By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
Once a public relations professional, always a public relations professional?
Here’s what I envision will be the first of a series of Q and A posts on friends and colleagues who have moved on from public relations to other industries.
Today let me introduce you to R.J. Sirois, now a real estate broker here in Chicago with Baird & Warner. For more than two decades prior, Mr. Sirois held public relations positions that spanned the cycle of agency, corporate and association.
And, let’s get the “full-disclosure” statement out of the way: Mr. Sirois and I worked together on two occasions, at the now-gone Dragonette, Inc., a boutique firm that represented many real estate concerns, and at CCIM Institute, a commercial real estate association. We remain friends today.
Here’s R.J.’s written replies to my five questions.
1. The first, biggest and most obvious question: Why, after nearly three decades in publishing and public relations, did you decide to shift careers and go into real estate brokerage?
The time was right. In Chicago, the median price of a single-family home has increased 25% since 2012 , while condominiums are up 14%. Average market time, or days on the market, is down 30% to only 48 days. And interest rates remain healthy in the mid-4% range. I’ve essentially transitioned from institutional marketing communications in the real estate industry to property marketing and sales. It’s a natural transition.
2. Transferring skills from one arena to the next is vital to success. What communication skills and strategies will help you in your career representing buyers and sellers of residential properties?
Residential real estate brokers are independent contractors and thus personal branding is important. I spent years building brands for others, so I understand the process. Your reputation in the marketplace, name recognition, longevity in the industry, the quality of your product and service, the companies you choose to affiliate with and, of course, client satisfaction all play a role in building your brand. It’s very visceral. And affiliating with a venerable Chicago real estate company certainly helps.
Public relations is not a sales function as many believe. It’s purely a management function. However, real estate sales is similar to PR in that market research and analysis is critical in a transaction, from property valuation and setting competitive price points to managing the myriad levels of the sale through to closing. A good broker will then evaluate the deal and often use that intelligence in the next transaction.
4. You work for a legendary, well-respected real estate company that’s been around for 156 years. Do the Baird & Warner PR staff ever reach out to you for advice or direction, given your experience in the industry?
The Baird & Warner corporate communications staff certainly understands that public relations plays a central role in the marketing function. It also understands that while yesterday’s marketing was solely the role of the marketing department, marketing today is the responsibility of everyone, from the CEO to the managing brokers and agents. Everyone is involved in building the Baird & Warner brand and its reputation management.
5. Do you miss public relations? The planning, the execution of strategic communications, providing counsel?
At times, yes. It’s something I did for many years. But there truly are many parallels.
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Do you know of a PR professional who moved on to another career? How about yourself?