The unfortunate turn of regional events during 2009 hit many real estate companies hard; most companies were unable to deliver their projects, and formed for lack of better words a negative image in the market and with investors. While some of these companies lost their position in the market – and others ceased to exist all together – many trudged past the difficult times and rejoiced when the real estate market began to boom once more. But returning to a market where people are wary to trust real estate companies means that PR agencies are now in the business of crisis management and credibility build-up. We, for example, had a very important real estate client that needed to regain the trust of investors. As construction of the projects was under way, there were a few steps that we took for a successful crisis management project.
Because so many real estate companies faced similar crises, the more specific your identification of your crisis can be, the better. In our case, although our clients were ready to come clean and speak honestly and openly about their experiences through the real estate crisis, there were many confidential details we had to tiptoe around; solving a crisis with so much information that remains confidential can be the crisis itself.
Make sure your clients do not deny that they went through a rough patch during the crisis. The best way to deal with the real estate crisis, especially in Dubai, is by being positive; rent prices have soared once more to reflect a healthy industry. Doing your research and speaking with experts will help you know that a lot of the mistakes that were made during the real estate boom of 2008 are being avoided and that many investors are paying upfront for properties. The knowledge of this information, if nothing else, helps you and the media in understanding the credibility of investments and investor opportunities.
Wherever it is possible, implement honesty as the best policy. People have not necessarily forgotten some of the mistakes that have been made by real estate companies, but they are eager to look past them. While some of their legal issues may be difficult to discuss, make sure you direct your clients toward transparency vis-И-vis stakeholders. If construction is already under way, make sure your clients have portfolios of updated photographs and that they allow for site visits by journalists. Advise them to turn to social media and keep the updated photographs on their pages as a timeline project.
The Expo 2020 bid is one of the proudest achievements for Dubai nationals and expats, and it should be treated with a respectful demeanor. Try to avoid the Expo 2020 headline and look at all of the other factors that play into the success of your client’s project, such as characteristics that align with Dubai’s vision; is your client’s project the second-tallest building in Dubai? Is it the first residential project to include smart city facilities in line with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s 2021 Smart City plans?
With the Al Maktoum International Airport and the Expo 2020 site under way, there is a prospect for an entire new Dubai. Our client’s project was located at the heart of this new part of the city, and highlighting this fact helped better position it with the media. A strategic location, such as the Mohammed bin Rashid City or the Crystal Lagoons, is important to position the project as a contributor to the development of Dubai and its future.
As PR professionals, we tend to avoid reaching out to the media in the best possible manner; rigid e-mails and broad pitches won’t do in this case. Reach out to the media, especially those that are currently covering real estate development, and let them know that your client is ready to talk. You’d be surprised at how receptive the media will be to your client and how willing they are to spin positive stories.
Almost all of the media are generally, yes, receptive to interviews for real estate companies. But, you want your PR plan and calendar to be a clear and steady rise to the top. Start with small coverage for your clients, testing the waters of how media will respond to their press releases and interviews. Then slowly begin to earn trust and gain momentum with bigger publications with a wider circulation. Target publications that might have, in the past, bashed your client and ask them to do a story from your client’s point of view.
The real estate market crisis is a sensitive topic to tackle. But if you tackle it wisely, the market, will, at a point in time, accept comebacks. The most important thing to remember is that every real estate project in Dubai has its distinctive features; following the moves of a competitor might make you perform the common mistake of missing the most important factors that make your real estate brand or project so unique.