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Communicating the Right Way Helps You Stand Apart From the Competition

I recently spoke with about 50 real estate agents at Worden and Green, a Century 21 brokerage in Hillsborough, about making oneself stand out. It’s the problem we all have: How do we make ourselves different from the zillions of others in the same business we’re in.

The presentation and discussion led up to five points I suggested they take home:

  • Self-reflection and self-direction are necessary: Creating your brand and differentiating yourself from your competition isn’t something that just happens.  If someone asks why they should do business with you instead of a competitor, you can’t just say, “I’m better.” In fact, what you stand for – your brand – has to be something you decide after a lot of thought about who you are, why you do what you do, what you’re best at, who impacts your success, and what you want people to know about you and think about you. Once you know all that, the actions you must take to build and defend that reputation become more obvious.

 

  • Know thy customer: I can always tell when somebody has thought their communications and marketing plans through because they can tell me in great detail who their customer is. Too many Realtors tell me, “People buying or selling homes,” and too many builders tell me, “People buying a new home.” You have to narrow your target and know as much about your customer as possible. You need to know basic demographics. How do they get information?  Whose advice do they follow?  The more you know, the better you can communicate with them.  Your own credibility as an expert improves because you communicate with stakeholders — be they customers, regulators, other Realtors or anyone else who can help you succeed —  in a form and channel that is readily understood and accepted.

 

  • Consider your message very carefully. When I counsel organizations or individual businesspeople, we spend a lot of time on the message. That includes the wording and the delivery. After all, you can have the most exciting ad around, the best quote in a news article, the pithiest blog entry or the greatest elevator speech, but if it’s not delivered in a way that’s meaningful to your customer, it won’t be heard. And if the message isn’t delivered in words and tone that resonate, your message won’t be heard. And, finally, if you haven’t thought about your message and you say something that misses the mark, you’ve blow your opportunity because your message won’t be heard. So consider what you want to say to your customers very carefully.

 

  • Communicate the way your customers want to communicate and make sure you know if you’ve been heard. If I get you a great placement in a central Pennsylvania newspaper, but your customers are in New Jersey, it really doesn’t matter, does it?  This is part of knowing your customer: How do they like to get information? That’s how you need to deliver it. You may love to do Facebook and, of course, it’s very cool to be on social media. But if you’re dealing with a group that doesn’t use it, you’re not going to be successful. Equally important is to make sure you’re heard, no matter what medium you use.  If nobody is responding to your call to action, you’re not being heard.  You have to figure out why and change it. Is your medium? Is it your message? Once you figure it out, you’ll get better results.

 

  • Engage, engage, engage. Social media is about engagement, not just blasting one-way messages out to the Internet. You need to ask questions and get people to reply to your messaging. For instance, I’d like to know what you think of this blog entry. What do you do to know your customer and to make sure you’re being heard. Even if you’re using traditional media, whether it’s a news release or speaking to a group, there are ways to generate a response.

In today’s world, though, you need more than a simple response. You need to be creating conversations. No matter how you communicate, it needs to be an ongoing thing. And you need to listen and respond and adjust your communications and marketing activities. That’s engaging your audience.  It’s having a conversation. That builds relationships and trust.

And that generates sales.

See the original PowerPoint deck here.

 

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October 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Joining the unemployed creates an opportunity!

The In-House PR guy homeless.

Just before Thanksgiving, I joined the 9.3 percent of the workforce that isn’t working. My employer for the past 10 years, K. Hovnanian Homes, laid off another group of employees and I joined a long list of top-notch people shed by the company as it deals with a poor housing market and other issues.

I’m not angry or bitter. Anyone in the housing industry who thought their job was secure either owned the company or wasn’t paying attention. But I am frustrated for two reasons.

First, I was working on some projects that I found exciting. One was continuing to work with paleontologists and geologists to balance the need for new homes with the need to preserve geologic history, including dinosaur tracks and some geologic formations found in very few other places around the world. I had already arranged an agreement between K. Hovnanian and the New Jersey State Museum and held a press conference to announce that agreement. But there was more work to be done.

The second reason is that I was pursuing some exciting communications strategies using social and traditional media. I was also trying to increase the use of Twitter to converse with homebuyers and reporters. And I was building on my experience with optimized releases by developing a plan that would allow us to create an on-line newsroom and create our own online, optimized real estate page. I thought we could complete the circle by using QRs on our print ads, but advertising was handled by another department, and we never got past some casual discussions.

Now I’ll have to look elsewhere to demonstrate the power of integrating traditional and social media in public relations strategies and tactics, something that has had growing appeal to me.

A lot of organizations hire social media managers and many agencies bill themselves as social media agencies. Social media, however, is not a strategic approach to communicating with today’s publics. A social media agency is like hiring a magazine agency or TV manager. One medium does not a strategy make.

Public relations is still about reputation, identifying the different groups that impact an organization’s success and staying engaged with those groups (read two-way communications). It’s about influencing opinion and behavior. Social media is a powerful tool to accomplish that. It’s very exciting to be able to bypass the news media and talk directly with customers or other stakeholders. Too many organizations, however, use social media as a broadcast tool, not listening for a response. Or they use only social media, missing other opportunities to tell their story.

Maybe it’s the “old guy” in me, but I still believe there’s also an important place for traditional tactics such as news releases (provided, of course, they’re well written and talk about something newsworthy) and face-to-face conversation. Those tactics still have an important place in most public relations strategies.

So, rather than a setback, I figure I have an opportunity: I have a chance to find a place that’s concerned about its reputation and wants to maintain that reputation and accomplish its goals by using an intelligent mix of social and traditional media.

 My search is on and I’m excited! Your thoughts?

December 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm 9 comments

Fire in Flanders

Got to play PIO this morning after spending the night playing rehabilition officer at a pretty significant brush fire here in Flanders: http://pitch.pe/60037  Fortunately, the news media now sleeps at night.  Had this been going on during the day, it would have been tough to juggle both assignments.

I’ve been trying to find other firefighter/public safety types to find out  how they juggle PIO job with their response. Your thoughts?

April 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Intern discussion heats up

After talking about the government’s attitude toward unpaid internships here, I started a discussion on Linked-In that’s gotten pretty hot.  You can see the discussion here: http://tinyurl.com/y27dkhj, although you have to sign up (it’s free). Today, I suggested that maybe we could come up with a standard by which firms that don’t pay interns could operate. If the company paid interns, it would operate as it does now, subject to standard labor laws.

What do you think?

April 14, 2010 at 10:18 am


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