By Tracey Gould
Media relations is one of the most valuable yet complex pursuits for any association, but it is especially challenging for small associations that don’t have a trained public relations professional on staff. In today’s multimedia, content-hungry environment, it’s critical to have the REALTOR® brand positively represented to elevate the value of REALTORS® to consumers.
Although the REALTOR® brand is promoted nationally via the National Association of REALTORS®’ consumer marketing campaigns and media appearances, reinforcement at the local and state levels bolsters the image among local consumers. Despite how daunting a task this may seem, earning regular and positive media coverage is achievable with a solid game plan.
Local media needs have changed
Just sending data (such as home sale stats and median home prices) to media outlets is no longer a viable value proposition for associations. Reporters and consumers can typically find this data online, so data without context is simply that—facts and figures. What reporters need—and what their readers want to read—is what that data means to people looking to buy or sell property in your area.
This is where you and your leadership come in because you know your local markets better than anyone. After all, it’s your members who are in the community building relationships and business. This intimate knowledge is a prime opportunity for you to explain the circumstances and stories around the data. For example, NAR is constantly issuing reports and studies on the housing market. (You can find them announced in your weekly INS reports, sign up to have them e-mailed directly to you, or find them at narnewsline.blogs.realtor.org.) Read any of these reports and find the local angle. Take the National Association of REALTORS® 2017 Moving With Kids Report issued in August, which looks at the different purchasing and selling habits of people with children at home compared with those without. Put a local spin on this data by finding a member who recently helped a buyer or seller with kids. Pitch the expert NAR data with a local example for an on-camera interview or a print story.
Journalists’ jobs have changed
Journalists wear multiple hats in today’s publishing environment. Rarely is a writer just a writer anymore. They’re also the researcher, the producer, and sometimes the videographer. As much information as you can provide media contacts to make their job easier, the more they will come to you for real estate coverage. Can you, the AE, provide them with a quick quote on the market? Can you provide a member to speak to them knowledgeably on a particular topic, such as commercial real estate or the mortgage interest deduction?
Be proactive and call or email your media outlets and offer to be a resource whenever they need it, even when there’s nothing in it for you. Over time, you will build a close relationship with the media, and they will know they can count on you as a source for real estate–related content and information.
Media relations tools you can use
There are multiple free or inexpensive web-based tools and apps that every local association should be using to monitor your local media. From a news release distribution perspective, consider using tools such as PRLog to send your press releases to main search engines and news aggregator sites where members of the media can pick them up. Of course, forming personal relationships with local editors and reporters and sending personalized pitches to earn media coverage is your best option.
After you send a news release to the media, monitor media outlets and websites for proof of coverage. This can be done manually with some quick strategic keyword searches for the name of your association and scans of targeted media outlets. Why monitor coverage? First, to ensure that the story wasn’t misrepresented in the media; second, to track which outlets are receptive to your news release so you can target them directly in the future; and third, so you know what other companies or organizations are trying to influence home buyers or home sellers in your area. Don’t forget to include social media in your scanning efforts. Plus, setting up Google Alerts with keywords and people referenced in each release is a great timesaver. A quick search on the web will also provide several premium monitoring tools.
Give reporters original content
A strong original content strategy is very appealing in today’s content-hungry environment. Do you have members who blog or post videos? Keep on top of their content to find any nuggets you can send to the media. If you have the inclination, start an association blog where you can demonstrate your thought leadership on the local market and show the personal side of the association. Ask leaders and committee members to contribute to dive deep into the nuances within your communities and membership that makes your association unique. Published either on your own marketing platforms (website, blog, social media channels, YouTube channel) or through trade and industry publications, this content enables you to create connections with the media on a more personal level.
But where do you find these rich stories that are hiding among your membership? For starters, train your staff and leadership to keep their ears to the ground for personal interest stories. You also need to identify potential writers or speakers—those with a knack for and interest in writing or making videos. Next, you need to create opportunities to uncover stories—networking opportunities where members and stakeholders feel comfortable talking at leisure about their interests, passions, and recent accomplishments.
Another way is to survey members. Set up a simple five-question survey on a platform such as Survey Monkey, and ask your members to provide story ideas. What amazing community projects have your members undertaken lately? Who won an award recently? How did a member help a special family buy their first home? NAR even offers a wealth of story ideas and resources for local associations online (see sidebar).
Great stories are everywhere—you just need to tell them.
NAR Resources Help Associations Reach Out to Their Local Press
Real Estate Story Ideas: These housing and real estate story ideas frequently updated at nar.realtor are designed to help media generate content for news stories. You can take these story ideas and create content for your local newspaper, magazines, newsletters, blogs, and websites. Encourage members to do this as well to boost their own brand along with the association’s. Three timely topics, accompanied with background information and facts related to the real estate market, are featured each month. nar.realtor/newsroom/real-estate-story-ideas
Social Media Sharable Materials: Repost NAR’s social media materials and videos on your association’s Facebook or Twitter page and encourage members to add the local perspective. Find materials on the NAR Facebook page (@NARdotRealtor) and follow NAR on Twitter at @NARMedia. Sharable videos are also at nar.realtor/videos/housing-minute and NAR’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/NAREALTORS. You can also share videos from REALTOR® Magazine, found at youtube.com/user/REALTORMagazine.
Blog Articles to Share and Inspire: NAR hosts eight blogs covering specific aspects of real estate from staging and technology to international and commercial. Share these blog posts with your local media and offer the local perspective along with members ready to be interviewed (blogs.realtor.org).
News Releases: NAR’s press releases can also generate great local story ideas (nar.realtor/news-releases).
Tracey Gould is the vice president of communications and marketing at NC REALTORS®. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-808-4228, ext. 228.