Captains's Log: Star Date launch minus 1 day
Our mission: To Boldly go where no Real Estate Company has gone before... An agent generated hyper local real estate blog.
We will officially launch the EWM Blog tomorrow and Wednesday. After reading Lenn Harley's post and many other similar posts and comments, it would seem that our mission here is likely to fail as most bloggers out there would tell you that the majority of real estate agents will not blog. It wasn't that long ago that I heard "Agents will never use email" and somehow we managed to get past that and some of the other technological challenges. So let me go back a few months and tell you about how we have prepared for the launch.
1. We hired Jim Cronin, Real Estate Tomato and his team to design our blog. We mirrored the Active Rain platform so posts can be public or private. The private blog will become our main communication source for the company- no more group emails or memos. The private blog is embedded in our intranet site making a hybrid site. The public log is similarly embedded in our main website. In both cases, the decision to combine the resources seemed to make sense. Internally, when someone logs into our intranet site to do a contract or submit an ad - the blog feed should serve as a reminder that subtly says "Have you blogged today?". Also, with all of our managers and staff blogging about what's going on a great archive of resources begins to emerge. We have been backloading things like training schedules, videos, how to's etc. On our main business site, it will be hard to tell where the site ends and the blog begins. Featured posts will make it to the front page - this is a big incentive for our big producers who are most anxious to dominate that page because of the traffic it gets. The blog content will also build more viewers because the site will have a continuous feed of fresh content.
2. Hedging the content bet. We have 750 agents plus 100 or so staff - so content should not be an issue. Even a relatively small amount of participation will result in a decent amount of content. I appreciate that blogging purists may see much of what many agents will write is crap - but I would beg to disagree. This is not a high brow site with intellectual ruminations (except mine of course). Local user generated content is more informational and less thought provoking. But just in case, I have made some outside deals with community newspapers, other real estate bloggers and some "authored" content just to make sure the quality level is high.
3. Creating a buzz. This is where the Star Trek stuff comes into play. We will be rolling out the blog over a 5 week period - in a contest format with a Star Trek theme. In each of the 5 weeks, we will discuss and teach 1 topic to build specific content. For example, week 1 is to blog listings. Ines Hegedus-Garcia has graciously agreed to judge the first week of entries. No, Ines does not work for our company, she is technically a competitor, but I don't see it that way. She writes good stuff, sets a standard for any agent ,and blogging should cross company lines. At the end of the day - we are all in this together, aren't we? Ines, and a few other local real estate bloggers will be contributors on our site. I have also been emailing the entire company as a lead in. Everyday some great posts to understand what blogging is all about.
4. Using PR to build the audience. We are fortunate to have a great PR firm who has been lining up interviews and articles about the blog. They will slowly be released over the term of the contest and immediately following to build some readership. We have designed a series of print ads that will run in our traditional media sources to direct readership on things like open houses, market stats, etc.
5. Share the load. I began early with our management team to get them to go in and do posts as they will carry much of the day to day burden of getting the agents to blog. I will spend a considerable amount of my time going from office to office - but everyone on the staff needs to promote the benefits of blogging.
So there you have it - the log to date. Tomorrow I will don my Spock ears and introduce Jim Cronin and his team to launch the blog.
Other thoughts on the company blog... and a cute "theme" youTube video on Star Trek and Real Estate