In real estate writing, the broad range of rates reflects the broad spectrum of housing needs and budgets— from low-rent short-term situations to milestone purchases for the middle and mid-upper class to investment property and luxury purchases for the wealthy. At the low end of real estate writing, freelancers create property listings for $25 each. At the high end, entire teams are engaged to create high-concept videos and advertising campaigns for luxury developments.
Recent trends in content marketing include creating online magazines to promote new “neighborhoods” that are actually anchored by one development; influencer campaigns where model-esque influencers do aspirational photo shoots in luxury buildings; and creative partnerships with celebrities that are heavily leveraged across advertising collateral and PR campaigns.
In this Niche Expert Q+A, we interview Carol Morgan, a real estate content marketing pro who has built an entire agency to serve the new home construction industry in her market of Atlanta and nationally.
Interview with agency founder Carol Morgan on content marketing in the real estate industry
How long have you been in real estate content writing; what was it like when you started, as opposed to now?
I’ve been writing real estate content for two decades. I started in 1998 and have been writing ever since. I founded Flammer Relations, Inc. in 1999 as a one-woman show and have grown it into a full-scale agency focused on content and ROI. In 2017, we rebranded as Denim Marketing, a strategic marketing agency tailoring content for blogs, social media, public relations and promotions.
The biggest difference is that most content is online now versus in print, so that offers a completely different opportunity than print did 20 years ago. There were a lot more reporters in 1998 than there are now, which made pitching and placing stories easier. Today, media outlets are stretched thin and they often rely on news wires to keep content flowing. Maintaining relationships with reporters and freelancers is critical to placing stories for clients.
What do you like about it?
I like the variety! It is never the same day twice. The new home industry offers a wide array of assignments and tasks. Some days we write website copy for clients and other times we write awards or white papers. Most of our time is spent on strategic marketing plans, writing blogs, social media copy, press releases and other features-type content. I conduct a lot of marketing audits and do a tremendous amount of research for clients while putting together marketing plans. I love to find opportunities for companies to enhance their brands and drive more traffic to their website.
What areas does it overlap with, and have you expanded your niche to accommodate the overlapping areas?
Denim Marketing serves a wide variety of niches related to new home construction. We work for builders, developers, construction products, utilities, mortgage companies, publications related to the industry, apartment developers, home stagers and interior design companies, to name a few. We are adept with both B2B and B2C as it relates to homes. We focus more on working with clients that are the right fit for our team, versus the specific niche.
You have a market-specific blog. How do you typically use it, as a primary income stream, or more as a promotional tool?
AtlantaRealEstateForum.com was launched in November of 2004 as a method of promoting our new home clients. We promote client’s news and send traffic back to their websites. In fact, Atlanta Real Estate Forum is consistently a top driver of traffic to all of our clients’ websites. As one of Atlanta’s oldest new home focused blogs, the site publishes more new home news than any other publication or website in Atlanta (one to three news stories, six days a week).
Additionally, we launched a podcast, Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio, about six years ago. This podcast features two different segments: “Around Atlanta” airs on Thursdays and focuses on events, attractions and things to do in Atlanta; and “All About Real Estate” airs on Fridays. It features the movers and shakers in the Atlanta new homes industry, including builders, developers and others who are making things happen. The show is the perfect warm handshake to meet people, as well as great added value for existing clients. Not to mention, a great promotional deal and outreach tool for our show sponsor.
What mix of activities generates income for you? Is it a steady balance, or do things change month to month?
Most of Denim Marketing’s clients are on monthly retainers, so there is a steady stream of work and income. We also do project work for clients, which can fluctuate a bit from month to month. For instance, this month we are working on website copy for a home builder, a brochure for a technology company, award entries for an active adult developer and a branding document for a city, as well as our retainer client work.
What differentiates you from other real estate writers?
The biggest difference between us and other firms or writers is that we are very ingrained in the industry. We understand how to build a home and the steps it takes to sell one. We are active in the local and national homebuilders associations. I am currently chair of membership for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and I’m past chair of the NAHB’s Professional Women in Building (PWB).
I have achieved the prestigious Master’s in Residential Marketing (MIRM), Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) and Certified Sales Professional (CSP) designations, as well as written four books on social media published by BuilderBooks.com. The latest was released at the International Builders’ Show in January 2018 and is titled ‘Social Media Marketing for Your Business’.
I have seen “real estate writing” gigs that literally pay $20 per 300-word listing and expect the writers to do research on the house before writing the post. For writers who are only getting this type of opportunity, real estate writing is not a viable career track. What do they need to change about their work search methods, resume, expectations, skill set to get out of this rut?
Successful writers typically charge by the hour and often set budgets for projects. They can also sell blocks of 5 to 10 hours to clients. It is necessary to educate clients on what is included in the fee and what is not.
How do you find your clients?
We are highly visible in the industry. We do a lot of networking locally and nationally, as well as speak at HBAs, Chambers of Commerce and regional and national trade shows. I have spoken at the International Builders’ Show for the past nine years. We have a drip email marketing campaign, sponsor a lot of events at our local HBA, as well as donate time to promote the HBA’s Parade of Homes and HomeAid Atlanta events.
How has social media affected your specific niche, and have you jumped onto it or no?
We are known for being cutting edge in social media. We started blogging in 2004 and looking at new media as it came online. Through a combination of content and SEO, we have been able to improve traffic for our clients and enhance their online presence. For the majority of our clients we perform public relations, blogging and social media on a monthly basis.
What’s your favorite type of project?
I love the variety of projects available to us. As previously mentioned, I do a lot of marketing and social media audits, and I really enjoy finding out what companies are doing well and where there is room for improvement. Putting a strategic plan or road map for success in place is fun. I also really enjoy competitive research because it typically shows opportunities for clients to gain market share and better position themselves against their competitors.
Additionally, promotions are another favorite aspect of what we do. Determining the goals and tactics and then putting it all together is a blast. I especially love concepting creative and developing graphics that tell a story and effectively engage the target audience.
Has your blog trained you to view your city through a different lens?
What a great question! The blog along with the radio show really demonstrate the breadth of what the metro Atlanta area has to offer in terms of housing, events, schools and attractions.
I think the longer you live in a city, the more you take it for granted. Having the opportunity to research and promote eight to 10 shows a month keeps us looking at the city with a fresh eye.