When local reporters need expert commentary, why not you?
Woman talking into a microphone

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There’s a change in your market—an interest rate shift, the entrance of a big employer, a zoning reform—and a local journalist reaches out to you with questions on how it’ll impact property sales. Do you bite? Being a media source helps potential clients remember you as the local real estate expert, says Lauren Hurwitz, an agent with the Keslow Team at Compass in Scarsdale, N.Y., and a former media relations strategist.

Troy Green, director of media communications at the National Association of REALTORS®, explains that getting your name in a news story is known in the public relations business as earned media, and it’s powerful stuff. “It allows you to deliver your key messages and content—free of charge—to hundreds, thousands, or millions of people, depending on the size of the market audience,” he says.

The first time Hurwitz was featured in a media story as a real estate agent, it just happened to be in The Wall Street Journal. An interview with the national media is “a vanity piece, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But to get your neighbors to call you is to be in the local press,” says Hurwitz.

Agreeing to do an interview is not a step you should take lightly.

“Reporters have numerous options for sources and aren’t obligated to work with you,” Green says. “Therefore, if you’re asked to participate in a media interview, consider it a privilege in most cases.”

If you aren’t trained or prepared for tricky questions, you can stumble, sound uneducated, or go off-course, says Hurwitz. “It could be bad publicity.” She believes so much in the power of public relations that she’s developed an online course, MediaHouse, to teach best practices to other agents.

Here are five steps for actively courting media attention and delivering effectively when media call:

1. Get to know the right reporters.

If you’re keeping up with local news about the real estate market, this shouldn’t be too tough. Do an internet search with the keywords “real estate” coupled with your city or local market, Green says. Browse through local news coverage to see which reporters are covering your market or the industry. Their contact information might appear on the article page or on the news organization’s social media pages or its “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages. Watch the local news to see what stories are being covered in your area, Hurwitz suggests, and watch the credits at the end to see who the producers are. Pay a visit to the local library to learn about area publications you weren’t aware of.

2. Build trusting relationships.

The better your reputation with local reporters, editors and producers, the more likely they are to call you as a resource, Hurwitz says. “The key characteristic a reporter is looking for is honesty,” she adds. If you don’t know something, say you don’t know it, and tell them when you’ll get back to them. Or give them a resource that can help them. “If a reporter has a positive experience with you,” Hurwitz says, “a strong likelihood exists that the same reporter will call on you again as a source for a future story.”

3. Put effective story ideas together.

If you’re going to pitch a story idea, you need to truly understand the audience and goals of the outlets you’ve researched. “Sometimes in real estate, we geek out on real estate,” Hurwitz says. “We think it’s interesting, but it’s not. Ask your peers or a neighbor if they would be interested in reading a story on that subject.” Then, when you send an email to the reporter or producer, always create an enticing subject line. “If you hear about something on the national news about a certain aspect of housing, hop on the bandwagon and apply it to your local area,” she suggests. Hurwitz uses Realtors Property Resource® to generate statistics on her market. “It generates local data for you” that can set you apart from the pack, she says.

4. Prepare for the interview.

Meet with your broker before the interview to discuss what your three main talking points should be. Especially for a television interview, be ready to deliver your talking points succinctly. Practice delivering your responses in the mirror: What is the problem or issue? Why is it important? How do we solve it? While practicing, pay attention to your nonverbal behaviors like facial expressions, from frowns to excessive eye blinking. Even though business dress has become more casual, appearance still counts. When speaking in front of a TV camera, dress professionally and avoid wearing bright white shirts or herringbone patterns.

5. Get over imposter syndrome.

You may feel it’s not your place to speak publicly about the business. As a child, whenever Hurwitz doubted her place, her mother always told her, “It’s got to be somebody, so why not you?” Green adds, “Real estate agents and brokers are living and working in the market every day. They know the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” With the proper preparation, you will gain confidence in sharing your knowledge and expertise publicly.

When Your Association Can Help

If you’re asked to comment on something controversial, reach out to your state or local association staff. Many times, they have talking points already prepared. (Find talking points on the value of REALTORS® and local broker marketplaces at competition.realtor.) On sensitive topics, such as industry litigation, or issues where the association has a policy position, it may be best for the association president to respond—or the questions may be elevated to the National Association of REALTORS®’ media team.