Brunswick to help Northern Rock rebuild its reputation

Bank brings in City experts to overhaul comms as it bids to re-enter private sector.

Northern Rock is considering a complete overhaul of its strategic communications strategy, one year on from its shock nationalisation.

The bank has called in City heavyweight Brunswick to lead a wide-ranging review of its comms approach as part of a wider plan to exit state ownership.

Brunswick, led by Alan Parker, is charged with taking the temperature of key stakeholders. It will quiz senior journalists, political figures and financial professionals on how they perceive Northern Rock and its core messages. This could then trigger a wide-ranging comms plan to remould the bank's reputation as it seeks to re-enter the private sector.

FD currently leads financial comms for Northern Rock, having won the account last year. It is understood the account was worth £1.5m a year at the time FD won it from ten-year incumbent Finsbury.

Northern Rock comms director Brian Giles said: 'Brunswick will be looking at specific elements of our communications strategy, but this has not affected FD as our retained consultant at this stage.'

FD pitched for the strategic comms project but lost out to Brunswick. City PR insiders speculated Parker's close links to the PM Gordon Brown and other senior government figures could have played a part in the decision.

Giles said Brunswick had been brought in as 'a fresh pair of eyes' to investigate 'the perceptions of Northern Rock and what we might need to adjust, adapt or do going forward.'

In recent weeks Northern Rock has announced a strategic review of its entire business plan and it confirmed it was examining proposals to revive its mortgage lending.

At the end of September it had paid off £15.5bn of the £26.9bn in taxpayer loans it incurred during nationalisation.

MEDIA VIEWS - Philip Aldrick, The Daily Telegraph 'Ugly decisions have still to be made. Most ugly of all, perhaps, is the prospect of more taxpayer money being poured down the great Northern Rock black hole.' (17 February)

Fraser Nelson, The Spectator '(Northern Rock is) under instructions to screw anyone it can to repay its loan. About a third of NR mortgage owners are trapped on its penalty SVR rate... ' (17 February)

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