Call of (Consumer) Duty – Making the most out of a news story

Dom By Dom

An essential aspect of PR is that it never exists in a vacuum. Yes, we’re trying to influence the wider world on behalf of our clients – that’s the entire point of the profession. But we also need to be watching, predicting and reacting to news and events to ensure clients have a voice on, and a chance to react to, the most pressing concerns facing their audience. After all, it’s hard to be a thought leader if you’re late to the party.

This applies within the agency too. At times, we can create a much stronger story by pooling our resources. Offering journalists a ready-made story with multiple angles can be a more attractive, rounded proposition than a single point of view.

This was precisely the case with the FCA’s shake-up of its Consumer Duty in 2023. For SaaScada, it was a sign for banks to improve their visibility over customers to help them. For Sagacity, it was a way to make sure “vulnerable” customers were properly defined and aided. And for Quadient it showed that banks still needed to make their customer communications as clear and relevant as possible. Any one of these was an interesting story in its own right. Together, they were a near-irresistible package. So how do you make the most out of an opportunity like this?

One: Talk talk talk

We’re a communications industry, so communicating is key – inside and out. Sharing upcoming news stories on a daily basis, such as changes to regulation and our clients’ interest in them, is best practice. Our relevant teams were all aware of the looming Consumer Duty changes and why they were relevant to our clients, so we could begin planning how to work together on a bigger story.

Two: Plan ahead

Terms such as “issues response” or “news hijacking” bring to mind quite reactive activity. But there’s no reason these can’t be planned well in advance when we know exactly when the issue or news will come to the boil. By preparing for the new Consumer Duty months before it came into play, we had solid stories and a detailed plan in place. We also had more time to prepare the right supporting resources – from research showing how poorly consumers actually understand banking communications, to spokespeople at the front line of helping banks adopt socially-minded values.

Three: Know your audience – and your cast

Successful PR hinges on knowing exactly what your clients can discuss, in what detail, and who would be most interested in it. From storyboarding sessions to tracking trending issues and building relationships with journalists, 90% of the work goes on under the surface. This is the engine we used to develop a story around Consumer Duty that met all our clients’ needs, would be interesting to the press, and would be targeted at the exact journalists who’d want to hear it.

Share the love

Some people say that enjoying your work and seeing the results out there, is enough of a reward. I don’t. If your campaign results in multiple pieces of coverage in key finance and national press, including the BBC and multiple follow-up letter opportunities in The Financial Times, it’s the perfect time to share your joy as widely as possible. Congratulate the team, and make sure they understand how important their contribution was. Help the client find ways to build on their already fantastic coverage – through their socials; through follow-up activity; and through their sales and marketing teams. And don’t be shy to crow about your achievement as an agency. Hey, you could even write a blog about it…