CAMPAIGNS: An investment to last for life - Financial Services PR

NatWest Life is NatWest Bank’s insurance subsidiary. Launched in 1993, it escaped the criticism heaped on established operators in the wake of the pensions mis-selling scandal but, like other industry newcomers, is struggling to carve a niche in a crowded market. Last autumn, as worry about the ageing population’s increasing burden on the Welfare State continued, it launched a research project into the future of UK pensions.

NatWest Life is NatWest Bank’s insurance subsidiary. Launched in

1993, it escaped the criticism heaped on established operators in the

wake of the pensions mis-selling scandal but, like other industry

newcomers, is struggling to carve a niche in a crowded market. Last

autumn, as worry about the ageing population’s increasing burden on the

Welfare State continued, it launched a research project into the future

of UK pensions.



Objectives



To commission and produce an independent report which could contribute

to the pensions debate. To show NatWest Life as a good ’corporate

citizen’ which sought to shape pensions policy for the good of the whole

community.



To position the company as a major pensions player.



Tactics



The team aimed to lift the grey shroud from the pensions debate. It

selected a diverse working party: the four writers of the report came

from the charity sector, academia and strategic consultancy, while the

wider team included MPs, economists and consumer organisations.



To sustain interest during the three month research period ’off the

record’ lunch briefings were held between journalists and working party

members.



The main political parties were also kept informed: Joanne Hindle,

NatWest Life’s pensions development director, and Professor Patrick

Minford, one of the report writers, both gave briefings to social

security secretary Peter Lilley.



Several weeks prior to the launch, key newspapers were earmarked to

receive exclusives on different aspects of the report. The launch

conference itself, which was not open to the press, was attended by 150

politicians, regulators and pensions operators. Each attendee received a

copy of the report plus an executive summary, produced by contract

publisher Wardour Communications.



Journalists were, meanwhile, sent reference packs containing the report

and the project background.



Results



The breadth of the different elements of the working party meant the

November launch attracted a wide cross-section of the media, rather than

just the financial press.



Coverage of the pre-launch briefings included pieces in the Financial

Times and Sunday Times. Editorials, while acknowledging NatWest Life’s

marketing advantages in backing the report, were generally positive.

Paul Ham, Sunday Times personal finance editor, wrote that the report

had achieved ’the fusion of brilliant, if occasionally eccentric, ideas

into a compelling policy document’. And Express money editor Steven Day

said the 135-page report was ’the most practical contribution on

consumer pensions to date’.



The Lansons/Natwest Life team expected media attention to wither after

the conference. However, the following day, the government announced its

intention to revolutionise the state pension system. Caught on the hop,

and with the NatWest Life information on their desks and their minds,

the media - from the Financial Times to European Business News, drew

heavily on the NatWest report to complement the bare bones of the

government story.



By-lined pieces by company directors appeared in several nationals.



Verdict



The campaign succeeded in helping to position NatWest Life as an

authoritative commentator on the UK pensions scene. Its impact was

undoubtedly assisted by the timing of Peter Lilley’s announcement, yet

one could say such apparent serendipity also reflected well on the team,

as it showed NatWest Life/Lansons in-step with government mood.



But, only time will tell - as the report recedes in media memory and a

change of government looms - whether the man from NatWest Life stays in

the news.



Client: NatWest Life

PR Team: In-house and Lansons Communications

Campaign: A Changing Nation

Timescale: September 1996 - March 1997

Cost: pounds 100,000



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