CAMPAIGNS: Media relations; Home is where the coverage is

Client: Black Horse Agencies (BHA) Campaign: The HOME Report PR Team: In-house team and Icas public relations Timescale: Quarterly Budget: pounds 8,000 per report

Client: Black Horse Agencies (BHA)

Campaign: The HOME

Report

PR Team: In-house team and Icas public relations

Timescale: Quarterly

Budget: pounds 8,000 per report



Housing market surveys produced by building societies such as Halifax

and Nationwide have suffered falling credibility following media

criticism for perpetually talking up a market in which they have a

vested interest.



As these surveys are also limited to simple price indices, Icas public

relations identified an opportunity for Lloyd’s Bank estate agent chain

Black Horse Agencies to launch its own ‘consumer-friendly’ report on the

sector.



Objectives



To position BHA as a leading national estate agent among media, business

partners and opinion formers and to generate new business.



Tactics



The report was piloted in August 1995, a second produced in February

1996 with a third in June. The intention is to produce the report

quarterly, but strategically timed to appear shortly after Halifax and

Nationwide surveys.



In each case, the BHA marketing team sent branches across the country a

questionnaire based on the last 15 property transactions and

focusing on new information, such as the time taken to sell a property

and the number of viewers per property.



The survey findings were summarised in an eight-page, two-colour report

using simple graphics to illustrate regional trends. Designed

principally for media use, it was also made available to customers at branches.



Icas acted as BHA’s corporate press office, handling media relations and

‘drip-feeding’ individual journalists selected findings prior to the

report’s official release, enabling key correspondents to develop their

own angles.



The thrust of the findings was that the housing market was looking up,

but this was overshadowed by a shortage of properties on the market.

Property correspondents such as Jeremy Gates on the Daily Express were

given the angle that, while sales were achieving 91 per cent of the

asking price, there were acute shortages of three and four-bedroom

houses in some areas.



All BHA staff were briefed on the release dates and regional directors

given Q&A sheets on the findings.



The basic story was supplemented with a syndicated radio tape for use by

independent regional radio stations.



Results



Taking the most recent report in June, the launch day saw the results

featured on 23 radio programmes and three TV shows. These included Radio

4’s Today programme, Radio 5 Live and Sky TV News.



The report also appeared in the Financial Times, Daily Express and on

the front page of the Independent, as part of the lead story on the

economy.



All in all, the June report generated 75 minutes of radio time, seven

minutes on national TV, 13 national newspaper stories and items in 61

regional dailies. The Bank of England and Department of Environment both

requested a copy and the latter is now using it as an economic

indicator.



Peter Kingsnorth, group marketing manager for BHA, says he has noticed

an increasing number of economics correspondents taking notice of the

results: ‘BHA branches have reported new customers coming through the

door after reading the media coverage.’



Verdict



The report, developed with the media in mind, has proven an effective

and flexible tool in raising the profile of BHA.



The media has been handled tactically, and Kingsnorth says he is

encouraged by its additional value in building relationships with

associated companies and business-to-business clients.



He says: ‘For the future we’re going to stick to the report’s basic

formula, but it will evolve to incorporate new sorts of data when

relevant.’



It will be interesting to see whether other building societies develop

their own reports in response to this challenge.



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