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Unexpected Partnerships: PR and Real Estate Development

Published on April 2, 2020, at 6:44 p.m.

by Emily Greco.

Public relations is used by large corporations, nonprofits and celebrities — but what about unexpected industries? Although real estate and public relations may not seem like an obvious pair, public relations is essential to both real estate firms and developers.

Firms often use public relations to increase awareness, while developers use public relations to educate communities and build support. Durée Ross, founder of Durée & Company, described real estate public relations as “a mandatory line item for [real estate professionals] as they see the value.”

Real estate public relations can be broken into three phases: sharing stories, developing property and finding buyers.

Sharing stories
When developers hire a public relations firm, they are often looking to share the story of what living at their housing development will be like. Public relations practitioners step in to communicate with the media, promote the development and share its story.

“By the time we are selected, it is because we are about to launch sales. We are getting the message out about the fabulous new building and getting it in front of the right audiences,” said Cassandra Small, senior vice president at Quinn PR.

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Whether the development is ultra-luxurious or family-oriented, public relations practitioners must earn media coverage and showcase the developer’s vision to the right audience. For example, Durée & Company hosted an exclusive cocktail reception for its luxury client Sabbia Beach.

By hosting an exclusive event, Durée & Company displayed the level of luxury that buyers would find if they lived at Sabbia Beach.

Besides hosting events, traditional media is also essential in helping developments get in front of target audiences. “If you’re in the primary markets like New York City, Chicago and Miami, a lot of the work is launching the sales and getting them placed in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal to discuss the new development, what that means for a buyer, and the history and story of the new development,” Small emphasized.

Developing property

Photo by Josh Hemsley on Unsplash

One of the biggest obstacles real estate developers face is community backlash against new developments. Listening to and addressing community concerns are essential functions in maintaining positive relations.

“There are times on a project-level basis where we come in and the developer hires us and says, “Listen, I need to go to local board meetings and I need to be able to best manage and control the messaging,’” Small shared.

Public relations practitioners are key to developers successfully communicating with their publics and staying on top of community relations.

Public concerns often revolve around being priced out of communities, or residential development creating an increase in local traffic.

For Andrew Gagliano, director of strategies and senior communications manager at Maier & Warner Public Relations, managing developer/community relations is an essential aspect of his job.

“If you’re in the development and entitlement of commercial real estate process that means you’re interfacing a lot with surrounding communities, civic associations and local politicians. Those are the people you will care about most, along with the press,” said Gagliano.

Gagliano shared several examples of how his firm works with clients in commercial real estate development facing community backlash against new projects, particularly in urbanizing areas with increasing density and a range of economic challenges. Gagliano and his team find creative ways to shape reputation and endear developers to local stakeholders through proactive radical transparency that builds goodwill and trust.

“We basically study the area, its history and its people, and we identify the unique political and economic opportunities these areas present. Then we introduce the right messaging strategies and communication tactics to demonstrate that good development can spur a domino effect of positive growth. While it changes the landscape of the area, it also brings in more jobs, pushes out crime and creates places where people want to live, work and play,” Gagliano noted. “Emphasizing the good economic changes is one of the strategies we focus on so often; the other is tackling the many common misconceptions about development’s effect on communities.

By communicating with and educating the public, public relations practitioners help maintain a positive public image for real estate developers and generate community support.

Finding tenants
Lastly, once a development breaks ground, public relations practitioners must fill the development with buyers or renters and maintain its reputation.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

“Once a project is built and is online, your attention shifts to the customer. Depending on the scope of work, this often means shifting to a consumer sales or marketing phase to attract buyers or renters, but reputation amongst other stakeholders still remains a vital role in the strategy once the development is open for business,” said Gagliano.

Gagliano explained that earning media placements puts developments on people’s radars, but it also is the job of the public relations practitioner to create a sense of endearment in communities and attract people to live there.

Unique strategies may also be employed by public relations firms to find the right buyers.

To find buyers for luxury real estate client 3550 South Ocean, Durée & Company thought outside of the box, turning to lifestyle, fashion and food influencers to earn media coverage.

According to a Duree & Company blog post, “to ensure that we would get great coverage, we worked with Eat Palm Beach to create an ‘Instagramable’ moment with a large ‘3550’ balloon to make for a great photo opp for the influencers. After all, it’s all about quality content! While we were on-site at the event, we posted live on 3550 South Ocean’s Instagram so people could follow along with all the fun.”

By knowing its target audience, Durée & Company helped 3550 South Ocean attract the right buyers through a fun, social media-oriented event.

Although unexpected, public relations and real estate development go hand in hand. Whether you are managing community relations, hosting a luxury event or conducting media outreach, real estate developers need public relations practitioners.

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