Client : Property Specialists and Chartered Surveyors

Crisis management- A sticky situation

The campaign brief

Blueberry PR was contacted by a leading firm of property specialists and chartered surveyors who needed some crisis management after a business reorganisation.

Best known for its residential and commercial property services, the company offers a complete range of integrated property services, from selling, letting and property management to planning consultancy and design, surveying, architectural services and town planning. The award-winning company also owns an auction room in Sevenoaks specialising in furniture, antiques and fine art.

The former partners of the company had decided to divide the company with a portion of the business taking the original name and the rest being re-branded under another name.

Problems started to occur when some full page advertisements appeared inferring that the original offices no longer existed. Staff started taking calls from confused customers who thought they had been taken over, which was extremely worrying as the company had built up a trusted brand over 100 years and were still operating eight residential sales branches and offering all the other services.

The situation was demoralising for staff who were proud of their brand and were seeing it being undermined by former colleagues who had become competitors.

Objectives

  • Communicate with as many customers and potential customers as possible that the company was still going strong and open for business
  • Raise awareness of the different services on offer
  • Correct any misinformation among journalists about the company
  • Make sure staff were ‘on message’, provided with material and they could confidently answer any questions or queries from the public or suppliers
  • Reach as many customers and potential customers through a mix of marketing communication tools as quickly as possible
  • Achieve coverage in local media
  • Increase traffic to the website
  • Improve the company’s organic search engine optimisation
  • Help collect e-mail addresses for an e-zine
  • To generate sales leads
  • Increase brand awareness especially in London and the South East
  • Differentiate themfrom their competitors
  • Promote the range of services on offer
  • To support them in maximising any media opportunities.

Strategy and tactics

Due to budget restrictions, this was intended as a short, sharp three-month campaign.

The company’s position needed to be corrected and clarified as quickly as possible. The situation also created an opportunity to kick-start a PR and marketing campaign to increase the company’s profile.

Central to the campaign were the key messages:

As well as traditional using media, it was essential to integrate any activities with social media and use on-line PR. This was especially important as the misleading advert had been duplicated on the competitor’s Facebook page which resulted in their page appearing at the top of searches.

Target audience

Customers and potential customers in Sussex, Surrey, Kent and London were the main audience but varied depending on the story or issue.

Channels, tools and target media      

The channels and the media outlets we used to meet the PR objectives differed depending on the story and the target audience. Some stories were suitable for the local press and others were sufficiently strong for the national press.

Story ideas included: trends in sales, new appointments, new services, interesting/unusual properties, contract wins, success stories, speedy sales, unusual auction items, new developments and any initiatives that would help communicate the key messages.

Local press and magazines – including the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Kent and Sussex Courier, Kent Messenger, Kent Life and Kent on Sunday were targeted first followed by trade press and property pages of national newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Independent.

Outputs

Media relations work and press releases: Calls to the local and trade media discovered that journalists were confused about the company’s situation and this was quickly clarified and followed up with the press pack.

This involved developing story ideas and angles with the client and agreed a boiler plate paragraph. We then drafted releases and issued to contacts in line with the PR strategy and plan, and monitored press coverage. Press releases were posted on at least six on-line news sites to help SEO.

E-mail marketing: An e-zine template was designed, drafted and issued to more than 6,000 customers from an existing database– was a cost-effective way of communicating with customers and potential customers quickly.

Press pack: An electronic press pack (PDF) was created and e-mailed to key journalists. This includes the history of the company, details about the team, FAQs, contact numbers etc.  

Website Review: We advised on some changes to the website to support the marketing communication work while waiting for a re-design to be completed.

Social Media: We launched a Twitter profile and a Facebook page and regularly updated them with a range of material, making sure they were both integrated with other PR and marketing activity to maximise reach and spend. We also encouraged all managers to join LinkedIn and to along with guidance seek recommendations from clients.

Media monitoring: We monitored press coverage, responded to queries and made sure any inaccurate coverage was dealt with quickly and effectively. We will also monitored competitors’ activities using Google Alerts.

Advertising: We devised a striking ad to support and reinforce the PR work.

FAQs for staff: A set of FAQs was drafted and issued to offices.

Photography: We arranged for professional photos to be taken of key staff, teams and premises that could be used to support press activity and social media work.

Outcomes

The statistics from the e-mail marketing campaign were excellent with a higher than average open rate and 133 people clicking through to the main website. Feedback from e-zine recipients has also been positive as demonstrated by the low unsubscribe rate.

Website traffic showed a sufficient increase in the campaign period. Social media work proved highly effective with 42 tweets taking place which gained 230 followers with more joining daily. Direct messages included at least one enquiry about wanting to rent a property. The Facebook page now appears above their competitor’s page and can be easily found. It is starting to gain fans.

At least one story or article achieved each week in the local press during the campaign with opportunities to view totalling 214,399. Relationships are now strong with property journalists and editors on local papers and in the trade press.

There was good turn out to the open day at a property for sale following feature in local press and promotion via social media. There was also a good turn out to a valuation day.

Articles in trade press such as Antiques Trade Gazette (circulation 19,300) and feedback from the company’s Head of Auctions that he had received calls from industry colleagues after his photograph appeared.

Online coverage on Estate Agent Today, printed circulation 10,500 - promoting debate on the forum about one of the company’s longest serving employees.

Increase in staff morale – staff were thrilled to see features about the properties they were marketing.

Budget

Less than £5,000