil — newshound, "bon vivant" (a French word used to describe a person with refined tastes), a man so generous that if he was down to his last dime he would still somehow give you 15 cents — let’s go over some of the rules for dealing with the media so that it’s just right:
(If you want to wear something slightly preppy — a blue blazer, say, or Gucci loafers without socks — and maybe pour yourself a glass of wine to enjoy while you take these rules to heart, I think he would like that.)
- Reporters are people, too. You know what’s boring to read? Press releases. You know who’s tough to understand? People you haven’t met. If you’re in a situation where you want to be quoted by the local real estate reporter, send an e-mail or call and introduce yourself, find out when there is a convenient time to meet for coffee or a drink, and then build a relationship from there.
- Try to be credible. Our industry has lost a lot of reputation over the past 10 years, I think, because we’re always saying that it’s "time to buy." But it can’t always be time to buy, now can it? Braden’s favorite sources were the ones who showed that they had some kind of grounding in reality, who would say, "Well, I wouldn’t buy now unless the seller gave me thus-and-so." He always went back to brokers who were honest with him. Brokers who always said that everything was perfect — they often didn’t get called a second time … CONTINUED
- Details make a story. If you are in a slow housing market (and who isn’t, these days) but you see an upturn in one segment during the quarter, feel free to convey that to the press. Are starter homes selling even though four-bedrooms are not? That’s interesting. Does a home need to be fully renovated to stand any chance of moving in this market? That’s interesting, too.
- Feel free to say you don’t know something. This is harder on TV, where you feel that you have to have an answer, any answer. But if what comes out of your mouth is wrong, it will get caught later, in a letter to the editor or a comment on a blog. That doesn’t just make you look bad, it makes the reporter look bad. And the point is for you both to look good.
- Own who you are. In one sentence or less, what kind of broker are you? What does your firm do? What was your favorite deal? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re not thinking about your job enough. Not everyone is going to be the "No. 1 broker." It’s OK to be the "trade-up broker" or the "relo broker," or whoever you are — but you should know who you are.
- A picture is worth … You obviously can’t release any visuals without the preapproval of your seller, but if you can get that — pictures are golden to papers, the Web, and of course TV. If you can provide a snapshot of the kind of homes that are selling, it makes the reporter’s job that much easier — and makes the editor yell less.
- It’s OK to play telephone, a little. Remember junior high school, where you were always asking your best friend what your crush said about you in math class? It’s OK to ask a beat reporter THEIR opinion on other firms and the topics of the day. Just be respectful. You never want to be in a position where you start dishing on a competitor and it ends up in the press — remember not to say anything about a competitor in their absence that you wouldn’t say to their face.
That’s it, some basic rules for dealing with the media. If you stay in this business for awhile, you will probably meet many reporters. Hold onto the ones you like. Sometimes we don’t get to keep the good ones for very long.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
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