No matter how big, small, famous, innovative or traditional, every organization success or failure ultimately depends on its reputation. Public relations is all about the management of this reputation. It is a vast discipline so today we are going to focus on one aspect: news outlets. More precisely, how you can ensure your company will be featured in the news.
Before we start this guide, let's review the advantages press coverage can have for your real estate business:
1) It's great for your SEO. As I mentioned in the step-by-step SEO guide for real estate, backlinks are very important. Online articles are a great way to get high valued links back to your website.
2) Referrals! Do I really need to say more? Referrals are the holy grail of real estate and local news articles are your best friend in that regard.
3) Reputation. As mentioned previously, public relations is all about your reputation and making sure you are the reference in your community when it comes to real estate.
Now that we can all agree that being mentioned in the press is great for your business, let me show you, step-by-step, how it's done.
Before you even have a news story to share, make sure you create a list of all the outlets and journalists you could potentially target. There are several things to consider and several steps to take when you create this list.
Be careful to target outlets and journalists that could actually write about you. If there is something that journalists hate, it's receiving press releases that have absolutely no link to their work and field of expertise. Don't send real estate news to a journalist specialized in wild animals. It might sound perfectly logical but you'd be surprised by the amount of unrelated press releases journalists receive.
Don't sleep on local news outlets. Unless your news is amazing or spectacular, world famous websites like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times will probably not cover it. The point here is that there is a news outlet for each type of story and local news are the most likely to write an article about you, your company or one of your accomplishments.
As Benjamin Franklin once said "for every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned". I couldn't agree more with him when it comes to PR.
Speaking of, let's review the different steps that go into making an organized list/database of journalists to target.
You can also set it up on Excel but I personally find that Google Sheets is very practical. Moreover, the file can be shared with your colleagues very easily. Here is an example of a sheet I created:
I like to be very organized when it comes to my list of PR contacts. As you can see, I created several important categories: name of the outlet, name of the journalist, e-mail address, twitter handle, link to an article and a section dedicated to comments about the journalist's work.
This step is pretty straightforward. You are going to have to list all the news outlets that fit the story you want to share (don't forget about blogs).
For each news outlet you've selected, you are going to have to find the right journalists. Find articles related to your press release (for example the sale of a historical property). Determine who wrote it, research their past work and if there is a match, add her/his name to the list.
Finding the e-mail address of a journalist can be very tricky. I am going to give you all the tricks I use.
That doesn't mean that you have to stalk them and react to every piece they write. Start by following them on Twitter, reading their articles, commenting a few times here and there.
If possible, find one or a few articles the journalist wrote that are somehow related to your story. It's going to come in handy when you write your pitch.
Before we start this chapter it's important to get the terminology right. In PR there are two important tools you have to equip yourself with: the pitch and the press release.
A pitch is a short letter or e-mail you send to a journalist to get them interested to do a story (article, interview, etc) on you, your product or company.
Pitches need to be short, interesting and incite curiosity.
"A press release is a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments" - Entrepreneur.com
Contrary to the pitch, the press release is a formal document that needs to follow certain guidelines. Your pitch, short and interesting, has to link back to your press release which includes all the information they need to do a story.
What does a press release look like? How should you write it? What do you need to include?
As mentioned before, the press release is a formal document that announces a news, story or company development. Here is an example I created to show you how a press release looks like and what it should include.
Let's review them one-by-one.
The header of the press release should include the logo and name of your company, maybe the address and a title "Press Release" or the title of your news. For example "Sale of the Historical Library in Madison". I personally prefer the latter which is more informative.
You have to add the date of the news at the top of your press release as well as the type of release. In PR you have two options: you can either choose an embargo or an immediate release.
"In journalism and public relations, a news embargo or press embargo is a request by a source that the information or news provided by that source not be published until a certain date or certain conditions have been met." Wikipedia
For a real estate agency or brokerage, I recommend going with an immediate release. It is simpler, preferred by most journalists and won't have you worrying about time management as much. For certain types of very official news press embargos are required, but in a world where information is a currency, they are becoming a thing of the past.
The introduction of your press release is crucial! There is no point in beating around the bush. You have to tell what the story is about and make sure that, indirectly, the journalist understands the added value for his audience. If you are able to show to the journalist that his readership would be interested in your story, trust me, you'll win him over.
The 5 W's is a storytelling rule used in PR to always keep in mind. If your press release addresses these 5 questions it basically means the journalist has everything he needs to write his story. Don't be mistaken, this is not a suggestion, it's an imperative. Let's take the example of the sale of a historical library in Madison to illustrate these 5 questions.
What happened? The sale of the historical library for an impressive $12 million.
Who was in involved? The city of Madison, a private investor and Joe Doe Realty.
Where did it happen? In Madison, Wisconsin, on Main Street.
When did it take place? On the 5th of May 2017.
Why did it happen? The city had been looking for a buyer for a long time in order to ensure the library wouldn't be closed due to financial problems.
These questions should be addressed in one or two cohesive paragraphs. Your story needs to be appealing. There is no specific order and you should add additional details. For example you might want to talk about the audacious marketing plan you created to sell the library or the plans the private investor has for it.
Remember PR is a give and take game. You are providing a news outlet with a story that will interest their readership (which is their core business), in exchange they give exposure to your company or brand. Add a little paragraph about your real estate company.
Depending on the type of news and the journalist, you might be contacted to provide further information about the story or even answer questions they have. You therefore have to add your contact details: your name, phone number, e-mail address and website link should do.
Remember the story you are pitching to a journalist is only as good as you are willing to make it.
You now have a beautiful press release but you still have to send it to journalists. They are not going to find it by themselves. This is where the pitch comes into play.
I personally like to pitch journalists via e-mail. Although it is the most popular and frequent way to do it, you can also be creative and send it through a stamped letter, video or else.
Here is an example of a pitch Joe Doe Realty could have sent to announce the sale of the library in Madison.
The headline is probably one of the most important, and often under-looked, parts of this whole process. You need to catch the journalist's attention. They receive hundreds if not thousands of pitches every week. They won't be able to read every e-mail. A catchy headline is your only tool to separate your news from all the stories they receive.
How to write it?
Why are your writing to him/her? Why should he/she care? Capture his attention and show the journalist that you know his/her previous work.
Remember the 5W's of storytelling? Yes? Good, they'll come in handy once again. There is no point in going into too much detail (that's what the press release is for) but make sure the body of the pitch captures the essence of the story and helps the journalist understand how interesting it is for his/her readership.
Include the links to your press release and material that might be useful like videos, pictures, etc...
Research always pays-off at some point. I like to create a personal connection with the journalist at the end of my pitch. A short reference to something they like, a piece they wrote or recent news. For example, I remember sending a pitch to a journalist that was a huge fan of Ed Sheraan. I ended my pitch with a reference to the English Musician's work: "Have a wonderful day, or 'Goodbye to You' as Ed Sheeran would say."
She ended up writing an article about our story. I don't know if it's thanks to the little wink at the end but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
"A comprehensive package of information outlining a company's products and services most frequently sent to members of the press." - Entrepreneur.com
It is not an obligation to have a media kit but it is strongly recommended. Whether you make it available on your website or via a Google Drive link, the media kit provides the journalist with images and information about your company. For example you can include your logo, a picture of your team, offices or products/services.
You might want to have a complete section of your website dedicated to the press & media. With several categories such as: press releases, press coverage and your media kit containing pictures.
Everything is now ready for the launch. The final step can begin, get ready to send your story to the world. You don't need my help to send an e-mail but I thought it would be interesting to give you tips and a heads up about what you can expect.
PR takes time, you might not get an immediate reply from the journalist about your story (unless it is viral news) but that doesn't mean they are not interested. Remember when I said they received a lot of e-mails? Give it at least a week or two!
Just like in sales, PR requires a lot of perseverance. You shouldn't give up because you didn't receive a reply. Chances are they didn't even see your mail, let alone opened it. Be prepared to send follow-up e-mails. You can send up to 3 or 4! But whatever you do, don't harass them!
If a journalist is interested, make sure you reply to his/her mail or phone call quickly. They are sometimes in a hurry to publish an article and would greatly appreciate your prompt reaction and availability.
It's not an ad, you won't usually receive a draft of the article before the journalist publishes it. It is not even something I would ask for. Some journalists might send you their draft, but trust me, they'll let you know if that is their intention.
There are some free PR distribution websites that are worth using. A press release distribution website allows you to publish your story online. They act as an intermediary between you and the press. But don't be fooled, it rarely works. Here is a list of 20+ free press release distribution sites.
If you have any questions regarding your next press release or want to talk about your own experience and tips, be sure to leave a message in the comment section below.