Yoinks! Real estate still has an image problem

Bad developers, foiled again by those pesky kids. The same old story is repeated over and over for decades. Development is bad, developers are mean capitalists who want to build, build, build without thinking about the climate crisis or the communities and places they build in.

In fact, the opposite is true. I’ve been in this business for over two decades and have never met an Evil Developer. However, I have met many people who want to leave the world better than they found it – and their means of doing so is to build new houses or improve city centres. People who run good businesses and treat their people well and do the best with the resources they have.

How is it that our mainstream media still talks about ownership and development as a bad thing? We have a massive rural housing crisis, we have a rail system that hasn’t been updated in over a century (outside of London), we have unsuitable energy and waste infrastructure that is wreaking havoc on the environment and falling short of modern needs. And no public sector vehicle can solve any of these problems.

So why, when our nation depends on the private sector to build and maintain our new homes and infrastructure and improve what we have, in the face of impossible bureaucracy and disappearing profit margins, are developers still stereotyped as the pantomime- villain?

Real estate has a branding problem

This is a damn brilliant industry to work in. We leave a legacy—usually a positive one—by improving people’s lives and places long after our own. We can bring together experts from so many fields – technology, design, materials, psychology, communication – to create better places.

Everybody inside real estate understands what we do, but if you talk to someone in a different industry, they see what we do as building houses (modern houses are all bullshit, apparently), or as corporate elites destroying beautiful places to create “a mall and to give a car about ‘park’.

Let’s be clear, there are some bad eggs out there, and some high-profile instances of bad behavior and broken promises. Targets for new homes missed in unspoilt English villages. Vast areas of the countryside have been bought up for land banking. Or unforgivably, high-rise buildings built with unsafe siding and homes so neglected that a small child died as a result of the black mold.

These events cannot be forgotten. Indeed, they should form the basis for policy changes and there should be consequences for those involved in their events. But what we shouldn’t do is tar the entire industry with the same brush over these outliers.

It is possible to change places

As Mark Farmer told us in 2017, we must “modernize or die”. Many have. It’s heartwarming to see the developers, design teams and contractors getting on board with sustainability and social value (in the right way, mind you, not just greenwashing). And I’m relieved to see that diversity and inclusion have become standard considerations in most environments. And it’s now wonderfully rare to hear “Give us a smile, love!” being yelled at from a construction site (or is that just an advantage of middle-aged invisibility?).

But why are we still seen so negatively?

Tech has managed to tackle its “bro” culture and talk openly about the damage it is doing to companies and the solutions they are developing.

Retailers have largely kept pace with the sustainability demands of their customer base and have taken a leap to keep pace with technology (online shopping wasn’t just a fad, after all).

Travel agencies, from Avanti to EasyJet, seem to take pleasure in delivering the worst possible customer experience they can get away with, while enjoying serious shareholder returns.

And yet, despite our progress in recent years, we are still the [whipping boy] of the mainstream media and an easy trope for TV dramas.

It’s not just about our spots

Reputation is certainly more than superficial. Our reputation (or brand) rests on everything we do, at every touchpoint of someone’s journey with us. From our web copy to interacting with communities, and from construction to sales and appeal, every representative of our company needs to understand the message and brand.

People will talk more about a negative experience with a company than a positive one – especially news stories that appear in popular media. A story about student housing built without proper fire safety systems gets a lot more attention than a story about 1,000 affordable homes delivered on time, within budget, and meeting all legal requirements.

We have to admit that things are going wrong. What matters is what we do about it.

Company culture, social responsibility and leadership all play a role in building a seamless customer experience.

So what’s the solution

Much good comes from careful development. Done right, it can revitalize cities, boost trade and provide affordable, high-quality housing for all income levels. So how do we get those wins out there and in the minds of the general population?

We need to create a new image for ourselves and for the industry. That means crystallizing our messages, joining the conservation community that matters and singing about our successes. Our industry plays a major role in the future of the UK. From sustainability and net-zero to the leveling agenda, many will look to us to lead the way in making a difference.

So we better be prepared.

This is where a well-planned marketing and PR strategy comes into play. But it can’t just be smoke and mirrors. It should reflect what you do, not just obscure what you don’t want others to see. The public is smart and sees insincerity miles away. It is precisely these discrepancies between statements and actions that serve to encourage the villain’s narrative. Just think of the villain at the end of a Scooby Doo episode, the mask falls away and the villain’s uncanny duplicity is exposed.

If you live your values ​​and make the world a better place, a good strategy will equip you to go out into the world and win hearts and minds.

Do you need a marketing agency to help you bring out the best version of yourself? Call Luma Marketing and we’ll put you on the road to success.

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