Why 'Why?' Is Not The Right Question

It’s a sign of our odd housing market that while property journalism is in decline, with fewer papers and websites devoting space to the subject, the number of public relations execs employed by London and top-end property players to get their names mentioned in publications is soaring.

In 11 years of being a full-time property freelance writer I cannot remember a time when:

- top-end national agents like Savills, KnightFrank, Strutt & Parker, Chesterton Humberts, Jackson-Stops & Staff, Cluttons and the rest had more in-house and agency PRs;

- there was anything like the current glut of buying agents with PRs (over 25 to my knowledge, even counting each of the franchises as just one, and almost all operating in central London and top-end country markets);

- so many top-end London estate agents and niche central London developers have PR representatives;

- so many indices exist, each accompanied by press releases - let alone the growing number of ‘confidence measures’, which are the latest devices used to make marketing campaigns look like statistical research.

On the one hand this is good for journos, as we are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding spokespeople...so long as they are speaking about the £1m-plus market in a small corner of England, or the top-end country estate market anywhere across the UK.

On the other hand, it is bad news for journos because PRs are being increasingly pressed by their clients - mostly occupying the same small sector of the market - to have a say in the reducing number of feature articles given over to property.

Take this piece, which I had in the FT on Saturday. Despite it being about a very specialist market, I have had five telephone calls in one day from PRs enquiring why their clients were NOT quoted in it.

Or take this other article in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. I had over 120 properties submitted but could use, of course, no more than 10. There have been some emails from those left out, asking ‘why?’.

Journalism has always been about selecting the most authoritative voice for a subject or, in the case of photo-features, selecting whatever made the page look ‘good’. These things are subjective and open to constant argument, and people may have their own views as to whether the ‘voices’ selected by journalists are the right ones.

But one thing is clear - with fewer articles given over to the world of property, and increasing numbers of top-end property clients wanting a quote in those articles, there will be more people left out than included in a typical 1,100 word piece.

The most authoritative and the most interesting will win out, as ever. And telephone calls after the event asking ‘why not my client?’ cannot change that simple journalistic truth.

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