Clare Jones (Grasshopper Comms) is the author of HOMEBUILDING: Positive communication in delivering new homes

The Chapter

On-the-ground communications around the delivery of new homes is emotive and challenging, framed by the reputational challenges that the homebuilding industry continues to face nationally. This chapter explores the wider context, mapping out the PR and engagement objectives throughout the cycle of a typical homebuilding project, as well as exploring some of the tools and tactics that can be used to help meet these communications objectives. The chapter sets out how improving communications and engagement at a grassroots level can help to shape the homebuilding agenda, and through a bottom-up approach, help improve the reputation of the wider industry.

The Author

Clare is founding director of Grasshopper Communications. Clare has over a decade’s experience in delivering communications campaigns for property and regeneration projects, including a number of mixed-use urban extensions and homebuilding projects. Clare has particular expertise in designing and implementing community and stakeholder engagement programmes for major planning and infrastructure projects, and is interested in best-practice approaches to grassroots community engagement. Clare is member of the CIPR and is currently vice chair of the South Wales branch of Women in Property.

An interview with the author

What is you background and your experience of promoting housebuilding?

I gained nearly a decade’s experience working for a number national PR agencies, focusing on property PR and stakeholder engagement, before setting up my own small agency in Wales in 2015. As well as working on major infrastructure projects, a large proportion of my work has been focused around homebuilding, ranging from large-scale urban extensions to much smaller niche projects (covering low carbon and zero carbon schemes, as well as build-to-rent projects).

Why did you choose this career?

I became really fascinated by the concept of the ‘public sphere’ when I was studying (firstly Economics and Politics, and then Media and Communications) – which sounds quite geeky – but in simple terms is all about understanding the role of communication and engagement in society and how this shapes political decisions and the world we live in. What I love about my job now is that it is centred around people, and our ethos at Grasshopper is very much around creating campaigns that build dialogue between communities, developers and decision makers – that ultimately helps shape our world and improves people’s lives.

What led to you to getting involved in Promoting Property?

I haven’t done anything like this before, so thought this would be a good opportunity to get involved with an exciting project and challenge myself (I was eight months pregnant when I volunteered so maybe wasn’t’ thinking too clearly!). But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed writing the chapter and being able to share my passion for the work I do, and help encourage other people to think differently about the opportunities that engaging effectively around homebuilding can present. It has also been a great opportunity to reflect and explore the way the industry is changing and how we need to be responding to this from a communications perspective.

How does the property industry benefit from PR?

The property and development industry shapes the world around us and has so much potential to deliver positive change – and yet research invariably shows a lack of public trust across the industry. Better communication is clearly essential to help start to change this, and ultimately bring around more dialogue, resulting in better outcomes for society.

What would you say are the key principles of good property PR?

Transparency, respect, creativity – and putting people at the heart of everything you do.

What are the key issues that PR for housebuilding faces?

Tackling the negative reputation of the industry and clearly articulating and addressing the range of industry challenges and changes that will inevitability emerge over coming years – such as decarbonisation, an expanding build-to-rent market and delivering homes for an ageing population.

What does the PR industry need to do to move with the times?

Particularly over the last month in light of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, the light has been shone on how the industry has failed to embrace digital engagement tools and techniques as much as it could have. I really hope this period will be a catalyst for digital engagement tools to become much more central to communication strategies and campaigns moving forward.

Get in touch with Clare on LinkedIn or Twitter.