The sub-prime-driven meltdown of the mortgage industry, and its impact on home prices, is a topic that is no longer relegated to the financial pages.
"It started off as a business story, but now all beats are paying attention to it because it's affecting people in so many different ways," explains Mark Hopkinson, CEO and founder of NewsMark Public Relations. "It's such a wide-open story with human, as well as economic impact, and reporters are looking for clarity [on the issue] where they can find it."
There is a silver lining in the predicament for communications professionals pitching mortgage-themed stories. Because of the issue's substantial jump to the front page, most journalists have a strong understanding of the nuances of the mortgage industry and the factors that triggered the current crisis.
"But that knowledge has also fueled plenty of media skepticism," says Bonnie Russell, president of San Diego-based PR firm 1st-Pick.com and a former realtor. "It's tough to pitch positive mortgage stories right now because [they're] not accurate - and the public knows it."
David Reeves, president of Boca Raton, FL-based Reeves Laverdure Public Relations, notes that he's had great success pitching his client Michael Sichenzia, COO of Dynamic Consulting Enterprises, who once actually went to jail for mortgage fraud, but is now a one of the top fraud investigators in South Florida.
"Michael understands the pathos of what people who face the loss of their homes are going through," he says. "So our strategy has been to position him as somewhat of an untraditional source who isn't going to give reporters a traditional perspective on what's happening with mortgages."
Because the issue is so widely discussed, including a mortgage angle in any pitch is bound to increase the media interest, says Daniel Spelling, CEO of LA-based Spelling Communications.
Spelling works with a bank helping entrepreneurs who have funded their small businesses by taking out second mortgages. With housing values in a steep decline, those individuals now face the loss of both their homes and their business.
"We were able to position this bank as the benefactor for the hard-working small business community and got plenty of television and print coverage across this area," he explains.
"Reporters are looking for sources who can link the dots together, so there's a real opportunity to position your clients as the counterpoint to this current trend."
Pitching... the mortgage crisis
The statistics and the human drama of people losing homes because of bad mortgage decisions have been well-covered. Reporters want new angles, so position clients as experts who can provide that fresh perspective
This story isn't going away anytime soon, so tying any business or consumer trend to the mortgage crisis is bound to attract more media interest
Now may be a time to advise mortgage companies to lay low - there's a lot of skepticism among the public and media that is hard to overcome