In the last few months, particularly, the importance of technology is becoming increasingly evident, with many PropTech companies emerging and businesses advancing their digital presence.
When I first fell into Property PR – and I really did stumble upon it – I didn’t know what PR was and had little knowledge of the property market. The internet was not yet widely used, and press releases were sent out via post. In 2018, however, everything is done online, and news can now be accessed instantly and constantly due to the prevalence of online reporting. Within Flashbulb, we read the majority of our news stories online via social media or websites. However, there are still many ‘big players’ that still favour traditional print media, such as the Estates Gazette, Property Week and Show House. Yet it remains to be seen how long these publications will continue this approach.
A wise client of ours – a global CEO of a firm of commercial property advisors – said recently that the property industry is lagging behind other sectors by as much as two decades. Property Week’s 2017 Power of Proptech survey found that 48% of respondents thought investment in technology would have a positive impact on their revenue over the next 5 years, 68% of respondents were willing to trial new innovation in their business and 57% of respondents thought embracing new technology has given their business a USP. However, 47% of respondents said that they were reluctant to accept new technology as they always face teething issues when it’s implemented. A recent survey by KPMG corroborated these sentiments, confirming that while the industry is increasingly accepting of prop-tech, only 33% of respondents have a clear strategy of how to use this technology.
While our client was referring to the industry being slow to adapt to technology, I think it is also a fair comment about the industry’s approach to PR, Marketing and communications in general. Larger companies will have teams of marketing and communications professional – both in house and external consultants. But there are many firms, particularly of small to medium size developers that still do not have any PR function, lacking a website or any social media presence.
From my point of view, these are crucial tools for a business. What’s the first thing you do when you are about to meet someone, or someone has given you their business card? I know what I do – I do a google search for the company and then look them up on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a company website, there is a perceived lack of standing and this can be harmful for your business when trying to impress a potential funder or bidding on land to develop. You may just get pipped at the post by another company with a more impressive platform or developed social media profile.
The consensus appears to be that marketing is a direct interaction with existing or potential users/clients and is more of a selling tool. But PR is a general profile raising activity and is seen as more plausible than advertising, particularly as there is perceived credibility through the endorsement of a journalist using the story.
Within Flashbulb, our strategy has changed dramatically over the last ten years. From just relying on posting news stories to now using all the avenues we have at our disposal to get our client’s message across the market. In addition to putting new stories out to the media, we need to keep constant content generation in between these stories. We focus on expert comment pieces, commenting within sectorial or regional features within publications and doing standalone pieces that will go on client’s websites. Further to this we use social media to link these stories and articles to a wider audience.
It’s amazing how many people across the industry use social media sites. In our experience, we find the best platforms to use for business promotion and interactions are LinkedIn and twitter. Instagram is also becoming more widely used by businesses communicating to a business audience. While Pinterest and Facebook still have some value, there are more effective for putting your product in front of a consumer audience.
Ultimately, companies within the property industry shouldn’t rest of their laurels. You may think you know all the people you need to know, but when it comes to connecting with new clients, partners and customers, using PR and Marketing saves time and money, reaching a much wider audience than a company and its team could do alone.
Perhaps most importantly, your peers and competitors that are implementing a structured communications strategy will often find themselves that step ahead of you. In this age of digitisation, Flashbulb and our clients, need to be at the forefront of the digital world, otherwise we will all be left behind.