The essence of good publicity is involvement. Realtors must get involved in things other people are doing if they expect to get publicity. There is an old saying in the Public Relations business that sounds something like, “There is no such thing as Bad Publicity – only Bad Advertising,” which, when translated into plain talk, means “All publicity is good.” But, in order for it to be good for us, helping to build our image and contributing something to the growth of our prestige, we should avoid the dramatic and sensational kind of publicity that is synonymous with activities such as Flag Pole sitting, Protest movements, and far-out exercises that border on the weird. The public wants to invest money with people who get publicity as the result of being involved in worthwhile activities such as theatre, politics, community improvement and suchlike, where im-provement is the watchword, not destruction.
The first step toward getting that kind of publicity is to realize the objective. Any sound objective that can be reported by one, all, or a combination of some of the news media on a local, state and National level is a good objective.
Here is a schematic of the News Media most capable of doing something for you:
LOCAL, STATE, NATIONAL
(1) Daily, (2) Weekly, (3) Trade.
(1) Real Estate Associations, (2) Specialty, (3) Hobby
You can make news by being inventive. On the local level, you will find the News Media anxious to cooperate with you when you make news by being inventive. For example, a dog and a fire plug is not news; but a fire plug exploding and spraying a dog in mechanical anger is good for a 2 column headline, and might even make the National News service. Each one of you has a local paper that reports the happenings in your area. It may be a daily or a weekly, but either one or both is always hungry for new material to print. Make sure you make original copies of your item to all media. The editor will like you better if he knows you took the time to make an original just for him.
Copy radio and television into your activities. When they have enough advance time, they may want to cover with photographers and field mikes. This goes for newspapers, too. Many times an editor will went to assign a writer to give the story a special flavor.
While speaking of Editors and Writers, remember they enjoy parties the same as you do. Invite one to a “Do” and tell him he isn’t expected to report anything – just enjoy himself. If he or she is married, be sure to invite their other half. Get to know them personally. It will mean a lot to you someday when you need a story and have no place to turn. Newspapers need copy for the press, but they are leery of people with “axes to grind.” If you happen to be a friend, the writer will know you well enough to understand your motives are sincere and not doubtful, but if you are not a regular, he may be a little “gun-shy!”
Radio, television, and magazines always need features of human interest. They are not interested in the fact that you exchanged a duplex as a “down-stroke” on a nearly vacant apartment building; but they would do a special around the story of how the new owner of the apartment house offered a babysitting service in the same building and filled the vacancies with unwed and divorced mothers at a 25% increase in overall rent schedules. You might even get a Sunday supplement out of that one.
Advertise for freelance writers. Get acquainted with them. Get to know them well. They need copy and they already have their publishing sources scrambling for the next hot feature. Their minds are inventive, and they get paid good money for features that relate to common ordinary living experiences that happen to you and me every day. Many of the larger firms retain a man of this caliber as a (PR) Public Relations man. His job is to explore the activities of the firm for story material. Write it. Photograph it. And see that it gets a favorable exposure in all the Media that will help build the company image. A good man with this ability can be retained for about $5000 per year plus expenses.
Meetings of all kinds make good springboards for good publicity. Let me remind you again, however, to avoid those of protest or an unpleasant tenor. Use every opportunity to be seen and actively involved in those meetings where you have a definite interest. Look for the man with the camera and keep in front of him. When he needs a group shot, you may be included. Accident? – or Design? Don’t be a phony and join some group just to be a joiner. though. Make sure you have a definite interest in the objectives of the group. Ask yourself if you would like to be identified with the people, and would you like to be the President if it is well organized. When the answer to both of those questions is YES, then, and only then, are you on the right track. It is better to be the President or past-President of one really outstanding organization than a listed name on twenty-five meaningless membership roles.
You can follow another avenue to get this kind of free publicity by looking for “new stories,” concerning new products, books, methods or services. You can get involved in the promotion of a person, corporation, or organization. When you go this route, your efforts really come under the heading of Public Relations, but you will find yourself in photos and copy of promotion material and that is an indirect advantage to you. It is all cumulative.
It pays to send out publicity releases – and it pays well. A checklist is provided at the end of this article. Occasionally you may hit a “dud,” but they are few and far between. Seldom will a release mailing fail to at least break even, and most end up with profits averaging several times the modest cost of the program. The selection of publications to which you want your releases sent are of paramount importance, as the entire success of your publicity effort will depend on this selection.
In planning a publicity campaign, it is advisable to first compile a list of news media that is read or heard by potential users of homes, apartments, commercial and investment property, vacant land, ranches, etc. In our office, we call this the “GOLD LIST.” It is a waste to scatter your publicity to the four winds and hope that a few hungry editors do something for you. In addition to wasting your own money, busy men are antagonized by and look with a jaundiced eye on those things which are foreign to their wants or needs. Scattering publicity like a shotgun blast, with little concern about where it is going in the fond hope that a smidgen will be published, is like tilting at windmills. Although editors receive a great many releases, they soon get to know those sources that produce well written publicity on items of interest to their subscribers and readers. They spot such sources immediately, and print almost word for word everything that is provided.
Publishers and editors have standard requirements for the copy they print, and you should have some knowledge of those requirements. Any firm or individual who meets the publishers’ requirements can get FREE PUBLICITY. Most editorial departments are kept separate from the advertising end of the business and you do not have to be an advertiser to get free publicity except in certain publications. For example, if your friend, Pete McGaffey, had a gadget that an editor of a certain magazine had taken a fancy to, Pete stands a good chance of having his release published free if certain requirements are met. You can share in his publicity by calling the gadget to the attention of the publisher and preparing the releases. Old Sam Editor will find it very easy to weave you into the story if there is some continuity in the wool you gathered.
First, and most important, the product, service, or what-have-you must be of interest to the readership of the publication to which you send your release. We have said that before, but it is just good common sense. If you don’t pay attention to that point, your publicity has every chance in the world of ending up in File 13, or the round wastebasket in the publisher’s office.
Second in importance, after only the product itself, is the actual language of your publicity re-lease. Poorly composed releases can kill your chances of publication, even though what you have to offer may meet the approval of the editor. Therefore, releases should be carefully written with the needs and policies of the publisher in mind. Try to use language that will let him know you have tried to walk at least one mile in his shoes. By all means use “plain talk.” Polysyllabic words are a headache to the man in the composing room and they do not impress the rewrite personnel or the editor himself. Almost any of them can speak, write, and spell a big word.
Third, photos are very important. As a matter of fact, they are probably the most important part of your release. The photo is what grabs the attention of the reader. Why would the editor be any exception? So be sure your photos are good. Find at least some kind to use on each and every release. Publicity releases that do not have photos will be competing with those releases that do have photos, and you can guess which will win. It should be 8″ x 10″, it should be glossy, and it should be attached to the top of your publicity package where it will be the first item to be seen. When it is the first to be seen, and in the event that it is poorly executed, or not of interest, the balance of your release will run a poor race to the press.
Publicity releases should be toned down. They should be mellow, and techniques of under-statement should be used whenever possible. There are some tendencies to make publicity re-leases almost direct copies from ads which have been seen before. Avoid this whenever possible, and use your own imagination. You may never be a William Shakespeare, or an Ernie Pyle, but what comes out will be you and it will be interesting because it will be imaginative and unique. Avoid superlatives, strong claims, and overwrought clichés. Try to keep the publicity copy newsy and factual. It will stand a much better chance of acceptance. Some editors like publicity copy couched in such phrases as “it is said that,” or “it is claimed to be,” or “advantages cited are, “the firm states that,” etc. Your publicity copy should always be kept short and to the point. Give them the facts and give them an opportunity to use their imagination. If you can write better than they can, you would be in the “day room” and not the real estate business.
How to Do It
All of these ideas give you some direction or road-map to follow in the pursuit of FREE publicity. But none of it makes sense if your personal public relations with your customers and the people who are important to you leave something to be desired. In order to provide a framework within which you can practice, here is a public relations checklist, designed to give you a personal scoreboard and help you get FREE publicity when practiced.
This checklist is designed to help you find out what constitutes good public relations. Since good public relations form the basis from which good publicity proceeds, this check list will help you improve the ingredients for good copy, namely, your own image.
This list is broken down by groups of people with whom you deal: Homeowners, Investment Property Owners, Office Personnel, other Realtor-Exchangors, and local community people.
1. What do my homeowners or Investment property owners think of me?
- Do they like me as a person?
- Have any of them exchanged property through any other Realtor / Exchangors since they worked last with me?
- How many of them think of me as “My Real Estate Counselor?”
- Do many of my clients give me names of prospects and/or help set up interviews for me?
- Do my clients tell other people about me? Do they tell their friends that I know how to make money and solve problems with Real Estate? Do my clients really understand and appreciate the value of Real Estate as an investment, defending it if necessary in a conversation with someone oriented more to stocks and bonds?
How do you like the answer to the above questions? If you feel like you still have some catching up to do, try the answers to the next ones in order to improve the foundation.
- Do you sell Real Estate as you would buy it, doing the best possible job for the owner in terms of his needs and his ability to pay?
- Do you appraise the Real Estate you exchange and make every investor understand the knowledge, skill, and work you used to make the property available to him at the best possible advantage?
- Do you show a continued interest in your Client’s problems, giving him the routine reminders he deserves?
- Do you manage to accomplish a few thoughtful things – not necessarily related to his Real Estate – which would prove your sincere interest?
- Do you ever send your client a prospect or customer for his own business without him knowing where the customer came from?
2. How am I regarded by other Realtor/Exchangors?
- Are my “Back-up” packages complete?
- Are my appraisals of Market Value accepted, even against conflicting opinions of other Realtors?
In the event you find yourself a little short on the above, ask yourself the following:
- Do I always tell my fellow Exchangor all I know about the circumstances of the case involved, even if I fear that certain facts will result in losing the transaction?
- Do I put pressure on my fellow Realtor/Exchangor to make our transaction work?
- When a rejection comes along, after all the evidence and inspections have been accomplished, do I accept it gracefully?
- Do I make an effort to show appreciation for the service my fellow Realtor Exchange or gives me when we work together?
- Do I show enthusiasm for other Realtors, Exchangors in my dealings with clients, friends, and acquaintances?
- Do I encourage new people to get into the Real Estate Business and become Realtors/Exchangors?
- Is my publicity geared to build favorable answers to the above?
If not, you should begin a definite program to improve those areas that fall a bit short.