CAMPAIGN: Building society opens up to Cumbrian locals

More than 2,000 post offices closed last year, with many banks and building societies also shutting some of their rural branches. In Cumbria, the Cumberland Building Society was one such group suffering from a lack of footfall and demand.

Campaign Launch of community branches
Client Cumberland Building Society
PR team In-house
Timescale April 2005-April 2006
Budget £5,000

The society donates £100,000 annually to local charities. As part of its pledge to retain rural branches, it wanted to do more to support local communities.

Objectives
To promote the building society and its pledge to local people.

Strategy and Plan
Instead of closing any of its 34 outlets, Cumberland Building Society decided to turn seven of them into ‘community branches', introducing a range of free services. It planned to offer faxing and photocopying, internet access, window display space to advertise local events, a ‘box office' to sell tickets for these events, and an appeal collection point.

The largest branch would also offer floor space for exhibitions and to display locally made crafts.

The PR team dealt with each branch individually, outlining its plans to local media via press release. The two managers responsible for running the seven branches were made available to journalists. They also met community leaders such as vicars.

Measurement and Evaluation
Most of the local papers in the region covered the scheme, including the Cumberland News and News & Star.

Results
Demand for current accounts increased by 250 per cent year-on-year following the launch of the scheme, while the number of customers has grown by two per cent.

The Cumberland Building Society won the community service gong for regional lenders at the 2006 Mortgage Finance Gazette Awards, which recognised the building society's contribution to the local area.

Rachel Norris, editor at the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser, says: ‘It's a good initiative as there is a strong community in this area and lots of groups who can make use of these branches. The building society likes to see itself as having community spirit.'

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