The impact of COVID-19 on property PR

28/07/2020 09:21:53
The need for more robust and intelligent PR strategies to help build reputations in a post-COVID world, was one of the key messages at a recent property PR and communication webinar chaired by Partners Director Monica Green, who is also National Chair of Women in Property.

The event looked at the key role PR and communication play in managing the reputation of the industry and how things are now changing in a post-COVID world.  

Promoting property bookThe webinar featured some of the chapter authors of a newly published book Promoting Property – Insight, Experience and Best Practice - coordinated and edited by Penny Norton, director of PNPR and founder of the CIPR’s Construction and Property Special Interest Group.

The authors included Dan Innes from Innesco, Susan Fox of Hough Bellis Communications and Clare Jones of Grasshopper Communications, who is also Chair of the South Wales branch of Women in Property.

The overall consensus was that strategy is vital: communicating the right messages to the right audiences at the right time. The property industry is very diverse and requires different PR disciplines to support the changing needs of the property lifecycle from land acquisition and planning to construction, sales and disposal.  

The biggest changes since the lockdown due to COVID-19 have been the rapid acceleration of digital communication, an increased focus on employee communication, and the recognition of PR as a vital tool in crisis communication and corporate reputation management.

Clare Jones explained how in the housebuilding sector a sense of community and access to local amenities has become more important to homeowners due to COVID-19. The positive impact that COVID-19 has had on the environment has also resulted in housebuilders accelerating their ambition to build net zero carbon homes. While an ageing population means that the homes of the future need to adapt to meet those needs.

Susan Fox is a specialist in PR and communication for housing associations and focused on the multi-faceted role communication plays in this area of the property sector. PR and communication cover brand and marketing, community PR, customer communication, employee engagement and corporate communication, and much more. Susan raised the issue of “tribes” in housing associations where socially minded staff can sometimes conflict with the more commercially minded teams that have been created to develop profit generating services within the association. The PR challenge is to communicate the core aims and values of the organisation so that they resonate with both “tribes”, uniting them in a common goal.

In the commercial property world, shifts in consumer trends and changing behaviours are presenting challenges, according to Dan Innes. He said: “effective strategic communication has become THE pivotal factor for survival”.  Social distancing rules and lower densities are impacting on the desirability and financial viability of commercial premises such as office and retail space. Property owners need to adapt to the new normal and communicate in a way that will give stakeholders confidence. Two trends that were highlighted include increased home shopping which is driving the development of more logistics parks to accommodate large warehouses, and increased working from home which could result in demand for smaller trophy offices in city centres rather than high density office space.

Promoting Property – Insight, Experience and Best Practice has been described as the “Bible” of property PR and is published by Routledge.

Property PR is similar to PR in many other industries: good advisers need to be specialists in your sector so that they understand your challenges, audiences and issues, and be able to anticipate the changing demands of your stakeholders and the media.

 View our property and construction sector experience