Skip to main content

Why media is crucial to successful brick-and-mortar retail

Transactions are the lifeblood of developers and their partners. Whether it be announcing the purchase of a piece of land, securing the initial construction financing, releasing the first tenant commitment, or covering the grand opening, the ability to amplify project news creates both momentum and continued opportunity.

The success of a shopping center or mixed-use project begins with the media. Credible, compelling and authoritative messaging–delivered in the right way, to the right audiences, at the right time–can raise awareness, generate excitement, reach new audiences, and drive the public narrative surrounding your project in a positive, productive and profitable way.

Everybody working on a project has the same general goals: to present the project and their role in the best possible light. The challenge is if all the groups involved are not working together and managing the message, the effort can appear disjointed. A single point of contact is crucial in avoiding the chaos of mixed messages and channeling communications.

It is incumbent upon developers to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here’s how:

Take control. It’s your project, your brand, your story, your professional future, and, ultimately, your responsibility. Brokers and leasing agents love to get the word out immediately on a new lease. Banks are thrilled to announce a big loan. Problems can arise when those announcements are made without consulting the developer, retailers, architects and construction team. First and foremost, project priorities must be met. In order for that to happen, the developer must both value and prioritize ownership.

Communicate. Communicate clearly and often with your partners. Take their needs into consideration (brokers are understandably motivated to showcase their ability to get deals done, for example), but make sure everyone stays on the same page. Your goal should be to include them in your message, rather than you being included in their message. Be specific with scheduling and timing details, procedural standards, and internal routing and review of releases. Architects, construction companies, marketing, and PR professionals should all have a clear understanding of your shared communications strategy.

Timing is everything. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “something is better than nothing” when it comes to media coverage. Timing is everything when staging project communications. A story about the apartments in your mixed-use project one month after groundbreaking doesn’t do you much good if you are still six months away from starting the leasing process. Should local media cover your project as part of a minor lease announcement, they might be less likely to want to revisit the topic when the property’s open and ready to lease.

Think holistically. Your commercial real estate PR strategy can’t be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants endeavor. PR is not an event, it’s a process. A campaign is about planning and staging: try to think strategically several moves ahead–and always keep the end-game in mind. Developers are focused on long-term considerations, relationship-building, and the successful execution of complex logistics. Like an orchestra, there are a lot of different moving parts, and they need to be fluidly in sync, coordinating into a powerful symphony. And, like an orchestra, PR works best when there is a conductor.

Leverage resources. Developers should control the messaging, but they should keep partners involved. They may have reach, resources, and relationships a developer doesn’t. The most successful developers take advantage of their partners’ connections and audiences to strengthen their real estate PR efforts. Smaller developers who don’t have the necessary infrastructure, on the other hand, tend to yield that control to their partners–and that can be problematic.

Coordinate. The best way to do it is for developers to formally write it into their agreements with partners, mandating that any information that goes out about the client or the transaction has to be cleared ahead of time. When a developer loses control of the message, leaks ensue. From public officials and municipalities to brokers and engineers, the power of retail and mixed-use PR is profound. If left uncoordinated, news has the potential to do more harm than good. Property costs can skyrocket, sensitive lease negotiations can be damaged, leverage can deteriorate, and the list goes on.

Media continues to be a powerful and credible source of information for the commercial real estate industry. People are interested in news about the changing face of retail and mixed-use development. Whether earned, paid or owned, the landscape continues to evolve and expand. The definition of media now includes not just traditional outlets, but self-published channels like blogs, website newsrooms, and social media platforms.

Whether print, broadcast or online, commercial real estate professionals will continue to have tremendous opportunities to leverage these channels. That opportunity will continue to put pressure on developers as gatekeepers to manage the message. However, if done strategically and correctly, the value will far outweigh the cost of resources to do it right.

Mark Winter is the founder and president of Michigan-based Identity, an integrated PR firm specializing in retail, mixed-use and commercial real estate PR, social media and creative. He can be reached at [email protected]
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds