Client: Black Horse Agencies (BHA)
Campaign: The HOME
PR Team: In-house team and Icas public relations
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
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
To position BHA as a leading national estate agent among media, business
partners and opinion formers and to generate new business.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.’
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
It will be interesting to see whether other building societies develop
their own reports in response to this challenge.