What do you do when a reporter from the local newspaper, or a national publication, calls asking for quotes about the real estate industry? A) Run for the hills. B) Put off the call until a later date. C) Claim that you don’t want competitors to know your trade secrets.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you just lost an opportunity for the best free advertising on the planet. And, you lost the opportunity of potentially being that reporter’s trusted source in the future, the real estate pro that he/she calls first.
Knowing how to respond to media inquiries and pitch story ideas to reporters is an important marketing skill for one big reason: The public is more likely to take notice and trust a news story written by a credible publication than spend the same time scanning your paid advertisement through and through.
I worked as a newspaper reporter for more than a decade. The media world moves fast; deadlines are often the same day or hour. Anytime I dealt with story sources who couldn’t get it together enough to call me back, I moved on.
It’s sad, because many of those people who didn’t take the call, played “gatekeeper” to their boss, and the like, lost out on the possibility of increased revenues and future interviews.
That said, real estate agents should also know a few rules of the road when dealing with the media.
The Do List:
1. Do call reporters back immediately. If you get their voicemail, leave a cell number. Set up a protocol in your office to make sure calls from the media are forwarded to a live body that can talk on the record.
2. Do provide substantive quotes and content. This may make the difference between you or your competition getting in the paper. Remember that good reporters call multiple sources.
3. Do be proactive and call reporters when you have an interesting story idea. Ask them about the types of stories they prefer to write and the types of information they prefer. Meet their needs.
4. Do get to know the real estate reporters in your area. Offer to meet for a cup of coffee to discuss trends you are observing in the real estate market. Reporters can pick up on story ideas that you would have never thought of.
5. Do offer to provide other resources and interview opportunities that can help the reporter accurately cover his/her beat or story, even if those resources aren’t directly linked to you.
The Don’t List:
1. Don’t ask to speak “off-the-record” when you are being interviewed. The line between on-the-record and off-the-record can get blurred. Also, reporters are looking for information and quotes that can be used in their story.
2. Don’t say things that you would feel uncomfortable having viewed by thousands of readers. If you are bound by a confidentiality agreement with a client, do not break that agreement.
3. Don’t ask reporters to let you see the story before it goes to press. But you can ask to review your quotes and context of the story over the telephone. Some reporters are open to this idea, and some are not.
4. Don’t pitch bad story ideas. That’s the quickest way to lose a reporter’s ear. Trends that nobody else has written about, human interest stories related to the housing market, and significant transactions are typically good bets. Charity events, average real estate listings, and your latest marketing gimmicks are not worthy of a story.
5. Don’t, and I repeat DON’T, ever try to bribe a reporter or editor to write a story. Generally speaking, reporters cannot accept gifts, lunches, etc… that exceed $20 in value. And some reporters and editors cannot accept anything other than your quotes and insight.