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Should the Big Brands in real estate start blogging?

Joel Burslem over at FOREM thinks so:

Even with its obvious bias, the blog is actually a fantastic resource for anyone interested in staying on top of the beer wars. Several years ago I worked for Molson, before it became Molson Coors, so the brewing industry is still of interest to me (both professionally and socially).

But I think there is a lesson here for the real estate industry. Often when I speak to brokers, I hear a lot of them complaining about the negative press the real estate industry gets in the mainstream media.

One thing I suggest is for them to create their own blogs to counter this noise. Not fill the space with meaningless marketing platitudes like “Now is Great Time to Buy…” but actually contribute meaningfully to the conversation and to debate the issues.

The big real estate brands would be wise to take a lesson from Miller; create a real estate blog and hire a full time blogger. It could be an agent – but they’re (hopefully) too busy selling real estate. Rather, carve out some dollars from that bloated print marketing budget and hire a social media guru or a cub reporter fresh out of journalism school, then let them off the leash a bit to create stories that are relevant to the conversation but maintain your brand integrity. (Emphasis mine)

It’s an interesting idea, and I’m sure that at least some folks in Big Brands are thinking about it and experimenting with it.

For some reason, however, the idea makes me sort of queasy in the belly.

For one thing, the Brewblog itself referenced in the WSJ story that sparked Joel’s post makes me sort of queasy in the belly.  For Miller, and for the limited purpose they’re trying to serve, the Brewblog works.  Basically, the Brewblog exists to piss off Anheuser-Busch.  I didn’t read the WSJ story as being all that complimentary to what Miller was doing with Brewblog.  It’s not exactly a trusted source of information, and its biases are plainly obvious.  (Although, I suppose the plain bias puts Brewblog ahead of things like the New York Times and Washington Post… so that’s saying something.)

But it does seem relatively clear to me that the Brewblog is not adding to Miller’s own brand in any significant way.  It’s an industry blog for the brewing industry, aimed at industry insiders.  And its goal is more or less to be an ankle-biting annoyance to Anheuser-Busch.

Does that hold true in real estate?

Would, for example, Re/Max spend a bunch of cash for an industry-focused website that trashes Century 21 or Keller Williams for the sake of annoying their competitors?  What purpose would that serve in our industry?

Furthermore, I’m afraid there’s an even bigger issue for the Big Brands.  As I’ve highlighted above, if a Big Brand is going to do nontraditional PR via blogging, then it has to let official blogger(s) create stories that are part of the conversation while maintaining brand integrity.

But brand integrity is the one thing that is honestly lacking from the Big Brands.  Seriously.

What is the brand image of Re/Max?  What is the brand image of Century 21?  Of Coldwell Banker?  Of Keller Williams?  Of Long & Foster?  Of anyone in the business?  How are the brands different and distinct from each other?  Say you take a survey of 1,000 real estate customers.  Put the logos of the top ten brands in real estate in front of them and asked them to write a sentence next to each one describing the brand image of the logo.  Could they actually do it?

Besides, do you really get the sense that the Big Brands actually compete against each other if the media?  I don’t.  If anything, I think it’s more of a Us vs. Them mentality, where it’s the real estate industry (particularly the brokerages) vs. the Media.  I don’t know that you’d get serious disagreement between the Big Brands or between real estate agents of every stripe and market about the treatment of the entire topic of real estate in the media.

That being the case… I think it might be smarter for the Big Brands to let the RE.net worry about messaging, and for the brand themselves to worry about creating distinctive brand identities.  Here’s how I’d handle it.

Rather than hiring a corporate blogger, hire a corporate blog PR person.  Make sure that you have a guy or gal whose job it is to reach out to the RE.net constantly.  Every good, bad, or indifferent thing that happens should be publicized to the RE.net as soon as possible.

They all already do this with the dead-tree media.  Why not the RE.net?  Don’t just think about press releases; think about getting word to Joel or to Dustin or Greg Swann or Pat Kitano or any one of the numerous industry-focused RE.net bloggers.

We’re all hungry for the inside scoop.  The RE.net has blogs that are industry-focused with an audience that is primarily industry participants.  The Big Brands could start to leverage this fledgling online trade media by a coordinated effort to keep us informed and up-to-date.  Some of us will knock them, and others will defend and praise them.  But they will be part of the conversation.

Add in an executive or two who may be willing to post comments, and I think you have the recipe for success in growing an alternative media.  No need to hire a blogger and let him go out on the limb under the company name.

Simon Baker of REA Group recently stopped by my little corner of the Internet.  Frankly, I was shocked.  And he provided some good detailed information.  Frankly, I was shocked again.  That’s amazing outreach.  Even if I were to go on and trash REA Group, Simon has a fan.  If some dead-tree media type wanted to find out about REA Group, my post may show up, with the conversation Simon and I are having about international real estate.

Imagine if Alex Perriello did that.  Or Dave Liniger.  And not on just my tiny blog, but on the big RE.net blogs.

Don’t become the media.  Don’t try to convert the dead-tree media that hates you anyhow and has no idea what the @&*% it’s talking about anyway.  Grow the media instead.

-rsh

4 COMMENTS

  1. I wouldn’t say necessarily that they it’s all about trashing their competitors – reading through the beer blog and there is some genuinely great industry news. I think Miller’s goal is to provide a place for industry insiders to congregate (let’s face most consumers are not interesting in who bought who and who’s launching what) so IMO this blog is strictly b2b. I suspect one of the bigger goals is to position Miller as the thought leader in the industry amongst their peers… aide with recruitment and retention and have some fun at AB’s expense too.

    My suggestion was really not so much to ape Miller’s strategy – rather their tactics; hiring a pro to write the blog day in day out to provide valuable content. The greater goal might not be rubbing their competitors noses in it – but maybe taking on the local media or national media coverage of the market. Cover the local market relentlessly, deeply and honestly and you could win the same kind of brand recognition from consumers that Miller is trying to get from beer insiders.

  2. I wouldn’t say necessarily that they it’s all about trashing their competitors – reading through the beer blog and there is some genuinely great industry news. I think Miller’s goal is to provide a place for industry insiders to congregate (let’s face most consumers are not interesting in who bought who and who’s launching what) so IMO this blog is strictly b2b. I suspect one of the bigger goals is to position Miller as the thought leader in the industry amongst their peers… aide with recruitment and retention and have some fun at AB’s expense too.

    My suggestion was really not so much to ape Miller’s strategy – rather their tactics; hiring a pro to write the blog day in day out to provide valuable content. The greater goal might not be rubbing their competitors noses in it – but maybe taking on the local media or national media coverage of the market. Cover the local market relentlessly, deeply and honestly and you could win the same kind of brand recognition from consumers that Miller is trying to get from beer insiders.

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