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Standing Up to Negativity: How to Counter Media Reports

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RISMEDIA, October 30, 2010—As the saying goes, no news is good news. But unfortunately, there’s lots of news about real estate these days—most of it bad. From rising foreclosure rates to dismal post-tax credit reports, media headlines continue to be centered around the negativity in today’s market. Real estate leaders, however, know that this is only one part of the story…that there are plenty of positive stories to share as well. For this month’s RREIN Roundtable, we asked two members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) to share their strategies for combating negative media. Here’s their take.

Participants:
Dick Schlott:
CEO, RLS Realtors, Real Living, Red Bank, New Jersey
Mark Stark: CEO & Owner, Prudential Americana Group, Las Vegas, Nevada

How can real estate professionals best counter negative media reports about the real estate industry to consumers and clients?
Dick Schlott:
It’s a very hard subject today because everyone is so stunned by the recent precipitous drop in home sales (at press time). But, first off, depending upon the size of your company, there are avenues to work through, such as the local newspaper. If you have an advertising agency that represents you, have them generate some positive public relations relative to any successes you may be having—and there are always successes…even in the most distressed market. Work on getting an interview or two with the local media to discuss the positive things about the market—low interest rates, better prices and how this is an extremely opportunistic time to buy. Talk about how now, for those who are secure in their jobs, is a great time to make a move up. They can buy the house today that they couldn’t afford seven years ago. Maybe seven years ago, they couldn’t afford to be in the town or in the school district they wanted to be in. Today, there is an opportunity not just to move up into a bigger house but into a more desirous area. We to tell the story that this is a great opportunity for the first-time home buyer to plant their flag—that for the cost of what they’re paying in rent, they can now own a home. I do believe the newspapers, especially the real estate editors, are hoping to find positive information—they want to find positive reasons for people to pick up the paper.

Positive stories about your company also help excite your agents and managers. No matter what anybody says, selling is an attitude; if you’re depressed and down, things aren’t good. We’re in a tough battler right now but a lot of things are great.

Mark Stark: I learned a long time ago to focus on the things you can control. What I’ve learned about the media is that they need to sell papers or content or whatever their vehicle is for information and few of them will take the time to do their homework or will tell you they don’t have time to do the homework so they’ll take a person who may or may not have the facts straight and only get a piece of the story. I don’t see that changing in the near or distant future. So it’s up to us to tell the full story to as many people as you can, specifically your sales executives so that they can say to consumers, “statistically, what they’re sharing with you is only part of the story; let me tell you the full story and, specifically, how it affects Las Vegas.” This is the route you have to take as opposed to the “media stinks.” Any time you throw stones back it shows people that you are unwilling to accept the truth. Telling people the newspaper story is only part of the story and that here’s the full story, shows them that you have all the information.

How can brokers and agents balance the information they put forth to demonstrate that they’re a resource for accurate market statistics, while still encouraging buyers?
Dick Schlott:
If they’re an agent with a RREIN broker or agent with a large company, everybody understands, agents have to keep themselves thoroughly informed as to what is going on. There’s nothing more calming to a would-be buyer or seller than an agent who can turn around and talk about the market with confidence and talk about what is actually happening. Even in the most down market, you can find a positive spin. Talk about the future, talk about stories that are more positive. For example, we just signed a builder who’s building eight luxury homes because they’re confident in the market. That’s a story with tremendous value that you want to share. Every day, RREIN provides agents with stories with the kind of information that public wants to know about.

Mark Stark: At Americana, we’re big on using technology to keep the consumer informed on an ongoing basis. Our Online Sellers Advantage gives the consumer updates on listings sold and sales that are affecting the property. Through 1parkplace we have a program that gives the consumer access to search the MLS once they become a VIP on your site they can search the MLS just like we do. Instead of trying to act like we are piecemealing the information, they can search as often and as much as they want to.

You also have to be a good listener and find out what they’re really asking before you just jump in defensively. Listen to what they’re trying to get to. You’re not going to be able to give an exact answer to a person if you have your filter up. Listen to what they’re asking you so you can get better insight into what you need to explain instead of just trying to sell them.

Be on the offensive instead of the defensive. People look at what’s happening nationally but need to know what it ultimately means for them. And you have to have a positive attitude.

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