Boost Lease-Up with Well-Timed Press Releases
Press releases are a great and inexpensive way to get your site’s name recognized in the community and attract qualified applicants, says communications consultant Rose Reichman. You can send press releases with newsworthy information about a new or existing site to local newspapers and other industry publications and sources. If the publications give your site favorable coverage, this generates an image of success to support your lease-up efforts.
Managers sometimes shy away from using press releases, thinking they’re too much trouble. But creating a press release can be easy if you know the basic elements to include. We’ll tell you what you need to know about press releases. And to make the job of creating a press release easier, we’ll give you a Model Letter: How to Set Up a Press Release, that shows you how to put one together.
How Press Releases Help
Press releases are an effective and easy way of getting attention for your site. Newspapers, local magazines, and Web sites may view the opening of a new affordable housing site as a newsworthy event and may be willing to give your site some press instead of making you take out an advertisement. And you’re likely to get more positive attention from industry and government officials if they’ve heard of your site and perceive it as successful. People don’t necessarily remember what information they’ve read about your site. They just remember seeing the name in print or online and equate that with success. The more often they see your site’s name in publications, the more successful they’ll think it is. Having your site’s name in a publication is viewed as a third-party endorsement of your company, adds Reichman.
While you’re unlikely to lease up your site with qualified households solely on the basis of coverage of a press release by a publication, the release will convey an impression to the public that your site is newsworthy and that it’s worthwhile to look at. And that’s the first step to getting new occupants.
When to Send Out a Press Release
Send out a press release at specific times during the development of a new site or rehabilitation of an existing site—or any time your site has a newsworthy event to report. For example, the following events or occasions are generally opportunities to send out a press release:
- Allocation of tax credits from the state housing agency;
- Groundbreaking on construction or commencement of a rehabilitation project;
- Grand opening of the site;
- Completion of rehabilitation of the site; and
- Change in property management company or name change.
You should also consider issuing periodic press releases with updates on the site at regular intervals leading up to completion of the site. For instance, send press releases two months and one month before the grand opening or reopening of the site. If your information appears in print or online, you can boost public recognition and reach potential households. But be careful not to send press releases too often, warns Reichman, or you’ll risk diluting the impact of your press releases.
Who Should Get Your Releases
Assemble a “media list”—that’s a list of the publications that are read by the people whom you want to be aware of your site. That list should include newspapers in areas likely to have qualified households and publications read by people typically involved in referring households.
Reichman recommends going to the library and getting a copy of Bacon’s Newspaper/Magazine Directory (it’s also available online, but at a cost: http://us.cision.com). It contains information on all daily and community newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, and over 21,500 trade and consumer magazines, newsletters, and journals. Look up the major real estate and apartment publications and send the release to the real estate editors named in the directory.
The type of publication you want to reach may also depend on the nature of the tax credit site. For instance, if you’re opening a tax credit assisted living site for seniors, you could send your press release to publications that may be read by agencies that work with seniors or even those read by seniors themselves.
Individuals or organizations that should also receive your press release include:
- Major state and local government officials and agencies, such as the mayor’s office, city council members, and other local officials;
- Social services agencies, such as the local welfare department or department of aging;
- Health care agencies and institutions;
- Local housing authorities;
- Housing advocates, such as a homeless coalition;
- Real estate companies and apartment locator services; and
- Major employers, such as military bases, manufacturers, or commercial entities.
What Your Press Release Should Say
Keep your press release short and to the point—no more than three paragraphs long. If it’s too long, the publications you send it to may ignore it.
Introductory material. The release should begin with the date of the release, just as you would date a letter. Next, name the person at the site to contact for more information. Below this information write a short headline—five to 15 words. Put the headline in capital letters and boldface type. The headline should draw attention to your company and the news you’re reporting. For instance, “ABC Gardens Holds Groundbreaking of Affordable Community for Seniors” or “XYZ Estates Gets Okay to Meet Local Demand for High Quality, Affordable Housing” gets your site’s name in a headline in a positive way.
First paragraph. The first paragraph below the headline should identify your management company, what news you’re reporting, such as a tax credit allocation or completion of a rehabilitation project for an existing site, and when the reported activity took place. For example, “XYZ Development Co. finished construction of ABC Towers, a transitional living community, on Aug. 1. 2012, six weeks ahead of the scheduled completion date.”
Second paragraph. The second paragraph should give a brief description of the news your company is reporting in the first paragraph. For example, in a sentence or two, describe what’s involved in the construction of the site work or describe the site’s amenities or special features.
Example: “The community, which will provide assisted living services to senior residents, consists of five buildings with over 200 efficiency units. Each unit will have an emergency communications system to reach staff personnel for assistance, and the community will have a large activity center for the residents, including dining facilities and social services offices. The project benefited from extensive coordination with the local Department of Social Services and the Coalition for the Elderly.”
Third paragraph. The third paragraph should be a standard description of the location of your site. It should include the address and mention nearby landmarks or conveniences. Include days and times to visit and tour the site and obtain leasing information, and give the telephone number to contact the site.
Practical Pointer: Be sure to get the owner’s consent before you send out a press release about the site, warns Reichman. You can jeopardize your relationship with an owner if you give out information that the owner isn’t ready to publicize. And to increase your management company’s visibility, try asking the owner to send out his or her own release about the site, naming your company as the site’s management company, adds Reichman.
Rose E. Reichman: Principal, Reichman Frankle Inc., 560 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632; www.reichmanfrankle.com.
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