My recent blogs have described both the external and internal forces shaping the property sector, and therefore the role of property PR. I now go on to consider the way in which PR itself is changing the way in which we work.
As very chapter of my book Promoting Property: insight, experience and best practice, shows, technology is bringing about change on every level.
Many traditional PR tactics – such as press packs, media lunches, syndicated videos, wire services and direct mail – have now been replaced with online equivalents including webinars, augmented reality tours, blogs and vlogs, curation of information by algorithm, infographics, heat maps and search engine optimisation. Many off-line tactics – from demonstrations to reviews and all other communications in between – now have a presence online too.
Online significantly increases the speed of communications and the amount of content available: it is estimated by Raconteur that by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be sent each day – that’s a staggering 43,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. Some practitioners feel that that PR has become more reactive following the increased requests for and expectations of information; while others claim that PR strategies must be increasingly proactive in order to get messages heard despite the distractions. Either way, the role of property PR increasingly involves curating, selecting and prioritising information to ensure that the target audience gains access to the most relevant content. The emphasis still needs to be on quality rather than quantity, and information such as research and crowd-sourced comment requires greater interrogation than ever before.
Online, anyone can communicate with an infinite number of people, across the word, with zero budget, at the touch of a button. Inevitably, therefore, online communication has also given a greater voice to stakeholders, whose expectations of communication with companies have risen as a result.
The democratisation of communication has also resulted in a new emphasis on self-proclaimed experts, influencers and thought leaders and consequently, increased competition for a ‘share of the voice’. According to research by Reputation.com, the volume of online reviews has increased by a staggering 1,870% since 2006, and consumers’ trust in reviews has grown to the extent that in some areas of business online reviews are now on a par with word-of-mouth recommendations. Within the property industry, comment has increased in importance relative to statistics, partly due to the influencer effect, but also due to a rapidly changing political and economic scene which renders five or ten year projections worthless.
The communication profession, rightly or wrongly, is responding to change by communicating more information, through more channels and more varied tactics, with more speed. We are on constant standby to respond to immediate feedback and to be held to account by an increasingly broad and circumspect audience. There is no doubt that our role has increased.
Partly in response to the information overload, but also capitalising on new opportunities to do so, communication is increasingly targeted. While property companies now have the means to communicate directly with key audiences, they also have the opportunity to use influencers – whether internal or external – to target a message, with the benefit of an endorsement. We see this played out on social media, minute by minute. At the same time, property companies are increasingly using very specialist blogs to reach a clearly defined audience, and those that do this well ensure that their message is highly targeted to the interests of that niche group.
Ironically perhaps for an industry which values relationships highly, there is an increasing element of automation in targeting influencers, with online marketing agencies offering a service whereby content can be ‘funnelled’ to reach the ideal end user. As automation matures the likelihood of such methods to promote thought leadership will increase.
Promoting Property: insight, experience and best practice provides up to date guidance on how PR professionals can best serve clients and capitalise upon the opportunities brought about by change. The content of this blog is taken from my book Promoting Property: insight, experience and best practice, which was published on 30 April 2020. It can be purchased online via Routledge, Amazon and other main booksellers.