Successful Commercial Real Estate PR Is About Telling The Right Story In The Best Way
Before Caroline Wilbert begins a media relations campaign for a client, she asks herself, "What kind of story would a reporter find interesting?" It is this penchant for emphasizing quality news and content that has helped The Wilbert Group, of which she is the president, grow to become one of the top 10 public relations firms in metro Atlanta, and arguably the leading firm nationally focused on commercial real estate clients, Wilbert said.
For her real estate clients, knowing what will draw a reader’s attention is the best way to showcase a new development or property.
“Journalists want good stories, and we work hard to pitch stories that they will like and that make sense for the media outlets where they work,” Wilbert said. “We don’t send irrelevant pitches.”
The Wilbert Group is based in Atlanta and recently expanded into the Charlotte market to further its reach. The firm focuses primarily on commercial real estate and telling stories that resonate within that niche community. This approach starts with knowing the intricacies of the industry. By focusing on CRE clients and learning their vocabulary, The Wilbert Group can find the best strategy for achieving the client’s goals.
Understanding how developers finance projects, for instance, means the Wilbert team can craft stories that draw the attention of investors. It is also important to know a client's competition and how its industry has changed.
The Wilbert Group goes to great lengths to develop subject matter expertise across its team. Last year, the firm launched CRE Stars, a 12-week program for high-potential Wilbert team members to learn different facets of commercial real estate.
"Being a subject matter expert means knowing what is new and interesting, so you can put story pitches into context,” Wilbert said. “It means developing relationships with journalists who cover the industry. It means being able to develop smart content that is useful to your clients’ key audiences.”
When The Wilbert Group starts working with a new client, team members conduct a “deep dive” with company leaders to identify the best news hooks for media pitching and content development.
One thing that makes commercial real estate PR interesting to Wilbert is the variety of audiences and the opportunity to look at a client through both a business-to-consumer and business-to-business lens. A retail development client, for example, might focus on local coverage during the initial entitlement process, and then pivot to telling a national story during leasing to attract retailers. The next shift might involve a consumer-focused program prior to grand opening.
Social media has presented property owners, developers and investors with a new platform to directly reach and interact with audiences in ways traditional media platforms can’t. Clients can receive real-time audience feedback, and push content directly to personal devices. The Wilbert Group considers social media an integral part of every PR program it executes.
The firm has an in-house video unit that creates content for social media and has started executing “influencer programs,” which allow clients to partner with social media influencers to tell and distribute their stories to the influencer’s network. This approach allows clients to take the reins on their stories and gives the content a more personal spin.
“While there is still inherent credibility in being featured in traditional and digital media outlets, we also believe clients can and should tell their own stories,” Wilbert said. “We create compelling content for our clients and target their key audiences via sophisticated social media programs, from Twitter to Instagram.”
What ties The Wilbert Group’s knack for CRE storytelling together is its strong relationship with news and media outlets. Wilbert began her career as a reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and several team members also have journalism backgrounds, including a former CNN producer.
This background on how the media operates allows the firm to think beyond a standard press release and get inside how a reporter thinks. A compelling story has to do more than promote the client: It must grab the reader’s attention.
“Because we have been in newsrooms, we have relationships with journalists and hopefully a sense of what they want in a story,” Wilbert said. “I think that knowledge permeates the way our entire firm works with the media.”
Commercial real estate is inherently about storytelling. Each building impacts people’s lives, shapes their interactions and colors their experiences. For Wilbert, what makes her job exciting and the firm successful is a commitment to getting that story right.
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and The Wilbert Group. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.