“Working in PR is like being a hunter-gatherer,” observes the former Business Communication major and 15-year veteran of the field. “If you don’t go out and find your dinner, you won’t eat. I get a rush every time we land a big interview or speaking gig for one of our executives.”
That’s a lot of adrenaline, as Shuman devotes considerable energy to putting Trulia principals, including himself, in front of an audience. The work involves pitching producers and prepping the execs to deliver stories on the company’s growth, mobile initiatives or trend insights. Interviews with Trulia top brass have run on CNBC, PBS, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
The house-hunting public has taken note. In a given month, the Trulia website sees 22 million unique visitors; another 6 million-plus arrive on mobile devices.
“We provide consumers with information that was never available to them before, in a way that’s easy to digest,” Shuman says of the six-year-old company, which he joined in 2008. The data include local price trends, school system facts and crime statistics.
Finding a Niche
The four-person PR team that Shuman leads is charged with a range of duties: analyzing reams of data on the real estate market and making the findings relevant and compelling for site visitors; reporting on high-end consumer trends, such as which celebrities just listed a home for sale; and spreading the word about the site’s distinctive features such as real etate agent reviews.
It’s a mix of responsibilities that makes him feel, well, right at home.
“As a kid, I was constantly flipping through the real estate section of the paper, searching for my dream home,” says Shuman, who followed his father and grandfather to Bentley intent on joining the family accounting business after graduation. “I used to sneak into Open Houses for fun.”
His career plans took a detour when Shuman discovered the field of business communication. Post-Bentley, he moved through the ranks – from intern to vice president – at several PR agencies.
“I resisted working for one company,” says the Massachusetts native, who moved to California in 1998. “I thought I’d get bored.”
Boredom has not been a problem for Schuman at San Francisco-based Trulia. The company courts innovation, which lately means mobile apps.
“People might be leaving Sunday brunch and thinking, ‘This is a nice neighborhood, I could see myself living here,’” Schuman says. “We want them to be able to find apartments for rent and Open Houses they could go to before heading back home.”
Accordingly, the company has tripled the size of its mobile development team in the past year and launched versions of Trulia for the iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire and Android. Mobile technology now accounts for30 percent of weekend traffic to the site, versus 10 percent one year ago.
The positive numbers at Trulia tell a larger story about the state of real estate.
“We’re at an interesting time in the market,” Shuman observes. “Our chief economist is starting to see some traffic in construction and new building permits, because people believe true recovery is 12 to 18 months away, and that’s how long these places take to build.”
Those eyeing a move west of Boston – say Framingham or Worcester – might want to take note. Shuman reports that Trulia economists have chosen that area as “one of the top five places [in the country?] to recover first, based on the strong industry and opportunities for job growth.”
And what of his dream home?
“Still searching,” says the Marin Countty resident, whose family includes wife Nicole and 1-year-old Eli Ray. “But now I do it on my phone using the Trulia app while on the bus commuting to work.”