Research: the core PR tool

Many decades-old PR tactics (from hard copy fact files and mail-merged press releases to the all-day lunch) are now obsolete and a multitude of nascent tools are gaining prominence. But research is the enduring PR tool for the property consultancy. (Researchers will argue, quite rightly that research is not a PR tool: that most research produced by a property consultancy is commissioned independently of the PR team and the aspect of promoting research to a wider audience than the client base is simply one aspect of the process of producing and promoting research. Many researchers claim that research is never led, though PR consultants tend to claim the opposite. That said, research is an extremely useful tool when, one way or another, it falls into the hands of the PR consultant.)

Audiences’ insatiable desire for data reflects our increasing opportunity to use data to inform all aspects of life, whether through using comparison websites when making a purchase, league tables to choose a school or Zoopla to inform a conversation about house prices.

Undoubtedly the intrinsic characteristics of research are well suited to online use, and enable it to be adapted to various media channels.

Research enables a property consultancy to demonstrate its understanding of the issues facing its clients and can establish the property consultancy as the expert in the field. In addition to providing directly relevant and unfailingly accurate information, research is most effective if paired with expert comment. Comment should show a deep understanding of the data, demonstrate expertise and be interesting. To issue research to the media, and then to find that the journalist has gone to a rival for comment is not a proud moment!

In my book Promoting Property:  insight, experience and best practice I provide many examples of potential research opportunities, as well as case studies from leading property consultancies.

The most effective research is the ‘gift which keeps giving’: a set of statistics which tell a national story, provides insight into a variety of sectors, offers both a consumer and a financial angle, can be tailored to specialist and regional press; provides the potential for repeated research at a later date, and, importantly, can be paired with expert comment from a range of voices within the organisation.

The diversification of communications channels has enabled PR to target and re-purpose information in a multitude of ways and over a long period of time. And because the services that property consultancies provide are of such broad interest – spanning the consumer, financial and business media – property PR has ample opportunities to repurpose and repackage content.

Twenty page reports are obsolete: or at least must be accompanied by a more accessible summary. A director of research for a large property consultancy testifies by The Tube Ride Test: if a research report can be read on a single Tube journey, it is an appropriate length; if not, it is too long. Of course in a digital context, there are ample opportunities to link to extended reports and additional facts and figures.

The approach is to reverse the old adage: don’t let a good story get in the way of the facts. In promoting a piece of research, never manipulate facts for a story or be tempted to draw conclusions without the necessary information (be wary of the difference between causation and correlation), never rush to get the information out at the risk of making a mistake, and always provide quality insight in addition to statistics. The greater the investment in the story surrounding the research, the greater the success.

This blog is an extract from my book Promoting Property:  insight, experience and best practice which was published by Routledge in April 2020.