Developers of master planned and active adult communities don’t want to waste time effort or money, yet too few are taking advantage of a proven technique: PR. Just like the other components of a successful integrated marketing program, public relations should be strategic and well thought-out.
Don’t know how to get started? We’ve got 10 easy and practical PR tips for community developers:
- Have a strategy: Just as you would have your blueprints and construction schedule finished before starting a house, you need to have a clear plan for PR efforts. Create a calendar of PR opportunities for the year. Tie your PR to events, building phases, what’s happening outside the community, what homeowners are doing, etc. Be willing to make adjustments when new opportunities arise.
- Just because you advertise doesn’t mean your story will be told: There’s a reason that PR is “earned media” not “paid media.” But be aware that smaller publications may be less open to your story ideas if you stop advertising.
- The good, the bad and the ugly: It’s not enough to have a PR plan, you also need to have a crisis plan written out for every possible scenario (i.e., mold, product recall, natural disaster). Follow the advice given by Creating Results’ Todd Harff in Senior Housing News: Know who your happy homeowners are and have testimonials from these folks on various subjects ready to counter bad press.
- Honesty is the best policy: Designate and train a company spokesperson for television and phone interviews who can respond honestly, accurately and quickly.
- Be the accessible expert: Give great sound bites and bite sized nuggets that explain things in ”layman’s terms” and media will likely refer back to you for future stories.
- Be ready for the unexpected: In today’s 24/7 news cycle, breaking news happens all the time. How could your story relate to trending topics? This process is called “newsjacking” and it offers both opportunities and risk to brands. If you’re considering trying to inject your brand into breaking news, first read this smart post in Ragan Daily on when it’s appropriate.
- It’s not all about you: Don’t isolate your community; rather, become part of the larger community. Volunteer and invest your resources –tying your brand to a non-profit is a wonderful way to get your name out, while at the same time doing something positive. We worked with the developers of Arora Hills, a Maryland master-planned community in Clarksburg, Maryland outside Washington, D.C., to turn land slated for future development into a corn maze tying in with the community’s outdoor lifestyle messaging. All the proceeds went to a local charity, Hospice Caring, Inc. of Montgomery County. The result was increased traffic, an award-winning event and positive PR.
- It’s a visual world: People – especially those over 50 – respond to stories told through images. Take advantage of the power of photos and online video and make it easy for media to get those visual assets. Include a (very small) jpeg with news releases emailed to reporters. Invest in professional photographers and videographers for big announcements or events so you can provide b-roll to media that don’t have the available staff to attend the event. Have a gallery of photography on your website that can be used by media at their convenience.
- Sharing is caring: Once you have received coverage, use social media to share that good news with more and larger audiences
- An integrated marketing/PR approach gives more bang for the buck: For client Westminster at Lake Ridge, a CCRC outside Washington, D.C., print and online stories on residents were repackaged for the client’s web site and direct mail. In the weeks after, prospect calls to the community surged and website visitors roughly doubled. For another client, Fairing Way, we planned a video shoot so that the footage could be used for a broadcast ad, website content and public relations.
Several studies have shown the PR outperforms advertising. A relatively low amount spent on public relations can not only deliver high ROI, it can lift the impact of your other real estate marketing efforts.
What do you think are some important PR tips? Share your tips and success stories in the comments below.