'Divorcee mortgage' creates debate

Yorkshire Building Society’s in-house PR team concentrates mostly on the financial press, so when it wanted to reach consumer titles for its Fresh Start mortgage – targeted at divorcees or those leaving a long-term relationship – it invited tenders from PR firms. The Wriglesworth Consultancy won a three-way pitch.

Campaign Divorce – who survives best?
Client Yorkshire Building Society
PR team The Wriglesworth Consultancy
Timescale June -September 2005
Budget £32,000

To get Yorkshire Building Society mentioned in association with divorce and relationship break-up in mainstream newspapers and consumer media. To alert personal finance press to the mortgage aimed at people going through a separation.

Strategy and Plan
Wriglesworth designed two surveys (carried out by YouGov) to show 'who survives divorce best' and how 'division of the spoils' works.

The aim was to release the results of the surveys well apart from each other to maximise take-up. With data from the first study showing that men are worse at coping with the emotional trauma of divorce, Wriglesworth drafted a press release supported by comment from a relationship counsellor. This information was distributed to consumer media, while personal finance journalists were sent briefings on the Fresh Start mortgage.

In addition, the media were offered case studies and 'top tips for surviving divorce', as well as a guide written by Alison Steed, a freelance journalist who writes for The Daily Telegraph.

Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage of the 'Who survives best?' study was achieved in the main home news pages of The Times, The Daily
Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Record, Yorkshire Post and The New York Post.

Broadcast coverage included Five News, BBC2's Working Lunch, BBC Radio 5 Live, LBC News and Radio 2. A large number of regional stations also picked up the story.

Later articles appeared in Take a Break and Grazia. Follow-up stories in the nationals included a two-page debate in the Daily Mail and a three-week series in The Guardian's Saturday edition.

Six weeks after the 'Who survives best' launch, the campaign continued with the second divorce survey, the 'Division of the spoils', which was reported in The Times, Telegraph, Sun and Daily Star among others.

Yorkshire Building Society says it has exceeded its expectations, achieving £20m worth of Fresh Start business so far. The campaign generated more than 200 pieces of coverage, and more than 5,000 hits have so far been counted on the relevant section of the building society's website. There was no advertising for the mortgage, so Wriglesworth claims these results can be directly attributed to PR.

Yorkshire Building Society was named Innovator of the Year in the Mortgage Finance Gazette Awards 2005. However, a slot on ITV's This Morning had to be abandoned because the PR team could not get a divorced couple to sit together on the sofa to discuss their break-up.

Furthermore, not all the press coverage of this unorthodox campaign was favourable. The Sunday Telegraph finance correspondent Liz Dolan says: 'Yorkshire Building Society came up with a strange angle for a very boring topic and I couldn't resist making fun of it.'

Second Opinion
Emma Byrne, Egg director of communications

In my experience financial campaigns generally fail to obtain front-of-paper coverage because they do not establish a clear, relevant and broad consumer need.

But this was an interesting campaign for Yorkshire Building Society that obtained good national mainstream coverage on the back of what was essentially a niche mortgage product launch.

In this instance, The Wriglesworth Consultancy established need by grounding the first wave of research in the emotional impact of marriage break-up, creating a human-interest subject matter that
clearly complemented the home news agenda.

I also thought the subject was handled sensitively, particularly with the use of a relationship counsellor and a guide (penned by an independent third party), which helped to elevate the story above that of a mere product launch by a building society. 

My one criticism is that, overall, the campaign feels a little formulaic. The tools of the trade are all on display here in a fairly predictable manner – everything from omnibus survey questions to guidebooks and 'top tips'. 

What was really needed to take ownership of this subject was a stronger angle in regard to the use of opinion formers and, ultimately, a greater call to action.

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