"Why is Coldwell Banker here?"
For five consecutive days at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, I was asked this same question.
Standing in the concession line. Sitting on a couch outside the show floor catching up on emails. Even walking past the slot machines in the Venetian casino.
I've "worked" many trade show booths in my 16 years in the industry. But this was a first. The question came with legitimate confusion – why would a 110-year-old real estate company be at the biggest technology conference in the world?
With just two minutes of conversation and explaining our approach, it would click. "Oh, that's smart." Or "Wow, that totally makes sense."
The reality is that we weren't just “at the conference.” We were all over CES. We co-sponsored the CES Smart Home Marketplace...had a booth live streaming interviews with major tech brands...had our executives host and speak on panels...released a survey on consumer perceptions of what “smart home” means...reinforced our strategic partnership with the new CNET smart home in Louisville...and participated in high-level partnership meetings with some of the biggest brands in smart homes (as my colleague, Katy Hendricks, explored in her blog post on our purposeful partnerships last week).
Our presence at CES was all part of a comprehensive, year-long strategic thought leadership effort to establish Coldwell Banker as THE predominant expert on smart homes in real estate. And it earned us a great deal of media coverage in top tier outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Venture Beat and Ad Age, among others.
What’s most critical to understand, is that this was a truly and deeply integrated communications effort. This initiative wouldn’t have had the same impact without the support of the entire Coldwell Banker PR / Marketing team and all it’s agency partners. We joined forces in activating paid, earned, shared and owned initiatives that demonstrated the brand’s vision of the future of smart homes – and helped us punch significantly above our weight at one of the world’s largest tech showcases.
Thinking About Thought Leadership
“Thought leadership” is an often over-used buzzword in PR and communications. “We need a thought leadership campaign…” can sometimes actually mean “we need a new story angle” or “we want a viral video.”
While you can’t just conjure up a viral video (helpful tip – you can create great videos but they don’t always go viral), you can develop a thoughtful thought leadership platform – if you recognize the elements needed, as well as the depth, breadth and buy-in required.
The key is to identify a topic or issue of real importance to the organization and its sector – preferably one where there is white space or an opportunity to articulate a bigger vision. Then it is critical to develop an authentically compelling and differentiated point of view that will help build the organization into a trusted resource.
After attending CES 2015, Coldwell Banker saw a void in the smart home space from a real estate perspective. While 5 million homes are bought and sold each year, until now no home technology brands were talking to real estate companies. And in turn, no real estate companies were focused on what the smart home / Internet of Things revolution will mean to buyers and sellers.
Oh, how that has quickly changed.
Coldwell Banker has more than 88,000 sales associates all across the world and they are working with homebuyers and sellers every day. We got to work educating them on the great innovations in smart home technology so they could communicate these benefits to consumers.
By the end of CES 2016, I have to say I was excited when someone would ask me “why?” because it reminded me we were onto something. Coldwell Banker truly is leading the real estate industry by talking about the smart home. And with everything that we have planned for this year, it’s likely that very soon we won’t ever hear that question again.
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