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13 tips for pitching real estate reporters

Seasoned journalists talk shop at National Association of Real Estate Editors' spring conference

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MIAMI — Ever wondered how to get your business in front of a real estate reporter? Here are some tips for pitching your idea for a home-run story.

1. Pitch “house porn” on rentals, not just for-sale homes

This won’t come as a shock to PR reps serving the real estate industry, but posts featuring eye-popping luxury homes grab a lot of attention online, according to journalists who spoke on a panel about real estate coverage at the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) conference.

“House porn” has traditionally centered around for-sale homes, but Ilyce Glink of ThinkGlink.com said profiles on lavish rentals can also drive a lot of traffic.

2. Pitch stories on changes to the median new-home size

Coverage of this topic, which often centers on quarterly data from the Census Bureau, “just gets eaten up,” said Kris Hudson, a real state reporter at The Wall Street Journal.

The best pitches on this subject focus on the forces that are driving the changes.

3. Pitch stories for newbie landlords

The housing bust gave birth to a crop of first-time landlords who ate up homes at bargain-basement prices during the slump. Many of them are still getting their feet wet, and eager to learn more about property management and investing, Glink said.

4. Don’t expect much out of pitching “how-to” evergreen stories

Glink said that “20 years ago real estate editors would have you write basically the same story every six months”: explainers on topics such as how to buy a home, find an agent or get a mortgage.

Now, those posts live online forever, so publishing that type of content makes less sense.

“We find that consumer-driven stories on digital just give us no traction,” said Steve Brown, the real estate editor of The Dallas Morning News. “We get almost no hits.”

The only way you can pique a reporter’s interest in a how-to post is if you serve up “new and interesting ways to present information that people don’t know,” Glink said.

5. Know that stories related to rising home prices don’t do well

Consumers paid a lot of attention to stories about falling home prices, but word is they care much less about articles on price gains.

6. Pitch slideshows and polls

Consider pitching a slideshow or poll, and maybe offer to help produce it. Brown said these types of posts tend to perform very well.

7. Don’t expect much from pitching job hires and promotions

“When they make me waste my time to open up something to find that OK so and so is now the new property manager,” it “makes me so much less receptive to what you’re doing,” Glink said.

8. Tailor a pitch to a publication’s coverage area

Duh. But panelists said they still often receive pitches for stories that aren’t relevant to their audience.

9. If you pitch a profile, spell out an angle

And make sure the angle is as relevant to as many people as possible.

Hudson, who sometimes must remind contacts that The Wall Street Journal is a global newspaper, said he picks stories associated with “billions over millions every time.”

10. Remember that trend stories take a lot of work

If you pitch a trend story that centers around a deal or company, make sure the “news item” of the pitch could merit a stand-alone story, Hudson said. That’s one way Hudson gauges whether a proposed trend story holds promise.

“Sometimes when you come back to them and you spell that out, they’re actually grateful because then they can take that back to their client,’ Hudson said, referring to public relations professionals who pitch trend stories that don’t make the grade.

11. Don’t pitch reporters a story they just wrote

A funny thing tends to happen to Brown the day after he publishes some stories:”I’ll get six emails saying, ‘Well, you just wrote about such and such. Would you like to write about it again?'”

No, he wouldn’t — not anytime soon anyway.

12. Follow up with phone calls

Reporters are constantly flooded with pitches, so gems can fall through the cracks now and then, said Michael Gerrity, CEO of World Property Journal.

Think of pitching a reporter like courting a mate:

“You don’t text a girl to go out,” Gerrity said, who is possibly unaware of the dating app Tinder. “You pick up the phone and talk to her.”

13. For regional or local publications, make a pitch regional or local in focus

“Don’t be surprised if we’re not the least bit interested in some condo project in California or what houses are sold for in Montana, ” Brown said, whose publication covers the Dallas area.

Email Teke Wiggin.


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