In 2011 I left a real estate PR firm based in Hackensack after nearly four great years, and took a job as Director of Communications and Digital Marketing at a real estate investment firm and its affiliated broker dealer. I could wax poetic about the impact of that role (and the fun my colleagues and I had) on my career, but will save that for another time. Instead, I want to talk about my surroundings.
The office at 44 Wall Street was old New York real estate and finance at its finest. A thick bright red carpet served as a center aisle, separating the two sides of the floor and the respective offices on each. The walls were finished mahogany wood, and shadows played everywhere as each desk and the walls themselves were adorned with dimly lit lamps whose shades were darkened brown from the years of cigar and cigarette smoking. I wore a suit most days, something I rarely did before or since, and worked on my lingo. After all, they shot parts of Wall Street there.
The floor at this building is torn down now, and in this story and using that metaphor – so too are the days of old world real estate. Now real estate leadership, their Marketing, PR and Communications personnel, and real estate PR firms like FischTank PR that they hire, need to understand the drivers for change and prepare well for future positioning.
The real estate industry is evolving because of the demands of tenants and investors, leading to a surge in technology and innovation, and resulting in a steep rise in competition.
The internet has connected people, places and things for so long now, but it’s easy to remember that true innovation in real estate only began over the past decade. Now, tenants care less about square footage and location, and much more about comfort and innovation. The historically popular parts of most cities are no longer the most trendy. What are the features of each property, be it commercial, office, multi-family or retail? Is the building tech friendly, and how good is its wifi? Are there community events and amenities onsite? How big is its carbon footprint?
Investors are asking these same questions, especially regarding sustainability. The old buildings in lower Manhattan with “D” energy efficiency ratings may require significant renovation costs in the future. Will tenants want to live or work in a building that has no chance of adopting solar or other cleantech / sustainability / renewable technology?
Audiences are changing, which is why a good real estate PR firm and the corporate leadership it represents must change with it. Communicators and marketers should spend time carefully reading local media and monitoring social media platforms to better understand the community and individuals surrounding a new or existing development. This positioning must be applied to investors as well, demonstrating why a property or location has long-term value.
New real estate companies are cropping up everywhere, led by visionaries who would often be the last you’d find in a suit or sitting at a wooden conference table from the roaring 20s.
Many of these leaders believe real estate companies have to look different in order to attract talent, investors and tenants. Diversity in terms of gender, race and ethnicity are paramount. After all, perspective is helpful when investing in and developing properties designed to be lucrative in the long-term. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts aren’t just appreciated, they are expected.
Perhaps this is why we see more real estate companies formed by partnerships. Business leaders who share a vision but different backgrounds and know-how, versus the traditional real estate business executive leadership that is often handed down over generations. Often, new real estate companies are led by individuals without real estate backgrounds, but rather are driven by data, technology and sustainability.
These forward-thinking leaders hire real estate PR firms who can tell more than just a story about acquisitions and sales, but about the people and ideas that sustain the business.
The real estate innovation we’re seeing is represented by solar + storage-powered apartment complexes in Utah and California that make the property carbon neutral; the touchless elevators and living walls (walls with plants growing on them) in Dallas; and buildings in NYC that use real-time energy management technology to remain compliant and comfortable for tenants.
Of course, it’s not just proptech and consumer technology that makes a property attractive, it’s also the people living/working in and around it. While the pandemic threw cold water on shared spaces and amenities in 2020 and 2021, expect many of the same themes to resume their growth trajectory as vaccinations become wildly available. In a world where connectivity never stops, many families and businesses now rely on mobile technologies to meet neighbors, network, share experiences, collaborate and more.
Artwork and music are becoming more central themes in multi-family housing developments. Networking events and onsite bars/coffee are prominent in office buildings and centers, and restaurants and retailers are consistently evolving to entertain and better serve their customers.
Real Estate PR Firm Tips?
Real estate PR firms and the communications and marketing teams that work for prominent or aspiring real estate companies must position innovation for what it is – a benefit to the tenant and consumer. These details must be clearly articulated without being too buzzy or futurist, instead explaining how each piece of technology or innovation creates and sustains impact.
I miss those early days at 44 Wall Street, but I don’t miss the old world environment. Many of the real estate companies we speak with, especially the ones who are looking for a real estate PR firm to change the way they engage with their target audiences, know the world is shifting below them. By understanding that the future of real estate relies on those who adapt, innovate and place an emphasis on tenants and customers, industry leaders can better advance their brand for the long-term.