From Virtual to Real (Estate)
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

From Virtual to Real (Estate)

It had never been done: the creation of a new technology company and development of an array of business-to-business and business-to-consumer services for the real estate and mortgage industries with a specific focus on making the real estate transaction

Paul Holmes

 

It had never been done: the creation of a new technology company and development of an array of business-to-business and business-to-consumer services for the real estate and mortgage industries with a specific focus on making the real estate transaction easier, more efficient and less costly for everyone.  HomeAdvisor Technologies, Inc., formed in March 2000, sought to plant its flag where no other firm had by revolutionizing the residential real estate and mortgage industries.  The launch of this extraordinary company brought exceptional and immense communications challenges.

 

OPPORTUNITY:

 

Weber Shandwick Worldwide - Seattle played an instrumental role in assisting HomeAdvisor Technologies’ major challenges.  Among the most noteworthy of them: 1) HomeAdvisor Technologies’ chief competitor, HomeStore is partially owned by the world’s largest trade organization, the 700,000 member National Association of Realtors; 2) the continued reluctance of the real estate and mortgage industries to adopt technology; and 3) a misperception that HomeAdvisor Technologies, because of its majority ownership by Microsoft, wanted to take a bite out of Realtors’ commissions.  Consequently, HomeAdvisor Technologies needed widespread recognition as the company to serve both consumers and real estate/mortgage industry professionals.  This required securing publicity in every form of media: print, broadcast, online and offline as well as in various media segments -- consumer, mortgage, real estate, business/finance and technology. 

 

Specific measurable Weber Shandwick Worldwide - Seattle objectives were to obtain:

 

  • Positive coverage in three major national daily news publications (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post) and other notable daily news sources including Associated Press, Reuters, and Dow Jones.
  • Positive coverage in national broadcast media outlets CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg News.

 

Meeting those objectives would not only ensure that news of the launch would attract nationwide attention but that, additionally, it would be addressed by the country’s most influential business, real estate and financial daily news sources.

 

RESEARCH:

 

Research confirmed that the vast majority of realtors, mortgage brokers and industry trade media were leery of the benefits of e-commerce, let alone those solutions coming from a Microsoft-owned company. In fact, only a third of the nation’s realtors use e-mail as a communication tool.  That said, analytical research of current data and anticipated trends indicated that three of every four active homebuyers were already using the Web when seeking a new home or financing.  Moreover, about half of Americans believe that the majority of home mortgages will be handled over the Internet by 2005.  Further, 28 percent of Americans say they > would use the Internet to apply for a mortgage today according to a national housing survey by mortgage-market giant Fannie Mae (July 2000).

 

Tactical research verified that the highest probability of reaching the target audiences for the HomeAdvisor Technologies, Inc. launch would come through daily national press/media outlets rather than relying solely on trade and online news sources.  Research regarding leading real estate and mortgage professionals was also conducted.  

 

PLANNING/STRATEGIC APPROACH:

 

Nonetheless, in addition to securing coverage in the targeted major daily news outlets Weber Shandwick Worldwide - Seattle utilized other available media resources such as the vertical trade press, appropriate periodicals and online mediums. Preparation of HomeAdvisor Technologies’ key executives for both proactive and reactive press and industry activities was equally important to the success of the launch.

 

EXECUTION:

 

Prior to the actual launch, a coast-to-coast tour of key real estate and mortgage analysts and short-lead business publications for story placement was planned and conducted with military precision. As a consequence, enormously productive meetings with such real estate press luminaries as The Real Estate Intelligence Report’s Frank Cook and the Wall Street Journal’s June Fletcher not only led to positive press but to equally valuable ongoing relationships with national and trade press on every level.

 

In addition to the just-mentioned briefings, Weber Shandwick Worldwide - Seattle crafted and implemented a media training program for HomeAdvisor Technologies executives, proactive/reactive launch press strategies and contingency/leak plans.

 

Leaving no stone unturned, 200 leading real estate industry professionals were invited to Microsoft headquarters in advance of the launch.  This special pre-launch industry event was a critical first step in allaying any uncertainties brokers undoubtedly would have about HomeAdvisor Technologies.  To ensure the meeting’s success, Microsoft President and CEO, Steve Ballmer presented HomeAdvisor Technologies’ vision, mission and operating structure, and responded to the questions and concerns of the attendees.  

 

The launch included a national news release (with supporting materials), a national press conference (available live via satellite and Webcast), an analyst briefing and a formal introduction of key HomeAdvisor Technologies executives and press activities.

 

RESULTS:

 

Weber Shandwick Worldwide - Seattle exceeded its quantitative and qualitative objectives set by the office and the client by a wide margin:

 

More than 150 print stories representing 25 million impressions (including lengthy by-lined feature stories in such notable publications as The Wall Street Journal  (“Microsoft Plans to Unveil Home-Finance Venture), The New York Times (“Microsoft is Joining Lenders In Home-Finance Venture”) and  The Washington Post (“Big-Name Venture Spins Mortgage Web”)

 

More than 25 million national broadcast impressions including live interviews with Microsoft President & CEO Steve Ballmer on CNN, CNBC’s “Market Watch,” “Power Lunch,” and “Today’s Business” programs, CBS Network, PBS, and Bloomberg News and others)

 

The March 16, 2000 HomeAdvisor Technologies' launch was the leading business story in every targeted print and electronic media outlet. (For examples see above and supporting documents)

 

Additionally, extensive coverage was secured in numerous international media outlets, including The Globe and Mail, Canada's largest circulation daily, the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times.

 

Qualitative results included highly favorable coverage in a variety of top-tier media outlets.  Among the more noteworthy comments regarding the HomeAdvisor Technologies launch:

 

“Microsoft is fundamentally changing the mortgage process, which hasn't changed in about 50 years. It's about damned time.” - Jaime Punishill, analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research

 

“The combination of listings and a high-powered mortgage operation means this site is the closest thing yet to one-stop shopping for a home. If you’re in the market, it should be your first, and maybe your last, stop.” - Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine

 
“We have put together the dream team to reinvent a major process in business in the United State.” said Dennis O’Leary, a Chase executive vice president and head of its Chase.com unit. - The Wall Street Journal

View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus