PR for a constantly changing product

The significant scope of property sectors featured in my book Promoting Property:  insight, experience and best practice demonstrates the wide-ranging and fascinating nature of the property industry: from varying property assets such as commercial to luxury residential; from the differing impact of proptech and interior design; or the knowledge required to promote an emerging community to that required to raise the profile of a property consultancy. Even within these specific areas, the variety of work can be fascinating.  And there is so much more to explore in future.

From my perspective, some the book’s most enlightening and useful content is the detailed investigation of the ever-changing issues that impact on property PR: those questioning the benefits of background research will be left in no doubt as to the need to fully understand not only the product, but the issues impacting on it, both internal and external, national and international.

Compared to many other sector in which PR operates, property is perhaps the most valuable long-term asset. The PR for such a ‘big ticket’ item should reflect the value of the product. Property development (specifically the building of new communities) impacts for decades and even centuries, and goes far beyond simply promoting bricks and mortar. Also very apparent is the emotional attachment to buildings and the places where we choose to live, work and play.

Due to the complexity of the industry and the issues that surround it, the role of educational campaigns and PR activities that help to shape improvements in property and place-making are of increasing importance – whether in campaigning for increased seating in community spaces, or improving the way a property lettings market functions as a result of proptech. Changing legislation and regulation also feature strongly in our experience of the property sector, and this is where PR and public affairs often need to work very closely together.

Unfortunately a common theme coming out of pre-campaign research is that audiences’ understanding of the property sector is often limited, out of date and based on inaccurate assumptions – whether in relation to the impact of change to the built environment, viability in property development or the complexities of the planning process. If the public’s understanding of the property industry is limited to the 10% of the iceberg that is above water, our role involves increasing the understanding of the other 90%.

My previous blogs (The Changing Property Industry and the Role of Communications and Change and Challenge Affecting the Property Industry) have summarised some key external influences on the property market and each of the chapters by experts in specific fields (listed here) have described how that impact can be mitigated or capitalised upon. But none of these factors stands still: politics, stakeholder demands, the campaigning ability of activists, technological development, government regulation, the economic cycle and demographics all continue to change.  Hence the need for a second edition.

So what are the ongoing challenges that must be addressed? Research is a great basis for any campaign but in reality, not all clients have the means to fund it. Other limitations described in the book include the difficulty in reaching stakeholders (such as future owners of homes yet to be built), ongoing change in property assets and the use of proptech (not only using technology for PR or promoting proptech, but using proptech to benefit communications itself).

The varying examples described throughout the book demonstrate that while some clients ‘get’ PR, this is not always the case. Changes to the media environment have shown that the role of PRs as ‘gatekeepers’ between the client and the journalist is changing. Today, not only do journalists have increased opportunities to access information, but frequently journalists are absent altogether from the process of placing a story into the public domain, as paid, owned and shared media play a larger part on the mix.

PR practitioners are facilitators, and must also balance responsibilities of ambassador and impartial advisor. In promoting a company or product, we are clearly its advocate, but we also have a requirement to be objective, often to balance the views of a client so imbued in their product and its benefits that they fail to comprehend external responses to it.

There are very many challenges facing those carrying out property PR – but Promoting Property:  insight, experience and best practice helps navigate these challenges.

Promoting Property:  insight, experience and best practice can be purchased from Routledge, Amazon and all main booksellers and provides lots more food for thought on property and PR.