“I hired Jason and his company to help prepare, market, and create turnout for a series of outreach events in the Chicagoland area. He did a tremendous job helping us create a meaningful strategy, executing on it, and ensuring that our turnout was phenomenal. When we hoped for 500, Jason delivered 1,200. If you want results, Jason is the guy.”
Michael van Zalingen, (Former director or homeownership services, NHS)
In an unprecedented effort to battle the mounting foreclosure crisis in Chicago, the City initiated one of the largest foreclosure prevention programs in the U.S. – “Fix Your Mortgage.” It hired Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago to create and manage six, large-scale (500-1,500 attendees) outreach events throughout Chicago in 2010. Co-sponsor Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund, Inc. (ATG) (a SCM client at the time), provided volunteer real estate attorneys. At the events, NHS staff and HUD-certified counselors, bank representatives, ATG volunteer real estate attorneys, and City of Chicago staff reviewed homeowners’ paperwork to determine if they qualified for assistance under the “Home Affordable Modification Program” (HAMP) – also known as “Making Home Affordable.” Qualified homeowners received free, professional assistance with preparing and submitting their loan modification applications to their loan servicers on-site.
The Fix Your Mortgage team needed to accomplish the following to ensure the success of these mega events:
- Reach and education Chicago’s at-risk homeowners: that free mortgage assistance services were available, how to register to attend, requirements for qualifying for a loan modification, and which documents they needed to bring to the events.
- Recruit volunteer participants.
- Foster a positive public image of all committed parties.
- Set a nationwide precedent for helping at-risk homeowners with the HAMP program.
- Engage and secure the support and interest of local consumer and housing media to provide legitimate news coverage to the Fix Your Mortgage events (especially considering there was no advertising budget).
- Secure meaningful news coverage for every one of the SIX events – which media essentially considered each one to be the same story.
NHS (on behalf of the city of Chicago) hired SHERMAN communications and marketing (SCM), to create and implement a strategic public relations and marketing communications program/campaign to achieve awareness and attendance goals for all six foreclosure-prevention events in 2010.
SCM developed a comprehensive strategic plan that utilized media relations, event planning, community relations, and partnership development to help ensure the success of all six Fix Your Mortgage events. Activities included:
- Identifying, connecting with and engaging dozens of grassroots organizations / partners to share news of the event, and recruit attendees and volunteers.
- Generating and sharing “save the date,” full-event and post-event news releases for each of the six events.
- Building strong, lasting relationships with Chicago’s major consumer publications, community newspapers, radio stations and network TV stations – including all Hispanic media.
- Continually providing media meaningful and interesting human-interest and economic stories, including leveraging and sharing national, statewide, regional, Chicago and neighborhood housing data.
- Connecting with and coaching dozens of homeowner spokespeople who were willing to share with media the story of either their pre-assistance hardships, and/or their successes with the loan modification process.
- Serving as project manager, on many levels.
- Establishing city of Chicago officials, ATG attorneys, and NHS staff as housing experts who could provide media unique, valuable insights into housing, foreclosure prevention and real estate.
- Our efforts helped to secure 500 to 1,500 individual attendees (300 to 700 families/households) per event – exceeding expectations.
- We secured tremendous media coverage, including:
- Dozens of print stories in nearly every Chicago-based print publication, including numerous stories in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, La Raza and Hoy.
- More than a dozen appearances and interviews on major network, independent, and Spanish- and Polish-language TV stations.
- Interviews on more than a dozen radio programs.
- Stories in numerous online news publications and websites.
- Our news releases appeared on hundreds of news and real-estate industry websites.
- Thousands of at-risk homeowners received free legal advice and assistance applying for loan modifications.
- According to NHS, homeowners were more than twice as likely (compared to the national average) to secure a loan modification if they received help from a volunteer real estate attorney or HUD-certified counselor at these events.
- The program illuminated: the caring nature of real estate attorneys; the city of Chicago’s dedication to helping homeowners recover from the housing crisis; and NHS’s commitment to preserving homeownership, improving lives, and strengthening Chicago neighborhoods.
- The program was one of the most successful of its kind in the United States.