CAMPAIGN: SECOND OPINION

Claire Burston is a partner and joint head of the retail team at Penrose Financial. Her background is in financial journalism.

You can hardly read an article in the press these days on the subject of credit cards without reference to 'consumer debt crisis'. Around 30 million of us have at least one credit card and most have two. The Consumers' Association says credit cards make up 20 per cent of overall unsecured debt in the UK.

So the launch of Nationwide's campaign to highlight the need for greater transparency of rates and charges could not have been better timed, and the strategy of combining media relations with political lobbying was ideal.

Journalists are sceptical when financial product providers claim to be championing the consumer cause. It can be a dangerous strategy and could leave the company wide open should their halo slip in the future. So to link a PR campaign to an issue that is gaining momentum in the political ranks is a good idea.

Being instrumental behind the scenes in persuading the Treasury Select Committee to highlight the issue of credit cards' baffling terms and conditions may not necessarily have come across in the resulting press coverage, but undoubtedly helped Nationwide in the mind of the committee members.

What was particularly impressive was that the team did not allow the issue to be hijacked by the Select Committee. Most journalists who reported on the introduction of compulsory 'transparency boxes' also mentioned that Nationwide had already introduced them. This is no mean feat in the media, where a campaign initiated by a company can be overwhelmed by politicians.

And this is not a quick and dirty campaign. The subject is not one that will vanish overnight, so Nationwide's campaign has the potential to run and run.

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