Media Relations at Park Hill

Campaign: Urban Splash at Park Hill
Client: Urban Splash
Timescale: June 2012 – June 2013


Urban Splash is the urban regeneration company refurbishing the Grade II listed Park Hill flats in Sheffield. The ambition of the project is to revive, regenerate, and establish a new community in the area. The 10 year project will deliver over 870 apartments; one third social housing. The marketing suite opened in October 2011, selling flats off-plan. The first phase released 78 apartments and commercial units sized from 500 sq ft to 30,000 sq ft. Private and social housing residents started to move in from January 2013

Brief and objectives:

– To generate regional and national media coverage to raise awareness and drive interest and sales;
– To work closely with partners in the project (Sheffield City Council, Homes & Community Agency, Great Places and architects Hawkins Brown) to maximise communication opportunities;
– To support and drive specific high profile events.

Target audiences for 2012-13 PR campaign:

For Private Residential: First time buyers; parents buying for offspring; local residents; downsizers; investors; people looking to relocate; agents; valuers; lenders and the general property sector.
For Commercial: Small businesses; leisure bars; restaurants; cafes and retail.
Other: Key city stakeholders; local, regional and national media.

Strategy and tactics:

The project is both ambitious and controversial: Park Hill has a chequered social history and there is concern about using public money to fund the development. Therefore once the marketing suite had opened, the PR challenge was to feed positive stories to the media in order to secure understanding, balance the messages and maintain interest.

Having nurtured relations during 2011 and harnessed the excitement around the launch of show apartments, the priority during 2012 and 2013 was to manage information about sales, and public and commercial interest. There was still scepticism about whether people really wanted to live there after many years of neglect. There were also issues and questions about the next phase to manage: whether there would be enough sales and investment in the current climate to generate funding for the next phase.

The main focus was to maintain media momentum about the quality finish of the accommodation; the value for money; the ideal location next to the station and city centre and the fact that this presented an ideal opportunity to create a new mixed community. It was also important to harness the ever-growing number of ambassadors for the project.

As a result MK created a ‘critical timeline’ with a series of milestones to ensure press and key stakeholders were kept regularly up to date regarding progress, development and sales of the apartments.

Examples of Media stories:

MK invited key journalists to Park Hill to meet with Urban Splash Chairman, Tom Bloxham MBE, and Park Hill’s first official buyer.

Resident case studies: Those selected for media represented specific target audiences. They were effective in championing many key messages via third party endorsement. Results included full page articles in the Telegraph Magazine, The Guardian and Daily Express as well as four page feature in the Yorkshire Post Lifestyle magazine.

Moving in: MK worked to set up further media activity centred on the excitement for buyers making their move and becoming part of Park Hill’s history.

Commercial announcements: Grace Owen Nursery (consistently rated excellent by Ofsted), still operating in the undeveloped section of Park Hill, would be taking commercial space in the new block and remaining part of the Park Hill community.

The first private commercial tenant was announced in November 2012. The second was announced in February 2013. Both companies are from the creative sector and moved in during Spring 2013.

MK further capitalised on Park Hill’s ‘quirkier side’ by arranging a photocall for a real life proposal beneath the famous ‘I love you, will you marry me?’ graffiti bridge at Park Hill, securing further positive media coverage for the project.

The Park Hill communications campaign has relied heavily on . Wider marketing support included direct mail and emails featuring phrases from well known Sheffield bands and tracks, mortgage workshops and posters on the building.


The combined result of a strong proactive and effective reactive media relations strategy was that during 2012 the cynicism waned and the positive coverage began to outweigh the negative (reference graph in supporting material).

Regular dialogue with the media, particularly regional, ensured that MK was always granted the right to reply to issues when those against Park Hill approached the media.

The media stories secured widespread regional and national media coverage and utilised social media to communicate to an international audience.

MK developed and managed the Park Hill social media channels on Facebook and Twitter to build a following of interested people and provide regular updates from the development. This has become more interactive as residents move in.


• 92 pieces of positive coverage for Park Hill overall over the twelve month period.
• 41 positive pieces in key local print media including The Star, Sheffield Telegraph and Yorkshire Post.
• 35 positive pieces on key local media websites including Star Online, Yorkshire Post Online and the Postcode Gazette – including an exclusive video feature with the Yorkshire Post’s digital editor.
• 9 positive pieces on target regional broadcast media including BBC Radio Sheffield, Hallam FM and ITV Calendar.
• 3 positive features in national print media – The Guardian, Telegraph Magazine and Daily Express
• 3 online hits for the national coverage secured – with the Guardian’s online piece featuring on the homepage and ranking as one of the Top 5 most read stories on 31st December 2012.
• 1 national broadcast feature as part of it BBC’s ‘Britain’s Empty Homes’ series including interviews with the Park Hill development manager and case study residents.
• Of the coverage secured, 41 clippings helped to promote Urban Splash’s residential offering at Park Hill with 21 promoting key messages for commercial space, 13 celebrating Park Hill’s success in industry awards and 17 covering events and additional stories from the development.
• During the twelve month period there have only been 14 negative stories in the regional media with the turnaround in local attitudes towards Park Hill cemented by the editor of The Star encouraging the city to ‘back the Park Hill project’ as part of an editorial column in August 2012.


Two thirds of the flats in the first phase at Park Hill are sold. Media coverage has been the main reason given for visiting the show flats and for commercial enquiries.


Annual PR fee: £21,000 fee