With home ownership having fallen to its lowest level since the 1980s, more and more people are destined to become part of ‘generation rent’. So the Government’s introduction of a free consumer redress service for landlords and private tenants in dispute with their letting agent was seen as an important step towards raising standards and creating a safer environment in a notoriously under-regulated industry.
The Government Department tasked with introducing this scheme, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced legislation in April 2014 that would make it compulsory for the 4,000+ letting agents in England to join one of three Government-authorised consumer redress schemes from October 1st. The Ombudsmen employed by each of these schemes would then offer both parties the opportunity to resolve their complaints and disputes quickly and cheaply.
One of these new schemes, the Property Redress Scheme (PRS), was set up by London-based Hamilton Fraser Insurance Services PLC, which offers a wide range of specialist insurance products to the property market. HF Resolution Ltd, an HFIS subsidiary, had less than six months before the legislation came into force to meet an ambitious target of signing up 25 per cent, or 1,000 letting agents, to its two-tier membership scheme. This task was made even tougher by the fact that both PRS’ competitors were better known and, crucially, had a head start on their new rival.
PRS Managing Director Tim Frome had a simple, but demanding job ahead of him: quickly raise levels of awareness about the new scheme from a standing start and ensure that letting agents understood its unique selling points (and so would choose PRS over the two other schemes).
Shortly after being authorised to offer the Property Redress Scheme, HF Resolution Ltd appointed Keene Communications and tasked them with helping the company to achieve their launch goal – in what was effectively now a three-month window. The agency quickly implemented a highly pro-active and comprehensive communications campaign, mixing traditional press relations with public affairs, event support and industry outreach.
By October 1st, PRS had signed up 1,550 agents, an increase of 50 percent on the original target. This success was largely due to the effectiveness of the campaign messaging about the two-tier membership scheme which clearly demonstrated that PRS understood agents’ needs, and an interactive website which attracted the anticipated last-minute flood of applications in the few weeks remaining to the deadline.
Commenting on Keene’s role in the launch of the Property Redress Scheme, Tim said:
“Keene’s recommendation that we adopt the role of a ‘challenger brand,’ and base our tactical plan around this, quickly bore fruit. They achieved a high volume of quality press coverage that served both to announce the existence of a new, third scheme and to highlight why its features gave it a strong advantage. We liked their blend of creativity and pragmatism and found them responsive and easy to deal with. They instinctively knew when to advise and when to execute. I’m very clear that exceeding our target so comprehensively was in no small part down to their efforts.”
During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.
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