Get on the Front Foot in the PR Battle

1_Mahatma_Gandhi_1Hi Folks,
Here’s an article I wrote for the July issue of The Property Drum magazine and the only time I’ll see my name next to someone of the status of Mahatma Gandhi.

PR Expert Jerry Lyons believes estate agents are too often backward in stepping forward to challenge the media’s negative view of the industry.

“Be the change you want to see in the World” Mahatma Gandhi.

Wise words from a wise man. While we’ve no way of knowing Gandhi’s take on the media hammering the estate agency industry on a regular basis, his sentiments can be applied to the situation and how we react.

Perhaps he could have said something like this. “Don’t just moan about the press slagging you off, go out there and show them what you’re really about.”

I read with great interest last month’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 on 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. 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 relentless 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 for proof of that.

Look at how Agents Giving supports agents fundraising efforts through its 10% top up scheme for more positive evidence.

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.

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.

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 (actually it was a woman in this case) when we needed property related quotes and comments on how developments would affect the area? Yep, the free coverage she gained for her agency must have ran to five figures if it was in advertising 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 out to. 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 Managing Director of

A Bar in Birmingham and Boris Becker

I was on a training course in Birmingham earlier this week.

After an intense day of learning a friend and I were having a well earned drink in the bar of the Crowne Plaza hotel near the NEC.
It wasn’t particularly busy which meant when my friend was made to wait ten minutes to get served he passed a comment to the bar manager that he wasn’t happy.

Her response was superb. She apologised, said his G & T was on the house and then came over 15 minutes later to check if everything else was ok. He was made to feel important and valued and ultimately that’s what most customers and clients want when they spend their hard earned money somewhere.

My PR point is this. Mistakes happen. It’s part of life. It’s how you handle it which sets apart the good from the bad from the ugly.
It’s the same approach I advise my PR clients who get themselves in a pickle.

I work with a property developer whose sub contractors accidentally knocked over a wall last year.

The owner of the wall threatened to go to the local newspaper.

The developer called me. Explained the situation. I prescribed the following for him.

Contact the homeowner urgently.

Accept responsibility and say you will repair any damages immediately.

If you are called by the local press give them my number. I’ll explain the situation fully to them.

In summary – If you are in the wrong, apologise and resolve the situation quickly and satisfactorily.

On this occasion the local reporter did call. The developer did exactly what he was advised and the home owner was reassured to the point where the relationship between them and the developer improved considerably.

The homeowner withdrew from talking to the press and the reporter’s editor told me they would not be running the story anyway due to the way the issue had been resolved.

Here’s to your next instruction.


PS: As it is Wimbledon fortnight I just had to share this. When Boris Becker was the defending Wimbledon champ he got knocked out in the first round in a shock defeat. He was asked how ‘devastated’ he felt. I’ll never forget his response. “Well, nobody died. It’s not that bad.” Class from my favourite German.


Is your writing rubbish? Improve it in just 90 seconds.

Hi Folks,

I’ve timed how long it takes to read this blog. 75 seconds. 90 if you are a leisurely reader sipping tea.

I’ve written thousands of articles over the years. I’ve created hundreds of blogs. I’ve written dozens of press releases mainly for estate agencies and property developers.

I’ve even bagged two awards and had a book published.

You might be thinking what is this egomaniac banging on about it? Bear with me.

I’m often asked by clients how they can improve the way they write and communicate, especially with prospective vendors.

It’s not rocket science to be fair. There are three easy ways to make your written communication better. Much better.

1) Keep your sentences short. No longer than 25 to 30 words. The aim of a sentence is to get the reader to read the following sentence.

2) Avoid jargon like the plague / Black Friday at your local shopping centre / a pub full of rowdy drunks when you’re stone cold sober. (Delete where applicable). Saying anything that only someone within the industry would understand is banned because it alienates the reader. You might think you’re sounding clever but it’s actually the opposite.

3) Think of your audience. Who is the message / email / article aimed at? Are they a cold prospect? Are you following up a valuation or are you thanking a client for their instruction?

Write as if you are speaking to a friend without being too informal. This makes what you write feel more personable. Writing as if addressing a group makes it more of a lecture and lectures are usually boring.

I’m always happy to have an informal chat about how we can help you with your blogs, copywriting and any publicity materials you are working on.

Here’s to your next instruction.


Don’t Bother Blogging

You’ve probably seen this article’s headline and thought why the hell is a PR expert telling me not to blog?

Don’t worry I haven’t been on my Uncle Tighe’s ‘Special’ Cough Medicine. Neither I have I lost my marbles on the London to Amsterdam bicycle ride I completed this weekend in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.

Let me rephrase this article’s headline.

Don’t bother blogging … it’ll make estate agency look bad……….. IF you don’t do it properly.

When it’s done correctly here’s some of the business benefits of a well written, interesting blog.

  • Google loves blogs because they are seen as fresh, regular, interesting content. So they are great for Search Engine Optimisation.
  • They help establish you as an expert in the property industry because they are a place where you can show your experience, knowledge and skill.
  • They provide quality content for all of your social media efforts.
  • They raise your profile with prospective clients as well as reminding existing / past clients what you do and that you still do it.
  • Blogs can give your website real personality rather than being bland. They can speak volumes about your brand, ethos and way of selling / letting houses.
  • When done well they are another part of the PR mix to help you gain more instructions.

I suggest three simple ways to do it properly. This list is by no means exhaustive but it’s a solid foundation.

First up: if you are going to have a blog page make sure you update it regularly. At least twice a month, ideally once a week.

If you have a blog on your site which hasn’t been updated in months think about what message that gives a prospective client. It’s the digital equivalent of a dirty office window.

Seconds out: Dedicate time to do it. If you are writing your own blogs get in the habit of setting aside fixed times to work on it. This will help build a good habit which will ultimately benefit your agency.

Third and final: If you don’t have the time or expertise but do have a budget and a desire for blogging about your estate agency business. Call in an expert. I can recommend one. Me.

Blogging is just one part of the PR mix your estate agency needs to be remarkable and to win the instructions battle. So give it a go. It’s worth it.

Be happy.


Doing things differently can save your business

What follows isn’t a fairy tale.

Put simply it’s the best success story I’ve heard for years and an example of what can be achieved by doing things differently and using the power of PR.

In 2008 the Spanish property market suffered a collapse of biblical proportions.
Prices didn’t just fall off a cliff they fell so low they could be found somewhere near the earth’s crust.
Estate agents closed daily. Homes were repossessed hourly. It was Costa Del Doom.
However, an Argentine chap who was and still is an estate agent has done fantastically well out of El Catastrophe.

Here’s his story:

Jorge was hit hard by the crash.

Back then he had been focussing on the British, and wealthy Spanish buyers’ markets. His business was going down the pan until he did two things differently.

Jorge translated his Anglo / Spanish website to Russian. None of his rivals had thought of this. He backed up it by targeting the Russian media with news releases making his prospective clients aware of his service.

He captured that rouble rich market within six months.

Not complacent though he added Chinese, Portuguese (rich Brazilians) and Hindi translations to ALL his marketing materials. Again he backed this up by employing PR experts in the respective countries he was targeting to spread the word for him.

By doing that he became the go to guy for the entire Spanish property industry for the wealthy few from the newly minted emerging markets. The amount of PR coverage he received more than paid for the translators, web designers, PR consultants etc.

He’s never looked back.