- Share what you know online in order to become a resource for your area.
- Identify your publics and deliver the news and information they will find most valuable.
- Influencers who become brand advocates can be incredibly valuable for your real estate business; cultivate them carefully.
DENVER — “If you want to be found online, you have to share what you know.” That was advice that Molly McKinley, executive vice president at Relola, shared at the Real Estate Webmasters Summit (REW Summit) in Denver this morning.
Sometimes real estate agents might be hesitant to share what makes them “special” — but how will your potential clients know if you’re special when you won’t tell them?
“I fundamentally believe that real estate agents and real estate brokers are truly the keepers of all things local,” McKinley said. After all, you know when the next city council meeting is and where the new freeway is going to be built, what new businesses are coming to the area and what else is happening around the area.
“This is your secret sauce. You are the keepers of local information,” she said.
How does PR relate to real estate?
Public relations are about public relationships, McKinley argued. So, in order to establish relationships in your community, you’re going to have to engage in a little bit of PR.
McKinley broke press opportunities into three categories:
- Earned media
- Owned media
- Paid media
Paid media is essentially sponsored content; you are paying for placement.
Owned media is your own platform — your blog or your website. You own it!
And earned media is the sweet spot of platforms that already have an audience — newspapers, magazines and other publications that reach your audience and carry a great deal of authority.
“It’s earned for a reason, and that’s because you have to earn it. I have to get you to say something about me,” McKinley noted.
She added that earned media is “not free advertising. Your time actually counts, and it takes time.
“You can bring a horse to water but you can’t make [it] drink,” she added, “and the reason why that matters is you aren’t necessarily in control with PR. You are leveraging other people to follow through.”
How does PR apply to local expertise?
This shouldn’t be news, but just in case: The majority of buyers and sellers — 82 percent — say that local expertise is the most important factor when choosing a real estate agent.
And 80 percent of homebuyers start searching for their new house online.
“You can win as a local expert,” McKinley argued.
To figure out what kind of work you need to do, first start by searching your town. What do you see?
“You’ll probably find your town website,” she noted. “It’s very likely that you’ll find a Wikipedia page, some portals. It’s also probable that you’ll see points of interest; maybe you’ll find an article of the top 10 things to do.
“Do you see competitors there? Is anyone winning with your local town?” she asked. Taking a note about which .gov or .edu websites pop up on the search engine results page (SERP) can help you understand what other resources are available in your town.
Make sure you repeat the search on “incognito” mode so that the stashed information about your usual search results in Google are scrubbed.
Then do a search for your own name to see what the SERP shows you when you search yourself.
“You do have a relationship with Google, whether it’s a fruitful, positive one or a not-one,” she said.
And Google loves hyperlocal content.
Identify your publics
Do you know what groups of people matter most to your business? Those groups of people are your “publics” — and you need to figure out who they are, McKinley said.
Your publics could be:
- Traditional media – newspapers and magazines
- Digital media – blogs and websites
- Customers – your actual clients
- Investors – interested backers
- Spokespeople – from other brands
- Analysts – for your own industry or others
- Influencers – the people everybody trusts
- Celebrities and trendsetters – the people everybody knows
- Employees – the people who already work for you
McKinley said that an opportune first place to tackle is your employee public — it’s often overlooked, and if your agents can’t articulate why they’re working for your brokerage instead of the one across the street, then you have some work to do.
The second layer is probably your customers. “They need to know what you stand for and why they should be sharing your stuff,” she said.
You can often find new sets of “publics” for your business by digging into local organizations, for example.
“My philosophy is very simple,” McKinley explained. “I’m going to give, give, give before I ever ask. PR hacks ask first.”
For example: McKinley likes dogs. She takes walks with her dogs and visits the dog park with them, so if she were to reach out to her local Society for the Care and Protection of Animals (SPCA), she could share details with them about the local dog park’s plan for expansion or the best routes for walking your pups around town.
And the SCPA would most likely welcome her turning that information into an article for the society’s weekly or monthly newsletter, too.
“Eventually over time, as your relationship is nurtured, you will build brand advocacy,” McKinley said.
If you’re thinking about this type of marketing, you need to understand the organization that you’re tapping. The basics:
- Who is their audience?
- What matters to that audience? What do they care about?
- How can you bring mutual value?
Finessing the pitch
The media in 2017 are dealing with a dearth of staff and gaps in reporting, McKinley noted — newsrooms are a lot smaller than they used to be, and not every publication is sending a reporter to city council or school board meetings on a regular basis.
McKinley suggested that real estate agents and brokers break down the types of stories they could pitch into the following categories:
- Case studies
- Industry studies
- Human profiles
- Sidebar stories
- Local and national stories
- Advertorial stories
- Product reviews
Maybe you’re a tech-savvy real estate agent who tries every new social media app as soon as it hits the app store. Can you take that knowledge and turn it into a review for a local publication? They might not have anyone on staff as qualified as you are to talk about it.
When you send your pitches, show the editor that you understand the publication’s target audience. McKinley suggested that each pitch contain:
- A personal note to express that you understand their voice
- Reasons why the story idea is relevant to their audience
- Key points of the story
- Any links for context
- Value of who you can connect them with
- Your contact info
Don’t neglect the last one! A reporter on deadline isn’t going to want to look up a phone number, so making it convenient for them to find will help.
“Imagine receiving 600-plus emails a day,” McKinley said, exhorting the audience to consider the time of day and day of the week when sending an email. “Pitch your story at least a week in advance,” she advised, and try to hit reporters between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. for the best chance of catching them at their email inbox.
Getting to the influencers
Influencers include anybody in your area who has an audience, McKinley said.
“These are people that you want to know about your brand, and these are people who have audiences — people follow them on social channels,” she said. “They can also be a point of distribution.”
The goal is advocacy — you want influencers to recommend you and to become a brand advocate for you. Ideally, influencers will refer to you as “my real estate agent.”
McKinley asked, do people in your area know you? “Are they willing to share and retweet your stuff, wear your swag, refer business, republish content?”
Public relations will create advocates for you and your work, she said — and with enough advocates, you’ll find the lead conversions you need to thrive.