It all started in 1986 when, in addition to running a full-time surveying practice in the UK, Ian Morris was participating in committee work for The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - both at county and national levels. One of the forums in which he took an active part at RICS headquarters was the Building Surveyors Public Relations Committee which, among other things, initiated new ways of promoting Chartered Building Surveyors to the general public.
It was at about this time that the RICS was approached by BBC TV, who were in the process of devising a new daytime series, Bazaar, in which they wanted to give advice to viewers about looking after their homes. The TV producers had sufficient funds to print and distribute a booklet to accompany the series but their budget did not extend to paying anyone to write the content. So it was agreed that the Building Surveyors PR Committee would provide the content, and the BBC would print and distribute the booklet, as a joint venture.
Two members of the committee, Ian Morris and Michael Finn, offered to write the content for the booklet, in which building problems were dealt with in a simple manner by looking at the symptoms and prescribing the remedies – in other words, a ”medical” approach was adopted. A professional illustrator provided a number of cartoon type illustrations, depicting the surveyor as a cartoon character known as The Property Doctor, and the original Property Doctor Book was thus born.
Having already been interviewed on the radio, and done many phone-ins on building topics, Ian was asked by the BBC to do a regular spot in the TV series - as The Property Doctor - advising viewers on a variety of common building problems. The original property doctor booklet was presented to viewers in the second programme, on 13th February 1987, and over 35,000 free copies were dispatched within a few months. Viewing figures for Bazaar (a daytime series) soon passed 3 million. Ian's regular spots as The Property Doctor continued through the first, second and third series of the programme, shown on both BBC1 and BBC2.
The Property Doctor campaign was at the same time actively promoted by the PR department of the RICS and caught the imagination of both the national and the provincial press in a big way: No other PR campaign mounted by the RICS has ever received as much press coverage, either before or since.
“The Property Doctor” was adopted as the theme for the RICS stand at the Ideal Home exhibition in March 1987 and, after officially opening the exhibition, HRH Princess Margaret came to the stand to meet The Property Doctor, Ian Morris, in person.
The original property doctor book, which had been distributed free, was only 14 pages long but on the strength of its popularity Ian was asked by BBC Publications to write a full length paperback. The definitive Property Doctor Book, a 144 page paperback, written and illustrated by Ian Morris, was published in January 1989.
Ian Morris is The Property Doctor