Ken Ashley, Executive Director at Cushman & Wakefield Atlanta

For our latest Expert Insights interview, we had the pleasure of discussing the CREi Summit with Ken Ashley, executive director at Cushman & Wakefield Atlanta. Ken is an advocate and advisor for companies that lease or own real estate. He’s worked for 26 years to help business leaders translate business strategy into real estate solutions.

The CREi Summit is a conference in which CRE industry leaders share their tips on how to build digital relationships, social media followings and strong personal brands, as well as close more deals. The summit will take place Sept. 15-16 in New Orleans.

Read on to find out more about the event, which takes place in mid-September in New Orleans.


Q: How did the CREi Summit come together?

A: “We started the Commercial Real Estate Influencer list to recognize commercial real estate brokers that are doing exceptional things in social media. During the pandemic, we were, of course, all isolated. Coy Davidson was the first person to suggest that we should convene those interested in social media and commercial real estate in person. We pulled together a team of amazing volunteers and made the meeting happen.

“What I — along with, I think, many others — discovered is that convening around a shared purpose and passion is not only fun, but incredibly productive. Iron sharpens iron and getting smart people on any subject together in a room will make everyone better.”


Q: Are there specific CRE industry issues you hope this year’s event will help advance or resolve?

A: “The issue we all think a lot about is how to exhibit thought leadership in your particular niche. How does your brand become highly relevant and forward-thinking? And, once you have an idea, how do you actually implement the idea and have the discipline to consistently send messages to your audience? The summit is all about iron sharpening iron. Practitioners will share their best practices for all to learn and adapt for their own uses.”


Q: Pandemic-related changes have boosted the importance of digital mediums and social media in getting almost anything done. While there are certainly many instances for which there is no substitute for real life, would you agree that there is a case to be made for the ease, convenience, and reach of online networking, marketing and knowledge-sharing?

A: “I think the pandemic emphasized and accelerated the urgency around the issue of online branding. We’ve known for years that, statistically, you can never call someone on the day that they need you. As a services provider, they have to remember you and trust you when the need arises. Staying present in online forums and through social media allows decision-makers to have a fuller understanding of who you are, what your expertise is, and how you can solve their problems.”


Q: The 2022 CREi Summit takes place in New Orleans — a wonderful choice for its high cultural value alone. But, is there also something about the local or regional commercial real estate market that would make for a teachable moment?

A: “I certainly agree New Orleans is a very special place with the confluence of great food, arts, history and culture in one location. I know everyone who attends is looking forward to experiencing the best the city has to offer.

“While we’re not really focused on city-specific issues, I would just suggest that any market has to keep reinventing itself and present a fresh approach to whatever is happening in the world. If we learn nothing [else] from the pandemic, it is that we have to keep adapting to whatever [the] global situation is and whatever the challenges are to local economies.”


Q:What do you think future sessions of the CREi Summit might need to or should focus on?

A: “It’s hard to have an accurate crystal ball, but I would think the evolution of other social media channels merits study. For example, TikTok. It’s growing extremely quickly and only a few practitioners in our space are really experimenting with that medium.

“Another area to watch is the metaverse. It’s very early days, of course, but we are watching the evolution of that marketplace and how to integrate and market to it.”


Q: Are there any other insights that you’d like to share?

A: “Whether you’re in a big company or a small company, working not just in but on your business is critical. No matter how much success one has experienced, resting on your laurels is not a success strategy. Doing the hard work to sharpen the saw and continue improving skillsets is foundational to continued success.

“And, for those who are just entering the business, you have fresh eyes and a tremendous opportunity to differentiate. However, spending time with those who fought a few battles can help you refine your approach and make it more precise and effective.”