5 things working in real estate showed me about effective storytelling

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Earlier in my career, I spent five years managing media and public relations for one of New York’s largest luxury real estate firms. It was a great gig that let me explore the city in a way that most people can’t. I watched neighborhoods transform through investment and development. I learned about the history and societal impact of the city by entering the homes of historical figures and celebrities. I met with everyday New Yorkers selling their homes and listened to how their personal passions like ecological issues, modern or classical design, literature, art, politics, food, music, and family influenced the location and physical attributes of their home.

Looking back at my tenure there, one of the greatest lessons I learned was the ability to develop a good story. One might think real estate stories begin and end with statistics: address, price, square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

But actually, the history of a home is just as important to its resume and can become fundamental to its marketing (and potential sale). My team and I spent countless hours learning from our agents on how to sell real estate; from pricing to staging to paying top dollar for photographers who could capture the building’s essence. We took these lessons from the agents and poured them into creating a compelling narrative that would help our agents move their listings, showcase our firm’s expertise and push new executive thought leadership.

With an endless rotation of listings, new data and housing trends, it was a true exercise in how far we could push ourselves to uncover the best stories. Below are a few ways that putting your content through a real estate lens can help you do the same.

Dig deep

As any cop show will tell you – there’s always more to the story. Create a barrage of follow-up questions to help discover more about your subject. For instance, the subject might just be a 1-bedroom walk-up condo with good light, but keep digging. Why is the light so good? How are units moving in this building or this neighborhood? Is this a neighborhood in transition? What landmarks or factors make this neighborhood desirable? Is there anything about the physical makeup of this apartment that is unique? Did anybody interesting or famous live in the building or apartment previously?

Stage your story

Staging is the art of decluttering and showcasing a space while also providing a potential buyer with an elevated canvas to demonstrate the best elements of the home and the potential for what it can be. After developing your story, take a step back and cut out what isn’t necessary. Ask yourself, is my story clear, sharp and concise? Do I get to the elemental point quickly or do I dance around it? Is my story relatable to the audience I want to target?

Visual stories make for better content

Have you ever looked at a property online and been turned off because the photos were low quality? Or perhaps there weren’t any pictures and just a description. Visuals can make or break even the best story, so always inquire if there are visual elements you can include. Even a stock photo or a basic infographic can add a much-needed visual emphasis to elevate your story.

Understand the data and pivot if needed

Real estate agents have an amazing amount of real-time data that informs them of traffic to their listings page; who is looking at the listing, who is inquiring about it, etc. This data allows the agent to stay the course or pivot and change the narrative (price, photos, description) in real-time if the listing isn’t resonating. We as communicators should do the same. If your story (pitch) is falling flat with your audience, stop pitching and figure out why. If you have access to data that shows if your e-mails are being opened or if the landing page that you and your team have created is garnering the traffic expected, utilize this data to stop and retool your content or give your content more gas.

Know your audience and frame your story for them

Stories are not one-size-fits-all. You wouldn’t try to market a penthouse on Billionaire’s Row (57th Street) to a suburban first-time homebuyer crowd. The same goes for communications. A story meant to create awareness for CIOs is not the same story that should be told to create awareness for CFOs. Before a story is told, make sure that you clearly identify the audience intended and stage your story to fit their needs.

At the end of the day, the story might just be a 1-bedroom walk-up condo with good light. Still, uncovering these exercises will pay dividends when you do uncover a hidden gem that takes your story from listing fodder to front page of the Sunday Times real estate section.

Mike Adorno is the Vice President of Communications at Hot Paper Lantern.