Media analysis: Exploiting the frenzy for relocation

More Britons than ever are spending their summer holiday dreaming of relocating to the Costas – or more exotic destinations. Hannah Marriott looks at how PROs should cater for magazines about buying property abroad.

Perhaps it is the British obsession with the weather that has us dreaming about life in sunnier climes. Whatever the reason, a whopping 37 per cent of Brits claim to be considering buying a property abroad, according to a survey by Barclays last year. That is on top of the five per cent who already own a home abroad, and a further five per cent who say they will definitely take the plunge soon.

Little wonder then that there are so many publications that advise on how to make those dreams a reality. Glossy relocation magazines include A Place in the Sun, Homes Overseas, Homes Abroad and Livingabroad, while there are publications dedicated to specific countries, such as the simply titled Spain and Living France.

And almost all of the national newspapers write about buying property abroad. The Daily Telegraph, for example, has just run the first in a four-part series on buying international property. High-end travel and lifestyle magazines such as Country Life and Condé Nast Traveller also run features giving readers a peek into spectacular properties when they come up for sale.

What is more, because people often buy abroad as an investment, the business pages are also in on the act.

The right impression
The challenge for property PROs, such as Edinburgh-based Acumen PR director Kevin Dorrian, is to ensure clients – his include Spanish-based developments – are seen as major players, and not ‘just another developer’.

He says this is best achieved by building relationships with journalists – many of whom in this sector are freelance – or at the very least examining a writer’s style and the things he or she writes about before making contact. That way, journalists invited on press trips ‘will actually come and find out about the company, rather than come along for a jolly’, advises Dorrian.

Brits’ fascination with property gives PROs such scope that houses for sale even appear in more general features about interior design or gardening, points out Erna Lowe Property director of PR, marketing and new business Bertie Sanderson.

But could the market for such magazines have reached saturation point? Last month saw the closure of A Place in the Sun’s three spin-off titles, which focused on France, Spain and America.

Increasingly, interest in the market revolves around emerging, long-haul or unusual locations, from Dubai to Bali.

A Place in the Sun editor Matt Havercroft says: ‘There is a lot of competition on the magazine shelves, and now virtually every Sunday newspaper is into it as well. We’re all looking to stand out from the crowd.’

A Place in the Sun
Matt Havercroft
Tel 01737 786 800

What sets you apart from the competition?
The magazine ties in with the TV programme, so we draw from elements of the show. Every issue, for example, we take a couple abroad on a viewing trip, which gives readers an idea of issues in that area and of price. And we explain the concepts in layman’s terms.

What else do you feature?
Country profiles, real-life case studies, information on emerging markets and investment buys. It’s quite seasonal, so we’re likely to have skiing properties during the winter, for example.

Who reads A Place in the Sun?
There are, of course, the perennial window shoppers, who like the idea of buying abroad but might never actually do it. The largest chunk buy the magazine specifically when they are looking for a property.

How do you choose which case studies to use?
We are often contacted by readers who want to tell their stories about making a life abroad, or by PROs on behalf of clients.

What will get you on a press trip?
We prefer to sort out our own viewing trips, as we don’t want to be confined in any way. Our articles tend to be destination, rather than development, specific.

How could PROs convince you to feature their clients?
I prefer them to come to me with an angle – a feature idea or concept – rather than calling on spec to see if there’s any way we could feature a client. Our biggest problem is low-res pics we can’t use. The property sector is about sales and marketing, so PROs with good, hi-res images have a better chance.

Any other tips?
We have an interiors feature in every issue and need products for that. Statistics about buying trends or people moving abroad are always interesting, and we are always after competition prizes, such as holidays.

Homes Overseas
Kate Hamilton
Tel 020 7002 8300

How is Homes Overseas different?
We see ourselves as a research tool for people looking to buy abroad, so while there is a human element, we focus on the factual. With case studies ,we ask people for their top tips, rather than telling readers about buyers’ horror stories.

How can PROs get you to join their press trips?
We can’t go on all of them, because we are very busy, so it tends to be about the location. We all know the Costa Del Sol area really well, for example, and we can probably glean a good deal of information about a property there from the marketing material. We are more likely to go to an unusual destination to which one of the team hasn’t yet been.

What else would tempt you?
Press trips shouldn’t be too long and should offer free time because our articles feature a minimum of four properties, so seeing just one is not that useful. We appreciate that your firm would be hosting the trip, but if you’re proud of your product, allowing us to see the competition shouldn’t be a bad thing.

How far ahead do you work?
We come out every fourth week – 13 issues a year. We work two or three months in advance, depending on whether we have the extra issue out yet or not. So it’s advisable to get in touch at least three months ahead.

In which  non-property products are you interested?
New flight routes and changes to the way Brits finance their move abroad. We also review books about moving abroad.

How should PROs deal with you?
We don’t need a follow-up call after an email, unless the release is time-sensitive. Also, when PROs send images, they must make it clear which issue and feature the pictures are for. Good-quality images are vital.

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