- Posted by Adreinne Heintz
- On October 18, 2018
- commercial real estate, mixed-use, multifamily, real estate development, real estate marketing, real estate media relations, real estate PR, real estate trends, residential
In the competitive commercial real estate landscape, developing a strong media presence well before the first dirt is moved is vital. While many developers shy away from PR in the initial stages of a project, embracing strategic media relations early has many benefits. Whether the property is office, multifamily, residential or mixed-use, a robust public relations program will build momentum, help overcome challenges in the development process and ultimately drive interest and boost leasing efforts.
The best time to implement a media relations strategy is at the onset of a new project. Acquisition of land is an ideal time to announce initial plans for a project. It may feel natural to wait until every single aspect of a project is firm before openly sharing news, but most details are a matter of public record and likely will be discovered, ready or not.
Introducing a concept early on ensures control of the message. Alerting the community of the overall idea, initial design and scope of a project will give the public enough information without holding a developer’s feet to the fire when plans pivot during the development process.
If a developer stays mum after purchasing property, the public can, and will, quickly jump to conclusions about what the potential use may be. If a multifamily developer acquires land in a quiet residential area and stays tight-lipped on plans, opposing neighbors may immediately picture a towering, noisy complex with hundreds of unwanted new residents and cars – and do everything they can to stop it.
On social media and platforms such as Nextdoor or UrbanPlanet, misinformation can spread like wildfire and sentiment can quickly change. Building awareness early can stifle rumors and shift focus to the benefits of a project and its differentiators.
Early community outreach can bolster a developer’s reputation, help overcome hurdles in the zoning and approval process, garner public support and positively influence government officials and agencies. These activities demonstrate a developer who is truly involved in a community and interested in feedback. Engaging and educating through a well-placed op-ed or a proactive community panel can shift perceptions and increase the odds of success.
Developing strong relationships with key reporters in your market can make or break future media coverage. Connect with media early in the process and introduce project executives as sources. Would a reporter be remiss in publishing a market update report without mention of your project? If a reporter doesn’t have the most up-to-date info – or any info – on a new project, it likely won’t make the cut.
Navigating reporter relationships doesn’t come without challenges. Media relations involves not only disseminating news on your project schedule but also requires responding to inquiries from others in a timely manner. Be prepared with messaging and talking points in the event that potentially negative issues arise – such as delays, considerable design changes or community push-back. Being forthcoming and responsive will earn goodwill with reporters.
Identify the project’s differentiators and demonstrate why the project is important to each individual reporter – no blanket pitches here. Offering info, sources and trends related to each reporter’s specific coverage area or a timely hook, such as a first look at new renderings or an opinion on the state of the market, is often helpful, while blasting reporters with weekly updates could be irritating. Don’t be afraid to ask which information would help a reporter or which spokesperson would make a good interview.
Think beyond the initial project announcement. A robust media relations plan incorporating a mix of distributing timely project updates, positioning the development team and individuals as industry leaders, pitching story ideas on emerging trends and regular outreach to trade publications will ensure your project stays top-of-mind throughout the development process. Understanding which milestones warrant a press release and media outreach – and which info is best saved for a quick blog post or social media update – is also essential.
The power of an active social media presence has been proven time and again in commercial real estate. The most successful developers nationwide not only embrace social media but consider it vital to a project’s success and treat it as such by devoting time and attention to their strategy.
Whether the goal is to land unique retail concepts for a mixed-use development, pre-lease a towering office building or find renters for an upscale multifamily community, developing an inspiring voice and compelling value proposition early on will help attract ideal tenants and create a sense of place long before the doors officially open.
Consistency and engagement are key. Launching social media channels and a holding website at the onset of a project establishes credibility and confidence and provides a nice boost to SEO. Social media is an easy way to curate messaging aligned with the property’s brand and values and engage with and solicit feedback from the public. Don’t be afraid to follow and interact with other influencers, too.
Producing unique content can build authority in the market and give the public a reason to stay in touch throughout the long development process. Blogs, newsletters and market reports are all opportunities to add value and engage with audiences through multiple channels while gathering valuable data. Share regular project updates and photos, interview a local business that exemplifies the development’s values in a blog post or create a calendar of local happenings.
Marketing spaces and places can get complicated due to the many stakeholders involved such as investors, potential tenants, members of the development team, retail customers and public officials, just to name a few. A social media and content plan should contain a healthy mix of B2B and consumer-focused content to regularly target each audience.
Implementing a strong public relations strategy from the get-go can accelerate the success and value of new developments. Building excitement during construction among potential tenants, neighbors, shoppers or renters will ensure the foot traffic is there once the doors are ready to open.
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Adrienne Heintz is an account executive at Poston Communications, based in Atlanta.