Christina’s Coffee Talk with Danielle Culmone

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IMG_2207My favorite thing about working in public relations is how it can be applied to any industry. Chances are, if you find something you’re passionate about, you can do PR for it. My guest this week, Danielle Culmone, is a great example of that. Danielle is an account supervisor in the real estate division at Quinn & Co Public Relations. This fervent coffee drinker fits right in with the rest of PRBC with her latest idea: The Coffee EpiPen: “stab yourself in the thigh each morning with your daily caffeine dose and go!” I think I know a few people that would buy that! When she’s not thinking of these fantastic inventions, or working, Danielle likes to turn her brain off to read lots of books and 186 subscriptions in her Google Reader. She loves to travel and makes it a point to go somewhere new each year. So this week, Danielle teaches us about the world of real estate PR.

It isn’t rare to see a PR professional that majored in English, but did you always see yourself going into PR?

I always saw myself going into business, but not specifically PR.  I decided to study English because I did not want to go to business school.  I have no regrets.  An English major taught me to write and more importantly analyze and synthesize information quickly, which is really useful in my day-to-day. Looking back, I think if digital marketing classes existed at the time, that would have been my major.

What experiences led you to your career in public relations?

When I was in college, I had two internships in PR. One was in-house for the Clean Air Campaign and the other was for an agency in Atlanta.  I pursued a few different paths after school, but what brought me back to PR was the college internship program that I created and ran for Sophist Productions, a music and event production company.  The internship program gave college students hands-on experience promoting music on campus and three weeks of the semester long program involved pitching an album review to the school paper.  When I decided to leave the music industry, I realized PR was the only thing that I wanted to do.

Why real estate? What are the types of clients you work for?

I knew that I wanted to work in business or corporate PR because that is what interests me, so when I saw the real estate position at Quinn & Co., I jumped on it.  I had actually been considering getting a real estate agent license around the same time, so the timing really worked out.  For job seekers out there, I highly recommend sending a writing sample with your resume – I am convinced that is what made my application stand out.

My client roster is half commercial and half residential real estate, which includes a commercial brokerage company and landlord, three residential brokerage clients, one developer, a commercial brokerage company specializing in non profits and a commercial building. I love working with brokerage clients because there is always news to report and they really know whats happening in the market – before it runs in the press.

What trade publications do you work with? Would you say its easier or harder to get media coverage when working in such a specific area of interest?

Real estate has a lot of trade publications, both local and national such as Real Estate Weekly, GlobeSt.com and CityFeet.  Trades are still important for real estate professionals because a lot of deals happen through broker relationships, especially in commercial real estate.

Working in a niche, you get to know the national reporters very well and what they like to cover, so in a way it is easier to pitch.  In residential real estate, its all about putting your clients’ clients in touch with the media to tell their story first-hand.  This is challenging because people are not always comfortable talking about their real estate purchases.  The national media for commercial real estate is much more focused on market data and deals and sometimes you don’t have numbers to give.

What are the associations or influential groups that you follow for your industry?

REBNY and NAR are important to keep up with in real estate.  Since I also work in digital media at Quinn, I attend Meetups that focus on real estate technology. I also attend Social Media Club, Social Media Public Relations, Web Analytics Wednesdays and others focuesd more on technology.

How does social media play a role in real estate PR?

Real estate was a late adapter of social media, but the industry is catching up fast. Many real estate professionals blog, and are using social media platforms to connect to clients.  Often real estate professionals are rather shameless about promoting themselves and while it is important to get your name out there, the approach in social media has to be a little bit different. Its about providing value for the consumer and helping them make one of the largest purchases of their lives by building trust.

I spend a lot of time working with my clients to understand different touch points in their sales cycle. For example, according to a recent study by Trulia, about 90 percent of home buyers will attend an open house before purchasing a home.  So driving traffic to open houses is very important and difficult to do in traditional media, which makes social media a great communication channel for spreading the word.  While it’s not a fit for every client or project, more and more real estate companies and professionals are making use of social media channels.

What advice would you give to PR professionals that want to enter the world of real estate PR?

Read every market report you can get your hands on and learn the real estate industry in addition to the media landscape. To stay on top of social media trends, check out www.1000wattconsulting.com/ and http://www.geekestateblog.com/. Read www.Curbed.com because it is awesome.

I urge you to join our coffee talk and add to the questions/comments. If you have any additional questions for Danielle please post them below and we’ll see if she can spare a few more minutes for some answers.

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