June 11, 2014
Real Estate Weekly
by Harry Zlokower

Real estate professionals face a public relations landscape that has changed significantly in the past five years.

Today’s requirements and choices are broader, and more complicated and driven significantly by 24/7 deadlines, upstart real estate sites and blogs, search engine optimization (SEO), relevant websites, webinars, video, and social media.

Yet the basics remain the same, particularly in the commercial real estate sector where companies and audiences still rely on news media and conferences to disseminate and receive much of their vital information.

Regardless of their stage, real estate companies need a plan to navigate today’s precarious straits. Planners have to perform research and articulate their company’s current situation. What are the challenges in today’s real estate environment, who is the competition, how far has your company come and what growth is anticipated?

Once this is done, public relations goals can be established to govern the process. Goals are flexible and can always be altered, but they are essential to build awareness, reputation and credibility for a product or service or to find a buyer for your company, a new employee or to influence the public or industry on a social or political point of view. Public relations without goals is useless.

One firm we represent set a goal to build their reputation as real estate expert in a specific industry. We formulated a strategy to place articles and speeches in the industry. Another client has performed the same strategy for 10 years, which is to build awareness of the company spokesperson as thought-leader and company products and services as highly competitive.

Once goals are established then “the messages” and “audience” must be identified. The two elements must be thought out before an actual strategy is developed and applied.

A typical message might be that a company achieved millions in deals last year or that they use a special investment strategy that no one else has. Real estate audiences to whom these messages are sent might consist of prospects, clients, referrals, and influencers including home buyers, brokers developers, tenants, and investors.

Now that you have the basics of your plan, you are ready to formulate strategy. There is a wide range of choices today from traditional to social media, from public speaking at professional gatherings to conducting webinars and joining online community groups. All of these tactics are valuable, but it is important to still give serious attention to conventional media coverage and speaking engagements.

Media such as New York Times,Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Real Estate Weekly are adjusting to the digital age. While they all still provide conventional newsprint and video (there is a good audience for this), they also provide news site and blog coverage which reaches a lot more people. So even if you have not yet established a big presence on Facebook or Twitter, your messages are on the digital track and reaching people in ways you never have before.

Setting up a social media program to engage with the various communities where you participate is not a difficult task if performed professionally. Among the purposes are to build your brand in the social media community among prospects, clients employees, prospective employees journalists and other communities and to extend your influence as thought leader.

The first step is to conduct a social media audit to determine your company’s digital media presence and social media opportunities. This would be the basis for establishing presence and activity on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and to understand how to tap into “different audiences” each channel brings.

The audit would identify selected blogs and other niche relevant online/social networks and recommend how to find and engage key influencers, opinion leaders, bloggers and online networks around themes central to your company and spokespeople.

A specific strategy would be developed to distribute company news, website content, video and other content globally to influencers and networks around the web and garner key-influencers globally to join your communities.

In addition to presence on the social media networks, a good audit will suggest ways to Get news, links, videos and content on influencers’ social media profile Syndicate news, videos and backlinks on niche social networks and online discussion groups Build an online influencers database and Develop quantitative and qualitative “key performance indicators” (KPIs) to track progress.

Public relations is alive and well in the digital age. While its basic premise—goal setting, message development and targeting audiences — has not changed dramatically, the strategy for how to get there has expanded, offering real estate executives and marketers far more choices than before. All of the options, old and new, have a special validity of their own. As a company you will need to think through your market, budget and capabilities and lay out the best strategy for your needs.