Bisnow’s State of the Market: Los Angeles

Bisnow brought together top execs from the real estate investment and development sector to discuss the economic opportunities present in and around downtown Los Angeles. Many of the panelists held a positive outlook for the LA market, citing a rise in home prices and a recovering labor market as strong indicators of the city’s growing economic strength. However, LA still faces a series of challenges before it can become the high-tech metropolis that many in the real estate industry believe it can be.

Below, I’ve highlighted some of the discussed trends driving the CRE industry in LA.

Where’s the talent? In the past, if you were looking to recruit a large company to a space, you would ask, “Where’s the CEO?” Today, that landscape has changed as a company’s employees are a stronger indication of their needs. For example, Southern California is home to a number of burgeoning tech startups that require employees with very specific, technical skills. As a result, there has been a dramatic uptick in demand for properties in “Silicon Beach” or the Santa Monica, Venice and Playa Vista regions. All of these areas offer a work-life culture that appeals to the up-and-coming generation of Millennials trailblazing this industry.

Rethinking office space. Especially in Los Angeles, one of the most traffic-congested cities in the world, people are spending more time in the office as well as handling more work while in transit. To accommodate this social shift, many organizations are looking at how to reconfigure their workplaces to make them more efficient and appealing to employees utilizing wireless technology.

“New economy” companies. The video game and social media industries are among the most coveted tenants in the CRE market today – these companies are not only looking for a space to fill, but are keen on branding a property with their organizational identity. This presents a significant opportunity for investors to partner with these prospective tenants and to add value to their investment properties.

The above trends indicate a need for CRE professionals to rethink their strategies for tenant recruitment. By better understanding the culture and demographics comprising the companies of tomorrow, the CRE industry can position itself for continued success in the LA market.

Are You Willing to “Flex” Your Marketing?

To be an effective marketer in the 21st Century, you need to be flexible. Social media, blog sites and the 24-hour news cycle have created an “always on” environment that marketers must keep up with or risk diminishing their brand’s presence. While in the past it was common to invest a great deal of time and energy into an annual marketing plan outlining the year’s marketing initiatives, today companies may be better served by allowing more flexibility in their marketing campaigns.

Social media has encouraged companies to move away from large-scale campaigns and transition into an “always-on” model, one that produces content on a continual basis and stays relevant to what is happening in the news cycle. Furthermore, video marketing sensations, such as a popular YouTube video gone viral, offer unexpected opportunities to position your brand in an online trend that is sure to get others talking and sharing.

Marketing professional services is no exception. Twitter, Google+ communities and blogging platforms all house valuable information that can be useful in determining what your competitors are doing, how a particular event or announcement might be perceived by the public, and what breaking news is important to you or your customers. These variables are likely to change throughout the year, making it nearly impossible to predict. The bottom line: these technologies allow you to gather important information quickly, and to react through content with relative immediacy.

As 2014 approaches, consider how you might be able to “flex” your marketing in the New Year.

SEO Enters the Newsroom

As a marketer, I understand the importance of Search Engine Optimization to help businesses improve their online rankings and be found by prospects online. However, as a public relations specialist, I never asked how knowledge of SEO could attract media attention.

At a recent Business Wire panel featuring journalists and editors from premiere business publications, Russ Britt of MarketWatch posed the question to the audience, “Do you know what SEO is?” The panel went on to discuss how online search has irreversibly changed the newsroom, the modern day journalist and, in turn, public relations.

The front page has become the top spot in Google News, success is measured in terms of clicks rather than newspaper sales, and content is becoming shorter, data driven and published more frequently. This evolution has changed the way in which reporters and journalists approach their stories as well as how publications assemble their news teams. So how can knowledge of SEO improve the PR results you obtain for your clients?

  • Take a look at what’s trending on Twitter or at the top of Google News to see how you can position your client, pitch or press release within a larger dialogue.
  • Focus on the key words and/or events around those trends to see how you might be able to tie that into your headline or body of your pitch.

In today’s digital news environment, one thing is certain: clicks are king. Internet and social media have posed challenges to the news industry, but have also made news reporting smarter and journalists more accountable. To improve the chances of your story being picked up by the media, implement SEO strategy into your next pitch or press release.

What’s Your Social Media Credit Score?

In a tight lending environment, a growing number of companies are turning to unconventional, digital indications of a company’s health to assess the risk of lending to potential businesses. One company in particular, Kabbage, uses real-time and verifiable data from things like UPS shipments, eBay and PayPal accounts, in addition to looking at a company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, to determine a company’s creditworthiness.

“We can see historical data and current data, and we can see tomorrow’s data. And we are looking at information that could be as detailed as what people are actually buying from you,” said Kathryn Petralia, a co-founder of Kabbage, in an interview with NPR.

These particular arrangements have had success with startup companies, many of which do not have lengthy financial statements or solid credit scores to furnish. Similarly, companies whose credit was scorched during the economic crisis can make a strong case for a loan using their current online footprint.

If it’s true that social media is the new “town square”, expect more traditional lenders to begin considering online variables when qualifying potential loans. Be sure your company’s reputation on social media is sending the right messages and engages with potential and existing customers.

Marketing Your Billing Practices — Berbay Corp. Marketing/PR Newsletter

In our most recent newsletter, we discussed the following topics as they pertain to professional services.

Marketing Your Billing Practices

Alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) are here to stay and offer firms an opportunity from a profitability, infrastructure and business development standpoint. This article outlines how firms can create compensation arrangements that are marketable and competitive.

What We’re Talking to Clients About

  1. Getting a running start on 2014 marketing.
  2. Worthwhile and manageable options for embracing social media.
  3. How to engage with prospects through content creation.

What We’re Currently Working On

  1. Developing a 2014 marketing plan based on two years of lead generation data.
  2. Spearheading practice group meetings to facilitate business development.
  3. Developing a list of target conferences for speaking opportunities in 2014.

Berbay Corp Selected Among “The Best” in Public Relations

Berbay Marketing & PR Marketing & Public Relations has been named to the list of “The Best” firms in the legal public relations industry by The Recorder, a leading provider of essential California legal news and information. Read more.

To access our library of e-newsletters, click here.

Commercial Real Estate Prepares for Era of the Click-n-Mortar

I attended the 2nd Annual SoCal Retail Summit hosted by Bisnow, where executives from California’s leading commercial real estate (CRE) brokerage, development, and investment firms provided their input on market trends. The forum was focused on the retail sector, which has seen an upward tick over the last year as the economy recovers and consumers’ buying habits continue to gain strength. Consumers drive the success of the retail industry, and as customers shift more of their purchases to the online space the CRE industry must adapt.

Below are some ways the CRE industry is using online marketing tools to capitalize on the preferences of today’s shopper and increase the value of their properties.

The benefit of social media in the CRE industry is two-fold: in one respect, social media is a strong indicator of an organizations’ ability to bring customers to their stores, an important statistic for CRE investors when vetting tenants, whose profits are important to keep renewal rates high and drive property value. Similarly, retail developments are enlisting social media as a means to communicate with their communities about promotional events or incidents that can affect the development’s public image. One panelist remarked, “You’d better have a plan for Yelp,” touching on the power of online opinion to affect the success of a development and its stores.

Online and event marketing were also initiatives that developers are focusing on in 2013. One exec explained that his company was committed to investing in shopping center tenant support—from kids clubs and auto shows to direct mail and online marketing campaigns. This show of support and investment translated into positive relationships with their tenants and achieved the goal of driving traffic to the development.

The Internet provides an efficient and focused marketing tool for shopping developments and their tenants. Partnering with tenants on this front will work to the benefit of all parties involved and the continued success of the business community.

Developing Relationships: A Case Study on Real Estate Public Relations

I attended an event hosted by the Urban Land Institute Los Angeles Chapter, where Brian League, Executive Director of Real Estate Development at USC, delivered a broad overview of the University of Southern California’s history of land use and development in downtown Los Angeles. He also discussed USC’s recent experience trying to gain approval of a $1 billion development plan that would increase the size of the campus by over 2 million square feet.

Of all the obstacles the USC Real Estate Company had to overcome during this four-year, $48 million process, Mr. League cited community relations as the most important factor in pushing the project through. Historically, USC has a poor image in the local community for their development efforts. During the 1960s, the University displaced thousands of low-income residents through the use of eminent domain to obtain thousands of acres of land in the downtown area. As the University grew, so did the need for student housing and campus buildings, creating tension between the local and University communities.

USC has come a long way in repairing its relationship with the local residents. One initiative the University developed in response has been the creation of an academic program offered to young children in the community. The program is designed to supplement a student’s education through middle and high school, offering counseling and tutoring services. Students who complete the program receive a full tuition scholarship to the university of their choice.

The event underscored the importance of one aspect of public relations – that of public affairs.  Public relations/public affairs isn’t all about branding or positioning oneself as an expert, but also encompasses the dynamic of human relationships.

Somebody Yelp Me!

In 2004, Yelp began to help local businesses, such as hair salons, restaurants, etc., be found online. Today, Yelp has grown to host 600 million visitors per year and has established itself as a legitimate marketing platform for all types of businesses to have a presence, including professional services.

Many businesses have anxiety about whether or not they should create a Yelp account. Most desire the high exposure Yelp brings via search engines, yet they fear that potential poor reviews may be detrimental to their business. Although we feared the poor reviews ourselves, we’ve discovered Yelp to be a viable option to market your business, professional service or practice.

You can run, but you can’t hide. Even if you haven’t signed up for a Yelp Business Owner profile, don’t be surprised to find your business listed online. Oftentimes Yelp users will add your business profile themselves, making it vital for you to claim your business profile and ensure your information is accurate.

Yelp is great for search engine optimization. As internet traffic continues to grow, coupled with increased traffic from mobile phones, your Yelp profile will almost always appear on page 1 of Google, Yahoo and other search engine sites.  Not only will it help increase your visibility online, but companies show up in search results based off of a user’s geographic location. You also have the option of placing ads and/or business deals on Yelp to help drive traffic to your website.

The customer is always right. How you encounter or “deal with” a poor review on your Yelp account says a lot about your company’s client relations. Think before you react to a bad review. Instead of getting defensive, talk genuinely about the problems experienced. If it comes to an unreasonable customer, explain how you went to extensive lengths to please them.

Approaching Yelp as an opportunity rather than as a problem can provide your business with added visibility and enable you to communicate with prospective clients.

The Great Debate: Social Media for Law Firms

Having a strong, interactive presence on social media sites is important for businesses in every industry, and law firms are no exception. But it can be a delicate balancing act deciding what can be shared, where and by whom. Below is a series of questions that law firms around the world are wrestling with in creating their social media policies.

WHO should be the focus of social media – the firm or the individual lawyers? One of the first questions that arises is whether a law firm should focus on overall branding and establishing a distinct presence for the firm itself, or whether individual attorneys should be spotlighted. The simple answer is both. Rather than choosing the firm or a select group of attorneys, focus on creating a unified message. The firm and its attorneys should utilize social media in a way that benefits attorneys’ specific practice areas as well as the firm’s brand.

WHO should manage the firm’s social media presence – marketing professionals or the attorneys themselves? Another important consideration is whether lawyers should be in charge of their own social media profiles, or whether they should outsource management to the marketing team. The most important aspect of this decision is to ensure that all social media engagement takes place in a distinctly human voice, as well as making sure attorneys can respond in a timely manner to their audience.

WHAT social media tools should the firm employ? There is a growing number of social media platforms at a firm’s disposal: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs and more. How many a law firm should engage, and for what reasons, can get complicated. The wisest course of action is to decide on a specific purpose for each social media tool. For instance, Facebook can be used to share firm news and accomplishments, and a regularly updated blog can be used to post legal insight about trending issues.

WHAT should be posted to social media, and how can the firm lessen the risk of public embarrassment from inappropriate posts? It is essential to have a firm-wide social media policy, in addition to regular training sessions, to make sure that everyone in the firm who will be engaging in social media understands the rules. It only takes one inappropriate post to affects a firm’s public image negatively. Privacy and security issues should be addressed as well, in addition to strategies for damage control in an emergency. As always, preparation and clear communication is the best defense.

The true value of social media has been hotly debated, but there is no denying that something posted carelessly to the Internet could haunt your firm for a very long time. In fact, a strong social presence is not a substitute for coverage from traditional and print media; it is a way to increase visibility and gain notice from media outlets that may be otherwise inaccessible. Most importantly, it can help your firm generate interactions with clients and potential clients, establishing you as a trusted and valuable name within the legal community.

Berbay Marketing & PR