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2010-01-13 22:19:18

Profit by Publicity: The Dangers of Being Too Creative


Unless you’re able to attract the attention of the media and the public, efforts to generate publicity about your real estate services, accomplishments or expertise are doomed to fail. Some people seek attention by being as creative or unusual as possible, hoping that their efforts will help them stand out from the crowd.  They often succeed  but for all the wrong reasons.
That’s because in their zeal for publicity, they may have forgotten some important principles  such as good taste, concern for the safety of others, attention to detail and plain old common sense.
Remember the recent hoax in which parents falsely reported that their six-year-old son was trapped onboard a runaway weather balloon? The youngster was later found hiding safe at home. Yes, the incident garnered worldwide attention, but the parents were sentenced to jail and condemned by public opinion.
Here are other examples of some of the worst and best ways people have tried to get the recognition they wanted:
Bloody Horrible
In an effort to get the media to take notice of a news release announcing a client’s blood-recycling machine that could help control blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, a public relations agency prepared and distributed a news release about the equipment splattered with fake blood.
The release certainly got the attention of at least one news organization. The Wall Street Journal ran a story about it with this headline: ‘Bloody’ Gimmick of PR Firm Leaves Some Seeing Red.   The article was about the negative reaction many people had to the stunt and how, in the minds of health officials and public relations experts, using fake blood to get the attention of the press was offensive and in bad taste.
Poor Planning – or No Planning? 
Some attention-getting stunts and promotions are better left on the drawing board. This was the case when a disc jockey in Fort Worth, Texas announced on the air that the radio station's staff had hidden $5 and $10 bills in books located in the fiction section of a local public library.
But the radio station, which wanted to use the stunt to help boost public interest in the library, had not bothered to tell the library's staff about the promotion.
Imagine the staff's surprise when 500 people rushed through the doors of the library, stampeded through the book stacks and proceeded to open, tear, destroy and toss 3,000 books on the floor as they looked desperately for the money. 
The radio station apologized for the stunt and donated $10,000 to the library to help pay for the damage it had caused.
A Good Example
If done properly, being creative can lead to positive publicity. Indeed, your local newspaper or TV station may be as interested in where you market your real estate services as they are in how you promote your company or expertise.
Take, for example, the following story from the Daily News Transcript in Dedham, Mass.:
Real Estate Firm Opens First Kiosk at Mall
Next week, Holliston resident Mary Condon, formerly of Keller Williams Westborough, will open People’s Choice Real Estate, "a fully functional, on-line, interactive and manned real estate office" located in the Natick Mall. Condon, who is seeking to have 45 agents working with her at the kiosk office, is preparing to have five laptop computers, a wide-screen, 22-inch monitor, a printer, scanner, copier, appropriate software for the real estate market, speakers and displays.
The whole set up, including rental fees, will cost a pretty penny, she said, but it’s not about the money.
The agents will show passersby or potential buyers and sellers how they can get the best from the Realtor Web sites and, "of course, we will list your home now and become your buyer agent now," she said. The beauty of being in the mall, she said, is being available just at the moment someone comes up with a real estate question.
Think before Publicizing 
The bottom line is this: before you seek to generate news coverage about your real estate services and expertise, think your promotional ideas through carefully and thoroughly. Then take the necessary steps to ensure that the publicity you may receive will be the kind that you will want and be proud of.
Edward Segal, RCE, is the author of the Profit by Publicity series of live and online classes, audiobook and how-to-reference guide for real estate agents and brokers.  Segal was the marketing strategies columnist for The Wall Street Journal’s, a PR consultant to more than 500 clients and press secretary to members of Congress.   He is now CEO of the Marin County Association of REALTORS® in San Rafael, Calif.  Visit his Web site at

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