Redefining a REIT
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Redefining a REIT

Summit wanted to boost its low profile in the multi-family REIT industry and gain more recognition among its associates, business partners and investors.

Paul Holmes

Manning, Selvage & Lee/Atlanta created a public relations program for Summit Properties that included a situation analysis, objectives and strategies to improve perception about the company. The program encompassed proactive and opportunistic media relations in national and local markets and media tours.  MS&L also wrote press kit pieces, bylined articles and news releases.
 
CHALLENGE
 
Summit wanted to boost its low profile in the multi-family REIT industry and gain more recognition among its associates, business partners and investors. Summit suffered a lack of awareness in the industry and little media coverage among its peers. The company’s stock had dropped and it was not widely regarded as a strong investment. Summit sought the guidance of MS&L to overcome these obstacles.
 
RESEARCH
 
MS&L talked to key management executives within Summit Properties to create a benchmark survey of internal views and attitudes. We found that Summit associates viewed the company positively as a high-quality organization, exemplifying honesty and integrity. They said Summit was a great place to work, empowering and challenging its employees with innovative ideas and initiatives. Management felt that although Summit stock had under-performed in recent years, the company was experiencing a growth period that would that would turn things around.
 
Our team then conducted a media audit of real estate trade journalists to gauge their opinion and awareness of the company. Those who followed then multi-family REIT industry were aware of Summit – but it felt the company, its product and its associates has no identifiable image or brand in the market. Media coverage of Summit was weak compared to that of its competitors. Summit stock was perceived as a market under-performer, with little media coverage of Summit was an investment vehicle. By comparing these internal and external perceptions, MS&L could determine the gap between what Summit was and what it wanted to project.
 
PLANNING AND OBJECTIVES
 
After identifying the existing perceptions of Summit, MS&L recommended that the company focus its public relations efforts on landowners, business partners and its own associates. Secondary audiences of investors, industry analysts, peers and consumers were also identified. MS&L advised Summit to influence these audiences by focusing on the following objectives:
  • Create greater awareness of Summit’s success stories in relation to its activities. This was aimed at providing audiences with a better understanding of Summit’s core messages and bringing external perceptions in line with internal realities.
  • Broaden media coverage beyond local outlets. In doing this, Summit would dispel the myth that the company was an exclusively Southeastern REIT and extend coverage to national publications.
  • Deliver key messages about disciplined capital deployment, portfolio adjustments and efficient business operations. This accomplishment would portray Summit as an attractive investment.
  • Strategic Approach
  • Create greater awareness of Summit’s success stories in relation to its activities. MS&L realized this goal by using its executives to tell Summit’s success stories. Stories detailing the accomplishments of Summit staff from human resources professionals to IT technicians to the company’s CEO.
  • Broaden media coverage beyond local outlets. M&SL looked for media opportunities throughout Summit’s operating regions. Coverage included a feature on Summit’s urban project in Miami and a newspaper spotlight on an Atlanta property.
  • Deliver positive financial messages. MS&L publicized Summit’s capital recycling program, whereby the company created funding for new real estate developing opportunities by selling existing assets.
 
CAMPAIGN EXECUTION
 
Create greater awareness of Summit’s success stories in relation to its activities. MS&L achieved this by significantly increasing overall media coverage of Summit, placing stories in publications that had not previously covered the company. MS&L used a Summit IT employee to tell the story of the company’s installation of high-speed internet access in the company’s Washington D.C. Summit Grand Parc property.
 
Broaden media coverage beyond local outlets. MS&L highlighted Summit’s business strategy of urban infill projects.  MS&L publicized novel projects such as Summit Grand Parc, a property in a historic building only two blocks from the White House.   MS&L also highlighted similarly innovative projects in Atlanta and Miami.
 
Deliver positive financial messages. MS&L sought to influence investors and industry analysts by drawing media attention to the Summit’s capital recycling program. MS&L drafted byline articles highlighting the strategy and sought placement in trade publications.  MS&L also prepped the senior management to deliver these same messages in key meetings with reporters.
 
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
 
MS&L helped to double the number of stories published about Summit Properties.  From 1999 to 2000 MS&L placed 25 print stories and secured several broadcast coverage pieces.  Specifically meeting the program goals the campaign:
 
Create greater awareness of Summit’s success stories in relation to its activities. In addition to the increased media coverage, MS&L generated coverage in publications that had not covered the company in more than 12 months.  These included key trade publications that follow the industry including Commercial Property News, National Real Estate Investor and the Journal of Property Management.
 
Broaden media coverage beyond local outlets. MS&L conducted a media tour in New York with Summit CEO Bill Paulsen.  Meetings were established with The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Dow Jones and others.  This resulted in a significant “Dow Jonser” as well as a broadcast segment on Bloomberg News. 
 
Deliver positive financial messages. This objective was also met through the financial coverage of the company on the Dow Jones Newswire and Bloomberg News.  In addition, MS&L wrote and placed a byline story in a key real estate trade book.  
 
Over the course of the program, Summit Properites was one of the best-performing REITs in its category.  In addition, anecdotal evidence showed that employees had a positive reaction to the increased coverage of the company.
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