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May/June, 2006 - Volume 85 Number 3

The ABC’s of Publicity

by Michelle Sweet

As a marketing tactic, publicity is a great way to let potential customers know about you and your business. These steps make it easy for you to get started. by Michelle Sweet Knowing how to use publicity properly to promote your business is a valuable tool for a number of reasons:

  • It’s credible. When something is written in a newspaper or magazine, it’s perceived as true.
  • It’s free. Publicity costs nothing other than the time you invest.
  • It’s easy. With a little knowledge and the right tools, anyone can use publicity to promote their business.

To launch your own publicity campaign, all you need to know are a few basics. The first step is to identify the types of media you can use.

Local Newspapers
Make a list of all of the newspapers in your local area. Be sure to include the smaller weeklies, which are more eager for local news than the larger dailies of major cities.

Online Publications
There has been a proliferation of online news in recent years, so check to see if the newspapers on your list also have an online edition. As well, there may be Web sites that would welcome information about title insurance, such as those for local Realtors® and other real estate service providers.

Local Magazines
This includes local real estate, business, and lifestyle magazines, which may be distributed inside your local newspaper on Sundays, free at local newsstands, or mailed to residents in your area.

Many civic organizations publish newsletters, including the local Kiwanis, Rotary, Lion’s Club, and Chamber of Commerce. Often, your local chamber or city hall will have a list of these.

An effective publicity campaign is targeted, so it’s important that you direct your efforts to the right people. Now that you have your list of publications, call and ask for the name of the editor or reporter who covers real estate. If they don’t have a real estate section, ask for the name of the business editor. (With newsletters, ask for the name of the editor).
Next, call the appropriate reporter or editor to introduce yourself, or send a letter of introduction. Include information about you, how long you’ve been in business, and why you think readers will be interested in what you have to say. You can also offer to meet with them or take them to lunch to get acquainted. Ask how they prefer to receive information, via e-mail, snail mail, or fax. Be sure to give them background materials about title insurance. (For a list of available materials from ATLA, read on).
Finalize your list with names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses (the preferred method of sending and receiving publicity materials). Now you’re ready for the next step . . . . the publicity tools you’ll use.

Press releases should be used to make announcements, such as a new product offering, new office hire and/or promotion, or new office location. So before issuing a press release, you need to have a newsworthy announcement.
After you decide what it is you want to announce, you’re ready to write the press release. There is a press release template in the Title Industry Marketing Kit you can use to easily create your release. (Read on for information on obtaining a Marketing Kit, if you don’t already have one.)

Bylined Articles
An article in your local newspaper or magazine, with your byline, gets your name in the news and positions you as the local expert on title insurance. The good news is that we have already prewritten a number of articles you can use. (For a listing, go to ALTA®’s Web site at, and click on the Public Awareness Campaign tab.) Once you select the article you want to use, all you have to do is add your name to the byline and send it to the appropriate editor or reporter. You should call first to make sure they accept prewritten materials, and to let them know you are sending it. Keep in mind that it may not get published right away—they make use it as space allows.

“Pitched” Articles
Some publications do not accept articles written by an outside source; they only use articles written by their staff reporters. If that’s the case, you can “pitch” your idea for a story to the reporter or editor on your list. Just tell them how your topic will benefit or be of interest to their readers. Here are some ideas.

  • Suggest an article about how the closing process works, which is still a mystery to many. Talk about the importance of conducting a title search, what types of title issues occur, what title insurance covers. The reporter can then interview you, as the local expert, so you’re quoted in the article.
  • If there’s a building boom in your area with a lot of new homes being built, there is sometimes the misperception that an Owner’s Policy isn’t necessary because there was no previous homeowner. However, you know there could be tax or mechanics liens on the property from the builder or other issues affecting title. But new homebuyers may not be aware of the importance of an Owner’s Policy.
  • If there is a large segment of retirees in your area, many are likely to be downsizing, sometimes paying all cash for their retirement home. Or perhaps you live in an area where people are buying vacation homes, using equity from a main residence and paying a large amount of cash. Since there may not be a Loan Policy involved, it’s important for buyers to know about an Owner’s Policy.

These are just a few ideas and suggestions. Whether you decide to issue a press release, send in a bylined article, pitch your idea to a reporter or editor, or all of the above, you will get your name in the news and have exposure to potential customers. And don’t stop after you’ve experienced your first success—publicity is a tool you can use continuously throughout the year!

From time to time, there may be an article in your local newspaper that contains inaccurate information about title insurance. If this occurs, there are steps you can take.
If the article is about a local issue (vs. statewide or national), call the reporter directly to tell him or her why you believe the article was not factual. Oftentimes it was an innocent mistake, and you have done your part in helping to set the record straight. And, you’ll probably have a new media contact as a result.
In addition to speaking with the reporter, you may want to publicly clear up the misinformation by writing a Letter to the Editor, which also provides an opportunity to get your name in the news. A template and guidelines for writing this kind of letter are also included in the Marketing Kit. (See below for more on the kit.) It’s important to send your letter right away, while the article is still top-of-mind for readers.
If the issue being reported goes beyond your local community and you feel there could be broader ramifications, notify your state land title association and/or ALTA®.

To get started on your publicity campaign, make sure you have ALTA®’s Title Industry Marketing Kit. In addition to great marketing tools such as brochures, ads, a DVD, and a PowerPoint presentation, the kit contains all the tools you need to assist you with your publicity efforts:

With just a few basics, and the right tools, anyone can create their own publicity campaign. The benefits are that you will be perceived as a local expert on title insurance; your business will be promoted, and new doors will be opened to prospective customers. In addition, you will be helping to educate the public about the importance and value of title insurance!
If you have questions, need help, or want to share your success stories with us so that we can, in turn, share them with other members, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at

Michelle Sweet is director of media relations for Ervin Bell Marketing Communications, the PR firm working with ALTA® on the Public Awareness Campaign. This article is an excerpt from Ervin Bell’s presentation at ALTA®’s 2005 Annual Convention in New York.

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