Anthony Hilton: CPP shows power of persuasive PR

Everyone with a credit card will at some time have been asked if they want to buy insurance against the loss or theft of their cards and the possibility of them being used fraudulently. For around £30 a year customers are told one phone call will cancel all their cards and protect them against losses.

Anthony Hilton: CPP shows power of persuasive PR
Anthony Hilton: CPP shows power of persuasive PR

CPP is one of the companies that markets and sells this protection and its robust sales efforts got it into trouble with the Financial Services Authority a few months back. This led to a management shake-up, a new chief executive and a promise to co-operate with the FSA.

But a couple of weeks ago the FSA told the firm it was going to review more areas of the business. This came days after the loss of a big contract with Barclaycard, blamed by City analysts at least in part on the negative publicity that followed the earlier intervention.

Many companies would have downplayed the FSA's latest move and hoped quietly to work through it. Instead, CPP launched a PR offensive, orchestrated by one of the City's most experienced consultants, John Sunnucks of Tulchan Communications.

It got politicians' attention by saying further regulatory uncertainty threatened the viability of the business and more than 1,000 jobs. Staff backed this up with a letter of protest to the regulator that said they and the new chief executive were being punished for the sins of those who went before. It got the City's attention by asking for its shares to be suspended because there could be no telling how damaging this latest probe could be.

Then the press was told the regulator was being 'disproportionate'. Journalists love stories where they can accuse regulators of throwing their weight about.

But what really makes this a case worth studying is that beforehand, no-one had any sympathy for CPP. Yet its strategy persuaded enough correspondents to say the FSA had overstepped the mark. The build-up of pressure meant that within a week of the campaign being launched, a deal was done with the regulator. This gave the company most of what it asked for.

And that is a remarkable demonstration of the power of good PR and credible leadership.

Anthony Hilton, City commentator on London's Evening Standard

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