A frequent complaint to property journalists from estate agents is that too many stories feature “the usual suspects” – Savills and Knight Frank, of course, plus frequently-quoted big names like, say, London agents Ed Mead and Lindsay Cuthill.
Why do these same names appear so often in so many stories?
The superficial answer, of course, is that Savills, Knight Frank and Douglas & Gordon (Mead’s agency) employ their own PR staff or hire extraordinarily expensive PR firms to make sure these brands and their leading lights feature as frequently as possible.
There are three more detailed reasons why there are these “usual suspects”.
1. Big name property firms can afford to spend high (sometimes seven-figure) sums on PR each year because they are good businesses, trading Britain’s best properties. In Savills’ case, the firm has what is regarded by some as the best residential research team, too. Those are excellent reasons for journalists to quote them, even if they are “the usual suspects”. It would be odd to quote people rather less successful, surely?
2. Journalists are, depending on your viewpoint, lazy or busy. So PRs and estate agents who ring back almost immediately or send emailed quotes or produce a photogenic case study within the hour, will inevitably be quoted time and again. And that is what the ‘big names’ do now – not just the ones cited above but the likes of Strutt & Parker, Chesterton-Humberts, Property Vision and their ilk, all with substantial PR assistance.
3. The third reason for serial-quoting is that most top PRs and their clients are in London. WTF? Well, you're right - being in London is no good reason to quote anybody. But London PRs love schmoozing London-based property editors and journalists. So only agents wealthy enough to buy or employ London PR teams stay ‘in the loop’ and can schmooze more often. The less affluent and the out-of-London property operations get short shrift as a result.
I sympathise with 1 and 2 and would defend quoting the usual suspects for those reasons. As I am an out-of-Londoner, I reckon reason 3 stinks – but it still applies.
However, things are changing, at least a little.
Twitter and Facebook certainly do not replace good PR but they are starting to push ‘new voices’ into newspaper and online articles. The supreme example is Tracy Kellett of BDI Homefinders, quoted frequently in the mainstream property press these days because of her formidable and authoritative presence on Twitter.
Now some of the press appears to be catching on that there are these other voices.
Two quite different national newspapers have, in just the past fortnight, asked me to ease off on the usual suspects and instead bring new opinions into articles. One editor directly asked for quotes from social network contributors rather than ‘established’ sources.
So if you are one of those agents wondering why the same names appear in article after article, you now know what to do: get social networking or, if you feel flush, hire a PR based in Chelsea.
If you would like to to comment on this article, click HERE to e-mail Graham.