The Davos of Real Estate Journalism

by Steve Cook on July 20, 2016

NAREE 2016Have you ever wanted to have the opportunity to really get to know the journalists who cover real estate for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Washington Post, Inman, Bankrate, CBSMoneywatch, HousingWire, REALTrends, or the key real estate editor at your top metro newspaper?

Would you like to get a sense of how they view real estate markets, mortgage finance, real estate technology and the other topics?  How do they get their information?  What do they think are the paramount issues facing real estate consumers and the real estate industry?

Above all, how can you contribute to their coverage as an informed source able to articulate your observations in words that will resonate with others?  Imagine how your business and your future in the industry might benefit from national coverage that inherently positions you as a leader.

Every June top real estate journalists and the public relations people who work with them gather to meet and update themselves on the latest trends and issues.  It’s a meeting based on common interests and needs, sort of a mini-version of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland each January.  It’s the annual meeting of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

This past June was my 16th NAREE meeting.  Attendance from both journalists and communicators was greater than ever as public interest in real estate returns with the real estate recovery.  During that time, I’ve learned a great deal about how individual news organizations cover real estate, especially why they decide to do a story on a particular trend and how they go about putting their stories together.

Most people would rather not become media sources and those who do often don’t know to work successfully with reporters.

The migration of real estate advertising from print to the Internet devastated real estate journalism. Hundreds of real estate journalists lost their jobs and very few online news sites can afford more than one or two reporters, relying on freelancers for much of their content.  For several years, NAREE’s membership declined drastically, but now is reviving as reporters make the rocky journey from full-time jobs to getting paid very little for the free-lance piece they write.

Real estate journalists still employed at major outlets today are thinly stretched.  They badly need sources they trust for their accessibility, candor and expertise on topics that directly impact consumers like affordability, access to capital, lending standards, MLS trends, top websites, new business models, low appraisals, equity trends, working with Millennials and Boomers, challenges facing builders, and many more.  Yet they will immediately distrust sources who hype their businesses through self-serving studies claims and data that can’t be verified.  Some real estate people are simply hard-wired to be self-promotional and don’t understand that even if they are very successful, they find it hard to get news coverage.

Like Davos, not anyone can be successful at NAREE. Few people are invited to speak at their panels.  Even fewer can schedule time with top journalists.  Only a handful succeed at developing ongoing, successful relationships with reporters and ongoing, positive publicity.  After sixteen years of attending NAREE and two terms on the organization’s board, here are my suggestion on how to succeed.

  • You need experience in your field, an executive position in a business that is newsworthy or a really great new project that will impact consumers. NAREE looks for newsworthy economists, leading mortgage lenders and decision-makers at top websites, brokerages, and trade associations who are also willing to help support the conference by become sponsors. NAR, National Multifamily Housing Council, CoreLogic, National Association of Home Builders, Urban Land Institute and Counselors of Real Estate, RE/MAX, Zillow, Realtor.com Homes.com ERA are regulars.
  • New ideas and new ventures are also very welcome. At last month’s session, interesting new models and new companies like the relaunched Owners.com, HomeUnion, Investability, Partners in Building, RealPage, and HomeAdvisor were represented on panels.
  • Work with someone who knows the ropes and can arranged time with the reporters who you want to meet and get to know. The real payoff for participating in NAREE are the one-on-ones during down time where you can maximize your time in the conference and initiate ongoing relationships that will pay dividedness for years to come.

Next year’s NAREE meeting will be in Denver the week after Memorial Day in June.  Hope to see you there and contact me if I can answer your questions about the event.

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