How the homelessness charity ran a London housing campaign in the run-up to elections
Whoever wins this week's election for the Mayor of London will have to address a shortage of affordable housing in the capital, which the housing charity Shelter says has reached crisis levels. The charity was so determined to seize the opportunity presented by the election that it launched a Homes for London campaign to force the issue to the top of the agenda.
In the campaign, Shelter called for a new London-wide agency to take over responsibility for housing, provisionally called Homes for London, with the same profile and leadership as Transport for London.
Central to the campaign was a unique website that was given a look and feel similar to the TfL site.
The innovative site allows users to check the average rent for every London borough and the number of people on each council's waiting list.
Shelter is a national charity, but Kay Boycott, its director of campaigns, policy and communications, says the problems in London reflect issues across the country: "The exceptional cost of renting or buying a home in the capital brings our national housing crisis sharply into focus."
The campaign was launched with a hard-hitting news release based on a YouGov poll that found 30 per cent of Londoners expect to leave the capital in the future because of the high cost of housing.
It received widespread coverage and Boycott says there has been "real outrage about the scale of the crisis". She adds: "There have been positive responses from a range of politicians, with some candidates showing strong support for Homes for London."
A partnership with the London Evening Standard newspaper led to other news stories and case studies. Additional channels included a customised Twitter feed and Facebook page, online video and vox pop content, and a collaboration with a graffiti artist, Ben Eine, who painted a wall in east London in support of the campaign.
Evaluations will be conducted by assessing media coverage, campaigner engagement and attitude tracking, but the real measure of success will be the urgency with which politicians treat the issue.
"Ultimately, it's about the Mayor making a real commitment to homes," says Boycott.
EXPERT VIEW - Peter Gilheany, director, Forster Communications
It is risky to rely on your audience's familiarity with someone else's brand by building a spoof version of it, but Shelter's idea of making a Transport for London-style website that focuses on housing really works.
You can become resistant to woe is me-style campaigning, so the originality and wit of this project help it to really stand out from the crowd.
If you are going to ape someone else's branding, a half-hearted approach will never create complete engagement because the audience won't make the connection. So it is admirable that Shelter has really gone for it in this case.
Good social media execution married to increasingly unfashionable but still vital conventional PR tactics mean the campaign has gained a lot of coverage and deserves all the success it has had.