MultiFamily Blogging: Letter to The MultiFamily News Editor

Dear Diana Mosher,
Lost Me
I recently read a MHN blog post titled: Who Owns the Residents’ Experience? and I found myself a bit taken aback on a multitude of fronts. In the vein of pure professional and constructive feedback, I think posts of this nature demand a little more homework to include some real world example as a way of backing up key statements.
Left Me to Question

The article carries an interesting perspective but I think it’s a bit off as it relates to the property management world across the American landscape. So many of the REITs and privately held firms have made problem solving central to every role in the organization. Be it the Porter, Leasing Consultant, Property Manager and every position in between. And, they have been doing so for as far back as I can remember.
For example, when I worked for Equity Residential, we kept a lock box stocked with gift cards from various businesses around our community and the entire team had authority to “make it right” with any person who did not feel we were Making Life Easy [A thoughtful Equity tagline] for them. The team also had access to the use of concession monies if necessary. In that respect, it was not just the L.C. that owned the relationship, it was every member of the team, no matter the circumstance. Issues that made it to the home office were very rare and very extreme in nature.
Now that is not to suggest that there were not thresholds with regard to how much you gave away to right a wrong but the point is every person on the team was not just empowered but expected to take care of the people who spent both time and money with us.
On the point of pay; the lead and subsequent statements make it seem like the industry short pays leasing professionals in an effort to cause high turnover. I’m fairly certain that is not the case and maybe I just misunderstood the statement. In my own experience, I see L.C.s who make in advance of A.M.s and P.M.s in some cases. I think it really depends on the various comp structures out there. This point in the article does not seem to be well researched and is validated a bit by the qualifying remark in the lead paragraph.
As for churn and burn; I think this position more times than not is a stepping stone for other industries.  In my own experience, I’ve lost some great people to getting their degree in a discipline outside of the property management world. In essence, many good people use the position to earn some very good money while they go to school. Others work it until they figure out what they want to do when they grow up. And, rarely do I see an L.C. move into a corporate marketing role. Another point in the post where I yearned to see the premise.
Any more, P.M. firms are shopping the market for professionals outside the industry who bring a very diverse marketing discipline to the table. It goes way beyond most L.C.s capacity, background or wherewithal. Not to suggest it never happens but it is more of a rarity than a normal course of business.
To close, I very much enjoy the content provided by your magazine but this one fell a bit short.

Your Left Wanting Loyal Reader,
Mike Brewer

Huge and Compelling Opportunity to Win an Influencer

I think this story in the Daily Egyptian has compelling opportunity written all over it – we shall see.

*Now one might argue that it is inappropriate for me to highlight such an article and they may be right. The way I see it, however, is that I would invite the same approach if the tables were turned. I see it as an opportunity for everyone involved to get better. I see it as an opportunity for the end user to yield a better experience the next time around – be it with this community and or any other in the market. And, I see it as an opportunity to start some conversation.

The article, from the Universities daily rag, speaks to a slight hiccup in the move experience of several local university students. Here is a short excerpt:

“But Thibodeaux said when she moved into one of the brand-new, fully-furnished apartments on July 31, not only were none of those amenities available, but some essentials such as room doorknobs weren’t installed. She and other renters were also promised a private bus to and from campus, a state-of-the-art exercise room and a swimming pool with a hot tub, none of which were available when residents moved in, she said.”

I feel for the both the developer and the residents of the community as I am sure the hopes were high on both sides. I am certain the developer did not predict the dire reality of today’s economy.  And, the future residents were high on the thought of living in a brand new community located right down the street from the campus. The thing I applaud most about this is the courage of one person to stand up and be heard. I can only imagine what would come of this is Thibodeaux were to really exercise the power of social media. I also feel for the on- site team as evidenced by the following;

“Thibodeaux said she was told to “stop complaining” and to “get over it” when she spoke with Walker about the various issues.”

In all fairness I have to put myself in the shoes of Walker – I imagine she had the same utopia that students had – she would be working on the newest and nicest community in town and when that vision did not come to fruition she was left to do the explaining. A tough job under any circumstance.

Despite the less than wonderful circumstance, I do think there is a win in here for all parties. If able minds from the developer to the operators to the residents come to the table – this story could have a happy ending. And, if it does it would be cool to see Thibodeaux along with others become huge evangelist for the community.

*This new community is just blocks away from a property I manage…

Using Social Media to Market Apartments – J.C. Hart

J.C. Hart Live the Life Video Contest 2009

“Last November at the Indiana Apartment Association “Industry Outlook” presentation, the speaker said a dirty word when sharing his thoughts about 2009. It was much longer than four letters, beginning with a “C” and ending in “onsessions”. After that night we began brainstorming about overcoming this obstacle. What we came up with was “The Year of the Resident.”- Mark Juleen

“Turn the focus inward” became the mantra for Mark and his team. They re-imagined the way they would allocate their marketing resources spending money on such things as; resident functions, upgrades to social meeting spaces and special promotions. One of those special promotions made use of the social medium YouTube and the catchy tune, Live Your Life by T.I. [featuring Rihanna] It really caught our eye and we wanted to feature it here.

“Some may have already had a chance to see what’s been going on with our first “Special Promotion” called the “J.C. Hart Live the Life Video Contest.” This contest asks for J.C. Hart Apartment Community residents to create a two minute video or less on why they love living in their J.C. Hart Apartment Community and Apartment. The videos were posted to to enter, and since, were narrowed down to the top 5 finalists in our 6 winning categories. We posted these finalists to a custom blog (, and have just recently selected our winners. You can read the winners announcement on the blog, and view all the 44 entries on the J.C. Hart YouTube page.” – Mark Juleen

We asked Mark to share the numbers with us and this is what he had to say –
All data and information as of March 31, 2009:

  • Channel Hits – 11,045
  • YouTube Video Entry Views (44 total video entries) – 34,420
    • Total views in-full (YouTube does not count partial views or facebook sharing views)
  • Live the Life Finalist Blog Hits – 13,483
    • Absolute Unique Visitors – 10,048
    • Page views – 27,248
    • Only 360 users on Dial-up
    • Facebook referral hits – 819, 2nd highest next to direct URL
    • Hits from 37 countries (astonishing # from Guam)
    • 146 comments (88 alone on Overall)
  • Votes Cast Using Poll Daddy Polls – 15,554 (6,964 for Best Overall Video)

We’d also like to share some of the comments we’ve had from the contest as well.

“Just wanted to let you know that this contest was a great idea.”

“I thought all the videos were great! Everybody did a really good job. It’s great to see so much participation!”

“Way to go J.C. Hart! Great to see your pro-active involvement in assisting those with disabilities.”

“This contest has been a lot of fun….we really had fun making the video.”

When asking a prospect how they heard about us: “I saw you on the J.C. Hart website. It sounded like a fun place to live. You are listed on my notes under the “funny video” apartments.”

“Thanks J.C. Hart for running such a great contest. It’s nice to see a company do something so unique and cool. I don’t work for J.C. Hart, I just live here. :)”

It has been fun and exciting to open up new communication lines with our residents. A huge proponent for our online social media efforts has been our local marketing partner Firebelly Marketing. With their expertise and our talented leasing teams we have been able to implement a number of new online tools and enhance our web presence. We feel by utilizing social media tools we are now reaching our residents more frequently than we ever could with resident events or more amenities. Most importantly, we’ve found a group of our residents that love to share their stories and love their apartment/community. Beyond the online data, these testimonials help confirm we are doing things right as well. It’s our goal to “Make your home an enjoyable living experience,” and many of our residents have helped demonstrate that for us.

I think this is a great testament to the use of social media to market apartments and in the same respect, I have to imagine that Mark and his team were mindful of the fact that someone could have used this platform/stage to speak adversely of the J.C. Hart brand. I applaud that this did not detour them in their efforts. Thank you for demonstrating some real courage on this one Mark.

The story gets better. Or, at least in my opinion it does. On two different occasions I emailed Mark, at the request of people I told about the J.C. Hart contest, to ask if he would field some questions – questions about how these individuals could create their own respective contests. Mark, being the class act that he is, said absolutely. To me – that is what is all about – sharing for the betterment of the industry as a whole. Hats off to you Mark and thank you for taking the time to share with us.

You can learn more about Mark and what he is up to at the following sites:

LinkedIn Profile:
Twitter Account:
Other Profiles:

Comments Closed

Photo Source – rollontravel

Happy New Year!I was sifting through Google Reader this morning trying to catch up my blog reading when I came across the following words:

Comments are closed. They wer at the end of this well written post

It bummed me out as I really wanted to add to the conversation. It also made me wonder why a blog would not allow comments. Maybe there is a very good reason that I am just not aware of and in the same respect I have a hard time thinking it’s a good thing.

If anyone from ApartmentSearch by Cort is reading please let me know the thought process behind the decision to close off the comments. I am just curious. 

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You knew it was a matter of time before reblogging would find its way into our vernacular. The very popular Twitter is full of retweets (RT) born from an tweeters previous tweets. It is way of recognizing and drawing attention to a good tweet when you read one.

Will Zemanta make reblogging as easy as retweeting? That remains to be seen but I do think it is a cool concept and one that could send your community blog posts viral.

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Customer generated content and Apartment Blogs

This is a clip from an article I read this morning over at Fast Company’s Blog.

"It turns out that two avid Starwood fans created a whole site
where customers can find unbiased reviews of the chain’s properties
uploaded by other customers — the users themselves. The site was
created at the end of 2005 by John H. and John P." [Read More Here]

The article also mentions the fact that Starwood started their own blog some time ago. They use it to provide local information and events in the surrounding area.

Customer created content and blogs have been around for a long time in internet years but have only recently gained a wide acceptance (and that is likely an overstatement) in the business world. That being said, I predict these two trends are front and center in the apartment world in 08.’

We will see the likes of a apartment resident creating a custom site where they invite the reviews of others, not unlike To that I say, Property Management companies think about an open forum on your resident portals. Give them the tools as they will find them elsewhere. It is a scary proposition but one I think would work on many levels but that is for another post.

We will also see the emergence of Apartment Community Blogs. I think you will see this trend from two perspectives, 1. They will be used internally for employee appreciation [See Example Here] and 2. They will be used much like the Starwood example written about above [See Example Here].

On a frigid side note; I am experiencing my first winter in the Midwest. I can think of only one word to describe it: Misery.

Have a great Friday. M

Internal Blog

Seth quips on the value of an internal blog. I set up an internal blog for the Portland Area of Equity Residential, the largest owner operator of apartments in the country. It lives on today despite the fact that I left the company some 8 months ago.
It is aptly titled; Portland Rocks Newsletter and it is full of the amazing accomplishments of the the amazing people that make up the portfolio dating back to 2006. It has and continues to be an enormous boon to the innate sense of awesomeness this group has come to enjoy.

Building Meaning on your Blog

Our world has quickly morphed into a quest for meaning or has it always been that way? Maybe we are just now taking hold of the philosophy and giving it the press it deserves.

That being said Seth, in his truly infinite wisdom guides us on the authentic creation of meaning when crafting a blog.

For those of you that have thought about starting a blog for your property or about the industry in general or for those who have taken the plunge these principles will be very helpful.

Have an amazing Friday!!! M