“Sherman Communications has produced tremendous results for us over the last three years. The firm combines an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach to news generation with good old-fashioned persistence. SCM has broken down barriers and increased our coverage. They get the job done.”
Hank Shulruff, senior vice president, Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund
Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund, Inc. (ATG), the only bar-related title insurance company in Illinois, offers its 4,000 member attorneys in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin the products, services and tools needed to serve clients. ATG works to secure a positive image for, and demonstrate the value of, real estate attorneys. As the housing market continued to crash in mid-2008, ATG needed a plan to elevate the visibility of its organization and its member real estate attorneys, distinguish itself from competitors in the marketplace and become a “go-to” source for real estate media.
With the looming real estate crisis, ATG saw a significant decrease in business. It did not have much good news to share with the media. The organization felt increasing pressure to draw attention to and help gain business for, its member attorneys. ATG needed to shift the focus in a positive direction. Also, homeowners struggling with foreclosures and bad loan products both initially had few places to go for help and were the major focus of real estate media. SCM saw and combined these two factors to get ahead of the curve and create PR success.
ATG hired SHERMAN communications and marketing in mid-2008 as its PR agency of record. After our discovery phase, we developed a strategy to position ATG and its team of member lawyers as: 1) consumer advocates and media experts on helping homeowners navigate the housing crisis; and 2) overall media experts on all legal things related to housing, title work and more.
During our 40-month engagement, we provided ATG with bold strategic marketing and PR initiatives, including:
- ATG-sponsored foreclosure helpline (1/10/09) with 12 volunteer real estate attorneys and housing counselors who answered callers’ questions about any housing-related concern. We secured pre-and post-event major-media TV (ABC-7) and print coverage (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, other). During a three-hour window, more than 700 people called.
- Six “Keep Your Home” foreclosure-prevention events in ’09 and ’10 throughout the Chicagoland suburbs, as well as an event in both Peoria, Ill. and Madison, Wis. via a partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS). Media relations success (dozens of stories in local and regional print and broadcast media outlets) helped to drive hundreds of homeowner to each event. We created and shared turnkey communications materials with local businesses, municipalities, chambers of commerce and other entities to help educate prospective attendees about each event.
- Worked closely with high-level officials in Mayor Daley’s administration.
- Six “Fix Your Mortgage” foreclosure-prevention events in 2010 co-sponsored by ATG (and administered by Neighborhood Housing Services and the city of Chicago). Secured dozens of stories in nearly ALL major Chicago print and broadcast media outlets, driving 500 to 1,500 people to each event, and gaining valuable exposure for ATG and member attorneys.
- Managed public affairs, crisis management and media relations for ATG’s position on Illinois House Bill 5055 – which pit ATG Judicial Sales Corp. against county sheriffs for handling lucrative foreclosed home auction sales.
- Wrote/edited and placed bylined stories in several magazines.
- Provided marketing and PR support to four other ATG divisions: the Judicial Sales Corporation, ATG Trust Company, ATG Legal Education and NLT Title.
- Handled all media relations for executive hires and promotions, awards, strategic partnerships and other company news.
Consumer Advocacy PR:
The media coverage we secured for the 12 foreclosure prevention events included:
- (Multiple) stories in more than 35 print publications, including four feature stories in the Chicago Tribune, and three in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- (Multiple) appearances and interviews on 10 local network-affiliate TV stations, and four independent stations.
- Interviews on 14 radio programs.
- Stories in several dozen online news publications and websites.
- News releases appeared on more than 100 news and real estate industry websites.
- ATG member attorneys provided thousands of at-risk homeowners with free council and help applying for Obama’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan – “Making Home Affordable.”
- ATG forged unique alliances with the City of Chicago (ATG’s CEO participated in two press conferences with Mayor Richard Daley), and created a very meaningful, long-term partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (one of the region’s oldest and most respected non-profit housing agencies).
Broader Media Relations Successes:
- We secured a feature story in Crain’s Chicago Business on ATG’s CEO: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20100320/ISSUE01/100033158/birnbaum-girds-to-protect-attorneys-title-turf-in-foreclosure-sales. .
- We secured dozens of stories in national real estate, title insurance and consumer newspapers, magazines and in hundreds of online news sources.
- As a result of our efforts: ATG became known among key audiences as a good corporate citizen, consumer advocate for at-risk homeowners and an excellent go-to source for media.