How to Land the Media Coverage You Want

Become a media-savvy, go-to real estate professional with these pro-active tips.

August 1, 2009

Sometimes negative media coverage is inevitable—a crime occurs near your listings, a local development sparks controversy, or the latest market data shows record price drops.

But you can dilute, and perhaps even overshadow, those negatives with positive media placements that reflect well on you, your company, and the community where you work. Here are some tips to help make that happen:

Plan a Response

  • Don't delay. It’s important to respond quickly to the bad news and provide a local angle on a regional or national story. For example, amidst all of the headlines about the difficulty of qualifying for mortgages, you may be able to share insights about your company can help buyers navigate the lending process.
  • Offer a unique viewpoint. What makes your business special or different? Look at the key communication points you use with prospects, then flesh out those same points with a media audience in mind. But watch out, if you're overly promotional, you can lose credibility.
  • Anticipate questions. In your news releases, and as you prepare for interviews with the media, try to predict the reporter's questions (think along the lines of: what, who, when, where, why, and how) and proactively offer your responses.

Reach Out

  • Start local. Then, if you wish, build up to larger media markets, as you get on journalists’ radar screens.
  • Pick up the phone. If you don’t know who to contact, call the media outlet’s general number and, to whoever answers, explain your story idea and ask whom you should speak with.
  • Be confident. Unlike the curmudgeonly stereotype, most journalists are thoughtful and appreciate story suggestions.
  • Keep it brief. Ask for 30 seconds to introduce your idea – keep your pitch even shorter if possible – and then follow up (usually by e-mail).
  • Keep it real. Don’t be “unduly bullish” about the market, lest you “lose the chance to be mentioned at all” in a story, says David M. Grant, president of LVM Group, a New York City-based public relations firm specializing in real estate. “Keep in mind that reporters are often skeptical,” says Grant, himself a former journalist. “Real estate professionals tend to be always selling, and reporters aren’t always buying.”
  • Think visually. Offer photographs, and give visual ideas for TV. This helps the media literally “see” the story’s potential.
  • Be selfless. On occasion, share story ideas that have nothing to do with your own business. Your approach will pay dividends when you offer your own stories later on.

Be Your Own Printing Press

  • Get the word out on the Web. Revise news releases into first-person guest columns that you submit to publications or post on your Web site. Based on your community’s priorities and issues, what kind of piece (think “5 Tips” or “7 Myths”) would provide a public service and underscore your industry expertise?

Consider Hiring a Pro

  • Know when to hire a publicist. Here’s a litmus test: Using your own social network, seek out a journalist for feedback on your draft news release. If the critique is extensive and makes sense to you, it’s likely time to find a publicist.
  • Look for publicists with well-established connections. Find pros who work in the media market you are targeting. Former journalists are especially effective. Hourly rates typically range from $75 to $175, but can vary even more depending on whom you're hiring and what your project entails.
  • Create an attractive, user-friendly Web site. Ideally, it should include a blog with at least two posts per month, news releases, and other pieces that provide value to the reader and show your expertise.

Matt Baron is a Chicago-area freelance writer.

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