There is a lot of misinformation about what PR is and what its benefit might be. Building profile or seeking media coverage is often a misunderstood practice. It is common to hear about “the Dark Arts”, “vanity exercises” or misunderstood phrases such as “any publicity is good publicity”. The reality is that media coverage is only effective with clear messages targeted at the right people at the right time and with a long-term purpose in mind says Graeme Downie, Director of Orbit Communications.
Since August, Orbit Communications has been working with the Council of Letting Agents (CLA) on the beginnings of a campaign to raise the profile of the CLA and its members with a clear purpose in mind: to change the perception of letting agents amongst the public in order to create a more favourable environment for the industry to grow and succeed in the future.
With around 305,000 properties in the Private Rental Sector (PRS), practically everyone in Scotland has rented a property or knows someone who has rented a property. This makes it a key issue of interest to the public because everyone can relate to it and everyone knows someone who has had a bad experience.
I’m going to be honest with you. Speaking informally with friends, as well as journalists and politicians, the reputation of letting agents is not the best. When I am seeking a new tenant for the flat I rent out in Edinburgh, one question I get asked frequently is “Do you use a letting agent?” and they seek reassurance that I don’t. Whilst that sentiment is deeply unfair on an industry which, for the overwhelming part, does a great job and has a high satisfaction rate amongst both landlord and tenant customers, nonetheless, it exists “out there” and needs to be changed.
This brings up the first issue of why the CLA needs an effective PR campaign to raise the profile of the industry and what the reality of the sector is – if you don’t talk about what you do someone else will and you might not like what they are saying.
To change perceptions, we need a flow of information and news in different types of media on an ongoing basis. We need to be proactive. We don’t want to sit back and wait for stories to come out and simply be responding. To do that, we need the help of CLA members – you have the knowledge and information that we need to illustrate the realities of a growing, responsible and successful industry.
We need information about the contribution the industry makes to allow people to live where they want; we need data showing the complex issues around rises in rental prices; we need to talk about the high regulatory standards you are held to and what you do above and beyond that; we need to show the number of people you employ, both directly and through local businesses. Most importantly, we need to hear from your customers, landlords and tenants, who have had a bad experience with a letting agent in the past but are now being looked after to the standard they expect.
All news is local
Whilst we are working on getting information in to mainstream national media, we are also working on a more local level. Figures clearly show that not only do a significant number of people read their local newspaper; they trust what it says a lot more. Local newspapers need content from local businesses. If you have a particular example of good work you are doing, we can work with you to get your business in the local paper so that people in your area can see what you are doing. One story at a time, we will change the image of the industry from the bottom, as well as at a larger, national scale.
We have only just started this work and we will have to learn and adapt as we go forward but we need your help. So get in touch with us if you want to know more about the work we are doing with the CLA or if you think you might have some news that might help us.