Penny Norton (PNPR) is the author of PROPERTY CONSULTANCIES: Capitalising on change.

The Chapter

Property consultancies frequently span the breadth of the property lifecycle, primarily through providing expert advice, an intangible and often complex service. This chapter considers the challenges in promoting expertise and how and why the PR function is changing so rapidly. It describes appropriate strategies and structures and uses case studies to illustrate successful tactics.

The Author

As director of PNPR, Penny has worked with leading property companies, commercial developers, both private and social housing providers, architects, interior designers and local authorities. Clients have included CBRE, Carter Jonas, British Land and Broadgate Estates, More London and Sainsbury’s. Penny has written extensively on the subject of communications for property publications and her book, Public Consultation and Community Involvement in Planning: a twenty-first century guide was published by Routledge in 2017. Penny is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and founded the CIPR’s Construction and Property Special Interest Group.

An interview with the author

What is you background and your experience of property consultancies?

I’ve worked in property PR for over 20 years, covering everything from pre-planning consultations to media relations for property consultancies – initially for London-based PR consultancies and for the past eight years, as director of PNPR. In 2000 I co-founded CAPSIG, the CIPR’s construction and property special interest group, and I have written extensively about both PR and consultation.

Why did you choose this career?

It was quite a circuitous route – from a degree in music, through arts administration and working for an MP (then shadow planning minister) to consulting on planning applications and promoting property development. I’m interested in architecture and love writing, so property PR brings together my interests and abilities and provides ever-changing and fascinating work.

What led to you to getting involved in Promoting Property?

CAPSIG provides a great means of sharing best practice through events and networking, but I was always aware that the vast amount of specialist knowledge on property PR was inaccessible. Editing Promoting Property seemed the ideal way to achieve this, and I was very pleased to be able to contribute a chapter which drew on my experience of working for several large property consultancies. I particularly enjoyed interviewing a variety of experts, finding out more and curating that information, which I know will benefit my future work.

How does the property industry benefit from PR?

Though it may not wish to admit it, the industry does have problem with reputation – see the Introduction for a range of examples. PR can help address this. Even more importantly, PR is proactive – forging good communications channels, promoting positive messages, and importantly, doing this in a way that is strategic – and therefore efficient. Any property company questioning the cost of property PR should consider the costs of not having PR.

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

A strategic approach to effective two-way communications which is both planned but also responsive.

What are the key issues that property PR faces?

They are considerable and ever-changing. At the time of writing, coronavirus is the greatest threat and its impact will remain for months if not years. Other issues affecting the property sector are Brexit, climate change and the adoption of PropTech. PRs need to regularly address the rapidly changing media landscape and make informed choices about the new communications channels that are available to them.

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

We need to continue to learn (through books such as Promoting Property and Communicating Construction, among other books / resources) and ensure that we are fully informed about changes both within the communications sector and within our own specialisms. Our client work should reflect this learning, ensuring that our clients receive the most up-to-date and relevant advice. I feel strongly that PRs need to keep abreast of developments in technology, extensive as this is, or we risk losing a section of our work to technology companies. This will involve collaborating with the experts to ensure that we provide a good service.

How important is creativity in what you do?

Creativity is more important in property PR than might be apparent. It’s not all about wacky stunts – in our sector it’s more about understanding and responding appropriately to nuances and finding enlightened solutions to new problems. Collaboration is more important than ever before.

What are the key learning points that are communicated in your chapter?

From creating a strategy, to advice on tactics and ‘toolkits’ to enable communications campaigns to run smoothly, to case studies from some of the leaders in the field, there is a huge amount of advice available. The overarching message is to embrace change positively and work with it effectively.

Which communications tactics / methodologies do you feature?  

The Chapter focuses on the challenges of selling a service, rather than a product – so this includes using thought leadership, research and promoting expert comment.

Get in touch with Penny on LinkedIn or Twitter.