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Building Trust

Real estate development is one fire drill after another. Projects require approval from numerous stakeholders both internal and external, are subject to complex policies and even more complex politicians, and after all that, when you finally get to build, you may be lucky enough find a toxic surprise buried underground. As a project progresses from early phases into construction, these whack-a-mole crises can hijack strategic priorities, forcing the development team to tack back and forth attempting to maintain project viability. From inside the team, these iterative changes make perfect sense: the goal is simply to keep the project viable. But for stakeholders outside the project, these course corrections seem haphazard, may seem to contradict previous commitments, and often confirm stakeholders’ worst suspicions - that developers are untrustworthy. This has dire consequences.

And while every project does take its twist and turns, it is critical to diligently maintain the project’s brand, the underlying theme of the project, in order to accrue trust. The best way to do this is to create and start communicating your brand early.

Given that real estate developers have a Q Score somewhere between Bill Cosby and Martin Shkreli, a glass half full perspective says there’s nowhere to go but up. But a more strategic, if cynical, way to frame this is to say that the longer a development team works on a project without creating and communicating the brand of their project, the more time they allow prevailing wisdom (their lousy reputation) to take root.

So get moving early. Research your different audiences, learn with what motivates them, and frame your project so that it responds to those drivers. And then keep repeating that message, through words, deeds, collateral, pre-construction site activation, everything. The longer you are out in the world communicating your brand, the more people see that your promises have value.

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