Campaign PR to get you moving
PR team The JJ Group
Timescale March-April 2006
With a recent Halifax survey revealing that the average deposit on a house was £23,967, and that first-time buyers were being priced out of 85 per cent of UK towns, Sharedspaces.co.uk wanted to promote the fact that a
solution existed: that prospective homeowners could search the site to find a suitable co-buyer. Users register their details and pay a subscription fee, allowing them to contact other wannabe homeowners.
PR agency The JJ Group was hired to launch Sharedspaces in the UK.
To build awareness of, and generate interest in, the new brand. To win new registrations, and create loyalty among existing members.
Strategy and Plan
Media targets for the launch included property and personal finance writers, as well as journalists likely to be interested in human-interest stories.
To give press releases a human touch, the PR team provided journalists with examples of people who were already getting to know each other on the site. This was supported with information on how the Sharedspaces service works. For example, users of the site have to create a profile in order to introduce themselves to others on the website. The profile details who they are, their likes and dislikes, and what they are looking for in a property and buying partner.
With a view to generating features, The JJ Group issued press releases to press in various regions, including tailored statistics such as average house prices and income. The press releases also included a ‘toolkit’, containing relevant information about Sharedspaces such as contacts for possible interviews.
Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage included a double-page spread in the Financial Times plus two other articles in the paper, as well as pieces in The Independent On Sunday and Daily Mail.
Broadcast coverage included items on BBC News 24, ITV News and BBC London News.
The campaign was intended to pull in the first 1,500 registrations – which were offered for free. This target was surpassed, with 1,700 confirmed registrations to the service to date.
Although a partnership has yet to buy a home, Sharedspaces reports ‘extensive’ traffic between users.
According to JJ, the estimated equivalent advertising value for the coverage gained was £51,580, representing an ROI ratio of 13:1.
Freelance property journalist Cheryl Markosky, who covered the launch of Sharedspaces.co.uk for the Daily Mail, says: ‘I was doing a piece on first-time buyers, so it was half luck, half planning that I heard about Sharedspaces.co.uk, but the timing couldn’t have been better.
‘We want ways of humanising these stories, making them more approachable, less boring. This was hard for the PR team as it had relatively few case studies because the service was so fresh. But The JJ Group was helpful nonetheless.’
She adds: ‘The service is an interesting idea – the next great story will be when people actually sign up to buy a house using Sharedspaces.co.uk.’
Julia Arnold is managing director of Sky Communications, which specialises in property PR
The timing of sharedspaces.co.uk’s PR campaign could not have been better.
The idea of splitting with a total stranger the cost of buying a house would have been abhorrent to most people only a year or two ago, but the struggle facing most first-time buyers has reached a peak. Property news has begun to cover the subject of co-buying, and recent TV programmes have dealt with the issue. Audiences and readers are now ready and willing to receive this kind of product.
With all this in mind, the launch of sharedspaces.co.uk would have been expected to achieve high levels of media coverage, and the results here show that it has reached a good cross-section of the media.
However, with the target audience of first-time buyers in mind, I would have suggested that the first big story should have been sold in to The Evening Standard, Daily Express or The Guardian as an exclusive.
This would have achieved a larger article and been a more tactical target than the Financial Times, which has relatively fewer first-time buyer readers. The broadcast news coverage was good, but local radio would have been worth targeting, too.
As an introduction to a new product, this campaign was clearly a successful one. And I feel that as the site develops, it can still gain much more coverage over the coming months.