Summer 2003 saw a surge of media interest in the rise of offshore outsourcing, as a number of high-profile British organisations announced plans to move IT, HR and financial services operations to India. Buffalo was hired to help counter negative publicity and to put the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) on the map.
To raise awareness of the role of the NOA as an advisory body. To position it as the definitive resource for journalists writing in this area. To increase membership.
With National Rail Enquiries and HSBC among the organisations outsourcing call centres, negative coverage focused on the threat to British jobs and resentment at the perception that overseas staff could provide a better service. Companies in offshore locations were also accused of data fraud and unsound business practices.
The NOA emphasised the positive aspects of global trade and placed the number of jobs going offshore in context. It also focused on the benefits of outsourcing, including the freedom to focus on core business offerings and the opportunity to cut costs.
A press office was established to position the NOA as a think-tank on outsourcing and an independent voice on the market. The campaign kicked off with a press release entitled ‘Offshoring – business panacea or scourge of UK jobs?’, timed to coincide with the announcement by a financial services company that it was offshoring 4,000 jobs. Target titles included the national print and broadcast media, particularly the Financial Times, and the IT trade and management press.
This was followed by telephone and face-to-face briefings with The Independent, The Times, Financial Director, Computer Weekly, Computing and AccountancyAge. The campaign used press releases and media alerts reacting to all outsourcing stories.
A public affairs campaign used the offshoring phenomenon as a way to establish contact with relevant personnel within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Papers on the offshore opportunity were submitted to the DTI in November 2003, resulting in a closed roundtable discussion in January 2004 with Patricia Hewitt and Mike O’Brien, then a minister at the DTI. The NOA also gave evidence at a select committee.
Measurement and Evaluation
The initial campaign resulted in more than 35 pieces of national, broadcast and trade press coverage, including in the FT, The Independent, The Times and The Guardian. NOA legal director Rory Graham appeared on Channel 4 News along with a member of trade union Amicus. Chairman Martyn Hart appeared on BBC Breakfast.
In the year after the campaign was launched, almost 200 pieces of print coverage were secured, plus 20 broadcast interviews.
Coverage of the initial campaign prompted 50 calls to the NOA press office requesting more information. The number of corporate members rose by 40 per cent in the first six months of the PR programme. The press office now fields an average of 15 calls per week.
Kevin Reed, staff writer on Accountancy Age and Management Consultancy magazines, said: ‘Buffalo was quick to react to whatever news situation occurred, and always explained the story well.’