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Property PR: thinking beyond the media

It often feels like the UK media has got it in for property and real estate businesses.

Whether your market sector is construction, the real estate sector, the built environment or fund management, negative press coverage tends to outweigh the positive. However exciting and innovative your project is, it’s hard to escape comments on planning application issues, sustainability goals, noise, perceived delays and so on.

Luckily, public relations success in the property industry nowadays has become far more than gaining media coverage.

There are a plethora of additional ways to create and market your property brand without relying on hobnobbing with journalists.

Is media relations yesterday’s news?

Traditional PR has long been a staple in the property industry. Engaging the services of a property PR agency to help you build relationships with key journalists in trade, local and national press is still a great way to ensure a steady stream of positive press coverage.

However, property PR has evolved beyond sending out press releases. Savvy businesses create their own content in addition to their press releases so they can better manage messaging.

Digital PR for the property sector

Digital marketing encompasses everything around how you present and market your property firm online. That includes your website, but also how you optimise your content to be found by search engines, social media channels, backlinks to and from your website, thought leadership pieces and so on.

Compared to issuing press releases and hoping a journalist will decide to use them, digital marketing gives you far more control over when and how your messages land.

This is particularly important in the property sector when challenges occur. You can update clients as soon as any incidents happen, keep channels of communication open and also show clients a human side in your messaging such as video announcements from the team members who are dealing with any problems.

Managing social media

When talking about digital PR and marketing strategies, social media is probably the first thing that comes to mind. For the property sector it’s possibly the most important digital channel: regardless of whether you choose to engage with it, others will be talking about your clients or projects on there. You need to meet any detractors where they are if you want to avoid discussions based on inaccurate information and guesswork getting out of hand.

This is an area where using a specialist property PR agency can be far more cost-effective than trying to get a team member to monitor all your social media mentions and respond to comments. You’ll want to choose an agency whose services include access to social media monitoring software so they don’t miss posts and can deal with issues before they escalate.

Your property PR should include CR

You’ve heard about property PR, but what about CR? Community Relations is an important part of the communications mix for any property business.

CR includes events sharing development proposals with residents ahead of clients submitting them to local authorities for planning permission. However, it can be far more than this and become an important way to build goodwill among those whose lives will be impacted by real estate projects.

Consider sponsoring local events such as the school Christmas bazaar or 10k run; sending your team out on a volunteering day to use their construction skills to help a community project; or getting involved with a family fun day. Companies who engage with stakeholders in informal ways find it easier to build two-way relationships that help smooth the path of development projects.

Once work begins, consider having a 24/7 CR helpline, manned by your property PR agency, to deal with queries promptly. Fixing a temporary traffic light that’s stuck on red within half an hour can avoid long threads on social channels complaining about your business.

Capitalise on local knowledge

You may have extensive knowledge of the construction sector, but do you have on-the-ground knowledge of the local people who can make or break your plans?

A good property PR agency will be able to ascertain the key players in any geographical area – including local influencers who can sway opinion towards your project. Ensuring you engage these people with your communications can help avoid a social media pile-on the first time your team has an issue. If you use the expertise of a property PR agency located near your project, you can benefit from insights into historical grievances or pain points that can influence how your own communications land.

Thought leadership as a PR strategy

Thought leadership content is anything that shares your extensive experience with others in your industry and beyond in the spirit of collaboration. For example, a blog post that clarifies complex construction industry trends; podcasts sharing expertise on sales of commercial or residential properties; or speaking on a panel at a property development expo.

Case studies can be a great way of bringing a topic to life. Telling a story of how you brought your expertise to a particular project can highlight how you overcome challenges, what differentiates your firm from a competitor business, and showcase the full range of skills your team has. Using case studies can have the added benefit of keeping longstanding clients happy when they get a mention in your content and a backlink to their own website.

Bank the goodwill when things go well

PR is vital in the property sector. As well as building your brand, it can help manage and protect your reputation.

Things can and do go wrong with property projects. If you’ve done little to build your brand reputation ahead of this happening, you’ll feel the full weight of your stakeholder wrath. There is no community as vociferous as one enduring a common woe together, such as road closures, construction noise or building projects.

On the other hand, property firms that have put a PR strategy into action and spent time building a reputation for themselves and their client, and engaging their community, will usually be given an easier ride. If your business is seen as part of the community, stakeholders are more likely to take your side or at least judge you less harshly for inconveniencing them.

Measuring property PR success

Measurement of your property PR efforts is essential to ensure you’re fulfilling your strategic goals and your communications are landing as you’d hoped.

If you’re using a property PR agency, measurement and evaluation should be one of the marketing services they offer. This can measure not only appearances in the press, but your share of voice in the property industry, stakeholder engagement, whether you’re reaching all your target audiences, and the impact of any thought leadership content you’ve published.

Regular evaluation of how your campaigns are performing will allow you to tweak or add to them in order to achieve the desired results.

The importance of integrated PR and marketing strategies

Your public relations strategy and marketing strategy should be interlinked. There is no point sending out glossy brochures to sell a new development when you haven’t yet put out a press release explaining how the existing community’s concerns will be mitigated.

This can be rather chicken and egg: you need to engage investors, architects and so on in order to put plans in place to tell the community about; but if developers don’t take the community on a journey with them, they risk objections to their projects.

Any PR and marketing plan needs to include a timeline plotting the stages of a project and what stakeholder engagement will take place at each stage.

A varied PR approach is best for property brands

The UK property and PR agency landscape has changed significantly in recent years, giving developers more control over their messaging. While traditional PR still has a part to play, a good property PR agency will suggest a varied approach including digital PR.

Brand building and reputation management can be helped with a range of modern property PR tactics including social media, content creation, website and search optimisation, community management and data-driven PR.

By using a combination of old and new property PR approaches, businesses can maximise the ROI of their PR and marketing campaigns and build better stakeholder perception of their brands.

 

If you need help getting your property PR campaign off the ground, get in touch to see how we can suit your needs.