Being featured in newspapers, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and TV, can be a great way to build awareness of your brand and generate more business, but many small estate agents do not have the know-how.
The good news is Jerry Lyons, a former multi-award journalist who now runs property PR expert which specialises in providing public relations and content services to estate agents, offers the following advice to help get you started.
How does a residential agent go about gaining media exposure and how will it help their business?
In order to gain media coverage, you have to be doing one of three things; something which is new, ideally something remarkable and something which will interest others rather than be self-promoting.
For example, an agency opening a new office is pretty dull for a journalist. However, an agency opening a new office which has a dedicated room for community use is different and interesting and stands a much better chance of coverage.
When you gain media coverage it shows your audience a couple of things straight away.
Firstly you raise your profile and secondly positive PR is free publicity and proven to work better than paid advertising. Why? Because by being featured by the media you’re getting a third party endorsement that says to readers; ‘hey this agency must be good because they’re always popping up in the press.’
Just look at how Pimlico Plumbers, Virgin and BrewDog have used media coverage to consistently raise profile and generate business.
Securing press coverage – particularly at a national level – isn’t easy. How can an agent build a media profile in order to get results?
Firstly, I’d rather get my clients regular coverage with their local media than one-offs with the national media. Obviously if you’re a national agency then the national media is more appealing.
But ultimately you need to know the audience you want to get in front of and what message you want to get across to them.
Researching the national media is time well spent if that’s your target audience.
How can agents gather contact details for relevant journalists and editors?
Researching journalists has never been easy. Google your local media outlets and find the relevant people via their websites.
Nationally, the same applies but requires a little deeper research as some journalists specialise in different types of property and/or related sectors such as period homes, city centre living and certain geographic patches.
Once you’ve found the contacts that fit your objectives, make sure you find out when their deadlines are.
When I was a journalist, I absolutely hated being contacted on a deadline day so it’s worth avoiding if you want to stand a better chance of being listened to/noticed.
A good way for an agent to get press is to create their own content, but how is this achievable?
This is the big one at the moment and one that I feel can provide agents that do it well with the biggest edge over their rivals.
Creating quality content is now bigger than PR in my opinion. There it is, I’ve said it. The turkey has just voted for Christmas.
All agencies, regardless of size, need to have a content strategy in place. They need to be generating weekly blogs, regular printed newsletters and email marketing campaigns that are interesting, entertaining and informative.
They’ll need a social media offering, especially Facebook, which should be used to share interesting content especially when it’s about the local area the agency is serving.
Video content is becoming easier to create and captures people’s attention and imaginations brilliantly.
We’ve carried out a lot of work recently creating printed newsletters for agents which feature very little about the agencies themselves but focus on providing useful and interesting information for the areas they operate in. Readers associate the agencies with being useful by association.
I see this ‘estate agency as media outlet’ model booming in the future as local printed papers decline.
Most journalists receive hundreds of press releases and email pitches each week, and speaking from experience, very few have time to read them all, which means that some get deleted or are simply unopened. How can an agent’s press release or email pitch stand out and get a journalist’s attention?
Have an interesting headline that summarises the idea/story. i.e. ‘Agency Turns Good Samaritan by Saving Local Youth Club’ or ‘Estate Agent Hailed a Hero for Catching Robber’ (this was an actual release we got a lot of coverage on).
Don’t mass mail journalists as it just annoys them. Take the time to personalise your email but be brief, get to the point quickly and ultimately let the journalist know why your idea/article will interest their readership.
What is considered to be a well-written press release?
Firstly, decide if your agency’s piece of news is worthy of a release in the first place.
Blatant self promotion of your agency isn’t going to cut it. Think what the benefits are for the journalist and their readers by you sharing this news.
Any release you write needs to have a good headline ideally summing up the article. Also include live speech i.e. John Smith, Managing Director, said: “blah blah blah.”
Make it no longer than 350 words, if the journalist is interested in finding out more they’ll contact you.
Include statistics or evidence if you’re making a claim. Avoid using jargon like the plague and use short snappy paragraphs which are easy on the eye.
Also send the copy in the main body of the email as well as an attachment.
Sometimes the difference between something getting published or deleted is the quality of the photo which accompanies it.
If you’re going to take the time to write a release then take the time to ensure there’s a high resolution photo with it – ideally featuring people unless the building is stunning.
One of my old editors used to insist that every photo we published had people in it.
In a busy newsroom, stories can get missed, so should agents chase up pitches or press releases by phone or email?
I never found it an issue when I was a journalist if someone followed up. As long as you’re polite, non-pushy, friendly and can take no for an answer there’s no harm in being thorough and following up.
As a media consultant and content creator what do you recommend agencies do to raise their local profiles?
Firstly, you have to sit down, have a chat and nail down a plan of action. Clearly define the end goal – usually to win more instructions and reverse engineer from there.
Work out what makes your agency worth telling others about.
Enter awards, get involved with your community, be authentic, be different and stay open-minded.
Have more than one way of reaching your audience. PR and content are just two of the ways to raise your profile.
And don’t be put off if your first attempt to gain coverage doesn’t succeed.
I remember something the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, said during a Q and A when asked about the secret of his successes.
The audience fell deadly silent listening intently to the multi-billionaire High Priest of Flat Pack Furniture, expecting some dastardly and complex secret to be revealed.
His response was delivered in a quiet, slow voice. “Well, we try something new.”
“If it works, we keep doing it.”
“If it doesn’t work, we stop doing it.”
He then paused for a few moments before adding. “Then we just do something else.”
*Jerry Lyons can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
**Marc Da Silva is Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today Features Editor. You can follow him on Twitter @propertyjourno