Q My firm auctions items that attract press attention. But how can we keep journalists focused on what we want them to promote?

Deb Weidenhamer
Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers

When I started the Corcoran Group, I was trying to get press coverage for the apartments I was selling, but I rarely had my calls returned. I learned that the way to get the stories you actually want is to treat the reporter as your customer. You can't control the press, and you can't expect reporters to tell a story that obviously serves your self-interest. You need to become the expert in your field, the person who is quoted day in and day out.

The best way to make that happen--and I've tried everything--is by publishing some kind of statistical report. Stats are the backbone of any news story, and reporters will love you for them. I tried this for the first time in 1981, when the real estate industry was in the dumps. I added up my 11 sales for the year, divided by 11, and published the average price in a press release I called the "Corcoran Report." I sent it to 80 reporters at The New York Times (NYSE:NYT), and my name appeared that Sunday on the front page of the real estate section. I churned out the report every six months, and it gave me a much larger profile than I probably deserved. My company became the trusted brand, not only with the news writers but also with consumers.

This approach will work for almost any industry. Let's say you sell tires: How old are tires on average? For a restaurant: How long, on average, do people spend drinking coffee? Which is more popular, apple pie or cherry pie? A reporter may find only one fact of interest, but it may tie in with something else he is working on.

If a reporter calls you, call back within five minutes. Don't be self-promotional and make sure he hangs up with a notepad full of short quotes. It helps to be blunt--saying something like "The market sucks" will always get you the lead quote. Once you've established yourself as an authority, reporters will be happy to hear your ideas. Tell them what you're doing and ask, "Is there a story here?" Often it won't be the one you had in mind, but that's okay. You're looking to build your brand's credibility--not just for a quick pop.

Barbara Corcoran founded the Corcoran Group, one of the largest residential real estate firms in New York City.

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