CAMPAIGNS: Halifax uses house-price figures for PR - Corporate PR

With the UK in the midst of another property boom, the breaking of the £100,000 average house price barrier was set to become a psychologically important milestone, and was anticipated by economists, government, homeowners and those seeking to get on the property ladder.

The Halifax, Britain's biggest mortgage lender, has been producing monthly house prices indices since 1983, and this data is widely regarded as the definitive guide.

Indices are also produced by the Nationwide Building Society, House-Track, the Royal Institute of Chartered Accounts and the Land Registry.

But it is to the Halifax that government economic advisers, City economists, Bank of England staff and homebuilders turn to check the performance of the housing market and its knock-on effect to the nation's economy.

Each month, figures compiled by the Halifax are released at a national and regional level.

The Halifax's in-house communications team joined up with the group's in-house economists to produce an extra tag-on press release, detailing the historic and contemporary significance of the £100,000 average, so as to maximise impact.

But while the campaign achieved substantial coverage on a nominal budget, its success was somewhat overshadowed last week when Halifax's image was sullied by the discovery of an internal flip -chart that suggested small businesses were unwelcome customers.

Objectives

To increase the amount of press coverage generated by data from the monthly House Price Index.

To reinforce the Halifax House Price Index as the premier housing index.

Strategy and Plan

As January's figures showed the average house price had exceeded the £100,000 barrier for the first time, the Halifax in-house communications team decided to use this piece of data to create an additional story, which could be released at the same time.

Given the short time period, the basis for the story was to focus on wide regional variations that may well have been masked by the announcement that the average house price had broken the £100,000 barrier.

Research gathered through the group's estate agents enabled the Halifax to demonstrate the type of property £100,000 could purchase in different areas of the country, ranging from a one-bedroom flat in London to a four-bedroom detached house in West Yorkshire.

The PR team worked with the group's economists and its network of estate agents to provide text and visuals of examples of properties on the market at £100,000 for all UK regions.

This was released to the media to provide a visual element for the story.

Average house price landmarks - £2,500, £5000, £10,000, and so on - since 1945 were also compiled for the release.

On the afternoon of 5 February, PRO Emma Maker briefed broadcast journalists, both national, regional and local, and arranged interviews with Halifax group economist Martin Ellis for the morning of 6 February, from 7am.

The press release was issued at 7am on 6 January to wire news agencies, the national, regional, local and online media.

Ellis was made available throughout the day, and gave interviews to the majority of national papers and numerous local radio stations.

Measurement and Evaluation

A summary of broadcast media was arranged for the following day, which detailed all the national and regional television and radio coverage, including BBC, ITN, Channel 4, Sky, Radio 5 and Radio Scotland.

This initial summary showed the story had remained on news bulletins throughout the day, mostly as the second lead story, beaten to the lead only by news of the troubled Allied Irish Bank.

Online sites were monitored throughout the day, and the story appeared on many major online news sites, including BBC Online, FT.com, Reuters, PA and Bloomberg.

Analysis by Metrica showed 78 articles were published, with 76 being favourable. The number of UK adults estimated to have been reached by the House Price Index coverage was more than 33 million,with an average number of exposures of 2.7.

Results

Media coverage of the index was substantially higher for the January results. The story had a longer life, carrying through to the weekend press and periodical money-finance magazine sector.

The 78 published articles in the analysed one-week period compares to an average of around 100 articles per month for the House Price Index.

Such coverage helped to confirm the position of Halifax's House Price Index as the leading index of its kind.

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