What are the biggest differences between working internally and working at an agency? How did you get your relatively unknown start-up to compete for media attention against well known competitors such as Zillow.com and Realtor.com? These are some of the questions we asked Ken Shuman, Head of Communications for Trulia.com.
Ken has spent the last 15 months building the profile of “one of the top real estate search sites on the web.” Prior to joining Trulia, Ken spent 12 years on the agency side from Lois Paul and Partners to Horn Group, working with clients including IBM, Sun, Siebel, startups Genius.com and FujiFilm.
You’ve experienced PR from both the agency and client side and say the differences are “night and day.” Give us a few examples.
I think the biggest thing is understanding how you get resources within a company when you’re internal.
When you’re at an agency, you’re implementing, you’re really thinking about, “Here’s a product to announce, here’s some things we can do.”
When that happens to me, I think about what features are PR worthy, or if we can build that. I have the opportunity to shape the release in ways that are more newsworthy and interesting and effect product decisions and resources more. If you’re on the agency side, you don’t always realize you have access to those opportunities or have access to push people that way.
For example, we know that real estate data is what media love. But the National Association of Realtors already owns that data, RealtyTrac owns foreclosure data, Zillow owns homes that are under water in mortgage data. Everyone has their own data set and the media knows when it comes out and have it in their schedules to report on it. We’re trying to figure out what’s our data set, what’s unique data that no one is reporting on that media can latch on to, report in consist a fashion, put on their calendar? That process, there is so much that goes into it, it takes two to three months.
First we brainstorm on all the data we have, then we brainstorm on what data is interesting, then we do a media audit, then I do an internal presentation, it has to go to the data team, our engineers, product folks, etc. We focused on pricing data.
On the agency side, you don’t always see that hard work behind the scenes. I have to come in with a very compelling case with what this would do for our brand, awareness, interviews it might lead to, a full business model about this is what we’d get from it in return.
In terms of fully integrating a PR and marketing strategy, what has worked for you at Trulia? What doesn’t?
To continue talking about the data set we created, once we created data and put it into a press release, the question is what else do we do with it. Obviously there is a huge SEO component in releases. So you’re driving traffic, then there is the whole twitter /social media component. The first month we did the top 50 cities in America, we released it on Twitter city by city. We took custom requests through twitter.
So we evolved our integrated program, month by month, based on testing different things out in the social space. We decided every month to test different graphs. We think about a holistic approach, not just putting data out there. When we have our PR meetings, we have industry marketing, we have SEO, we have our social media guru, we have PR and then we have our VP of Marketing, and every month we get together as a group to see what people are focusing on and how we can help each other.