CAMPAIGNS: NHSB banks on PR to win over public

PR Team: New Haven Savings Bank (New Haven, CT), The Neibart Group (Brooklyn, NY) with Sequel Studio (New York) Campaign: Today. Tomorrow. Together. (Part of NHSB's 2002 Annual Report) Time Frame: May-Sept. 2002 Budget: Part of normal retainer

PR Team: New Haven Savings Bank (New Haven, CT), The Neibart Group (Brooklyn, NY) with Sequel Studio (New York) Campaign: Today. Tomorrow. Together. (Part of NHSB's 2002 Annual Report) Time Frame: May-Sept. 2002 Budget: Part of normal retainer

As more and more people choose to open accounts with Citibank, Chase, and the other major national banks, small, local institutions are becoming an endangered species. Once home to many local banks, the New Haven, CT area is no exception to the rule. Its last remaining major independent hometown bank, the New Haven Savings Bank (NHSB), faced increasing pressure from large, out-of-state competition, and had to find a way to retain its number-one market share in the region. Strategy When Peyton Patterson was appointed CEO of NHSB at the beginning of this year, she immediately saw a chance to improve the bank's services and freshen its image through its upcoming 2002 annual report. She hired The Neibart Group and Sequel Studio to help mold the report into an effective message of what differentiates NHSB from the big competition. "[We] decided the report should not look at the past year, but instead be a look ahead," says Wendy Blattner, principal of Sequel Studio. "It should look and feel unlike anything that NHSB has put out before." And then there was the challenge to have people actually read the report and respond to it. It was thus decided that the report should demonstrate just what it means to develop a relationship with a genuine hometown bank. "We wanted to show that NHSB serves the community not only as good bankers, but also as good neighbors," says David Neibart, principal of The Neibart Group. Furthermore, NHSB wanted to show that the statements it would make in its report about its relationships with people and businesses carried real meaning. Tactics NHSB mailed its annual report to customers and non-customers within the area it serves. The report was also made available at all of its branches, and publicized on its website. In an insert, the bank announced its "Today. Tomorrow. Together." campaign, in which the bank would hand out helpful prizes to randomly selected customers. Winners had the option of having bank employees walk their dog every morning, mow their lawn once a week, have the bank's executive team cook dinner for them, or deliver ice cream to a small business' employees every Friday afternoon. The idea was to simply show that a community bank like NHSB will be there for its customers in the big moments, like getting a mortgage, and the small moments as well. Results The annual report generated immediate media and public attention, as well as positive feedback from customers. When the winners were announced in early July, the media couldn't ignore NHSB's distribution of such unusual prizes to its customers. Not only did every regional daily paper and local TV affiliate cover the story, but so did CNN Headline News, Time, and AP. Banking trade publications such as American Banker, US Banker, and Bank Marketing also covered the story. The campaign also won a Gold Award in the 2002 International ARC Awards, the world's largest annual report competition. But most importantly, the campaign helped NHSB update its brand, and introduced its CEO as having a strong vision for the bank and its customers (not to mention good culinary skills, as NHSB prize-winning customer Helen Polak opted to have Patterson and her executive staff over to cook dinner for her mother's 86th birthday). "It's hard to imagine another bank would do anything like this," says NHSB VP Paul McCraven. "Moreover, it was an effective way to give some value back to business customers." Future NHSB, The Neibart Group, and Sequel Studio are continuing to work closely together on upcoming projects.

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