Property Journalism - Editors Call The Shots

A chance remark on Twitter over the New Year reminded me that even in the small world of property journalism there are tricks of the trade some participants do not know.

In this case, it's how some PRs get clients' stories in newspapers or on websites.

Not all stories you read in property sections are suggested by PRs - and not all feature estate agents, buying agents or developers who employ PR effort - but many are.

As a result, PR’s work hard to lobby journalists and highlight clients, knowing that this sort of coverage is much cheaper than pure advertising and often far more effective. Therefore PRs often suggest ideas for stories where, unsurprisingly, their clients just happen to be able to provide quotes or details of homes on sale.

My Twitter remark alluded to how some PRs overwhelmingly favour the editors of the property sections and websites (as opposed to freelance writers like myself) during this lobbying process.

I even admitted that this was a logical thing to do.

But to my surprise some people, even in the industry, did not know this was what went on.

The reason for this approach is simple: editors, in most newspapers in particular, are in charge, shaping the section for which they are responsible and, like most normal people, they like to think people recognise their status.

Therefore many PRs focus on editors, not freelances. Quite right, too.

Top end estate agencies’ PRs, for example, hold major events on days of the week and at times of the day that favour editors. They love their breakfast briefings to ‘get’ editors before the latter are stuck in their offices miles away from the agents’ bases in central London.

Some agents’ PRs also offer dinners or early evening receptions to editors now, instead of the legendary journalists’ lunches, for the same reason - in the modern world, editors find it hard to get away from their offices during the day.

On press trips (there are fewer than five years ago, but they are still happening) editors are far more indulged than freelances.

So it is editors, rather than freelances, that most PRs want to deal with because in most publications the editor calls the shots - he or she decides what stories will be run, what angles will be taken and who will write them.

I’m not complaining. Being a freelance journo, especially one who’s been around for some years, confers many perks, and I owe my livelihood to editors and not to PRs.

But that means knowing your place - and with some PRs, that’s not going to be at the top of the list when it comes to good stories.

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