CAMPAIGNS: NatWest makes student grade - Media Relations

The new academic year heralds the annual wooing season for banks keen to attract student with freebies and interest-free overdrafts.

The new academic year heralds the annual wooing season for banks

keen to attract student with freebies and interest-free overdrafts.



This year, the Dearing Report and the introduction of pounds 1,000

tuition fees added an extra dimension to the issue of student

finance.



Earlier this summer NatWest rose above bad news about its investment

banking arm NatWest Markets to launch a ’New Deal for Students.’



Objectives



To differentiate NatWest from its competitors. To counteract negative

coverage of the NatWest Markets loss and merger speculation.



Tactics



NatWest’s campaign moved away from persuading students to open accounts

towards a strategy for tackling student budgeting skills. A key aim was

to introduce the issue of student money management into the wider debate

on higher education funding.



NatWest developed a two stage campaign timed to coincide with the

publication of the Dearing Report and with A level results. Two weeks

ahead of Dearing, NatWest announced its ’New deal for students’. The

timing of the announcement enabled the bank to position itself as a

commentator on student finance issues - within hours of Dearing’s

proposals becoming public, NatWest issued a statement on the impact of

debt on students.



Stage two focused on Student Matters 97, a survey commissioned by

NatWest into the attitudes of 1,200 sixth formers towards debt.

Specialist broadcast consultancy Bulletin International liaised with

target broadcast media to interest them in the story and scheduled 37 TV

and radio interviews.



Two days before A level results the survey findings were released under

the headline ’Students sleepwalking into debt’. This was followed by

further research aimed at education reporters and a release giving

NatWest’s key money tips for students.



This month the campaign will be extended regionally using a series of

on-campus events to promote money management.



Results



Stage one of the campaign generated over 50 news stories in the national

press and in national and regional broadcast media. To date, stage two

of the campaign has achieved coverage in over 120 different media,

including the Times Education Supplement, the Guardian, BBC Six O’Clock

News, European Business News, Sky News and Radio 4’s Today

Programme.



NatWest reports that student recruitment figures are currently up by

15-20 per cent, compared to this time last year.



Verdict



In NatWest’s view the campaign was particularly successful in

overshadowing its competitors, notably Barclays which, according to

external affairs manager Guy Bellamy, was ’kicked out of the ring’.



Journalists commenting on the campaign agree that the timing was ’well

judged’, although they point out that NatWest is still offering

incentives to attract new students.



Perhaps the campaign’s most successful aspect was the determination of

the in-house team to re-assert NatWest’s media profile and to set the

news agenda from within, at a point when coverage of the bank reached an

all-time low.



Client: NatWest

PR Team: In-house/Bulletin International

Campaign: New deal for students

Timescale: June - September 1997

Budget: Under pounds 10,000



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