Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Wise words from a wise man. We have no way of knowing Gandhi’s take on the relentless media hammering of estate agents his sentiments can be applied to the situation and to how we react. He may have said, “Don’t just moan about the press knocking estate agents, get out there and show them what you’re really about.”
I read with great interest PROPERTYdrum’s excellent article by Adam Walker where he made a strong case for the industry to invest more in Public Relations. I found myself nodding with agreement while reading his thoughts. In particular his point about the industry’s need to be more positive was absolutely spot on. He signed off by urgently appealing for someone to speak up for the industry to protect its image.
You should speak up for yourselves, don’t rely on others to do it for you.”
Now here’s the thing, estate agents can and should speak up for themselves and not just be reliant on industry bodies to do it for them. You don’t need to be a national chain or have premier league marketing budget to use Public Relations to do your bit to build a dam against the continuous tide of negative articles.
In the same way that not all parking wardens are ogres (a kind one helped my wife back her car into a tight space last month) not all estate agents are commission-crazed demons getting paid big money for little work.
Proof of the decency and integrity of the vast majority of the people who work in this industry can be found among these very pages. Just go to the Agents in the Community section.
Look within your own organisations at the donations you’ve made, the time you’ve given to support your community and how you’ve made a difference by getting involved and doing your bit. However, for an industry that’s all about being known, liked and trusted by potential clients, estate agents are pretty shy when it comes to using PR to raise their profile.
Best foot forward
Local PR tends to start with knowing your local journalist. Do you know yours? If you don’t you need to, find out who they are, invite them for a coffee and get on their radar. Make yourself available for comment should they ever need an expert’s voice on the property market or reaction to something in the news.
When I worked for a local paper in Harrow one agent made an effort to do what I’ve mentioned above. Guess who was our go to guy (a woman in this case) when we needed property related quotes and comments on how developments would affect the area? Yes, the free coverage she gained for her agency would have ran to five figures if it had been in advertising column inches.
Challenge opinions. Use letter pages to fight back locally against national criticism of the industry. Use regular blogs and newsletters to inform your local market of the good things you do within the community. Highlight the good that you’re doing and don’t sit on your hands when you hear criticism of your industry if you feel it’s undeserved.
My favourite story of agents going way beyond their remit to do something positive was one I was told by a client last year. On the morning of a completion he got a call from a very stressed vendor pretty much sobbing down the phone saying her husband had just fallen off the hired moving van, done his ankle in and they were behind in getting everything out of the house.
That was the cue for Super Agent. Not only did he down tools, get changed and help them load the van, he enlisted one of his team to help. Panic over, van loaded, keys exchanged, a job very well done.
The upshot of all this was he has received numerous referrals from this family. The downside he didn’t let the press know of his generous actions. They would have loved this story.
In a nutshell, be positive, be proactive, don’t hide your light under a bushel and say it loud: “I’m an estate agent and proud.”
Jerry Lyons is a former journalist and is now
MD of www.propertyprexpert.co.uk