In 2013, Nationwide Building Society’s media relations team set itself a simple objective: it wanted to be recognised as the best external affairs team in UK financial services. The ambition was driven by Nationwide’s corporate strategy, which is to position the building society as a clear and compelling alternative to the banks.
The team defined three ways in which it could help to achieve this. It had to be a trusted and respected partner to the business. It had to build influential relationships with the media. And it had to deliver creative activity.
Before embarking on this journey, Nationwide’s media relations team held a series of away days with its members and discussions with key stakeholders in the business. This led to the establishment of a bespoke development academy, which drove engagement throughout the organisation, helped to promote the role of media relations and the way it could underpin the corporate strategy and also ensured that everybody had the tools and skills to deliver.
For example, the academy offers advice on building relationships and navigating tricky conversations, understanding how a newsroom works, and on how to write for the media, politicians and the business.
But Nationwide’s in-house team has also worked hard to build relationships with journalists so that they understand the building society and its unique features, but also to ensure that the team, in turn, understands what the media wants. ‘An excellent example of an in-house team practicing what it preaches,’ said the judges. ‘Listening!’
This strategy has paid dividends. Internally, the in-house team’s efforts have won a Chief Executive Award for the role it has played in making Nationwide the most positively talked about financial services brand.
Independent analysis backs up the claim. PressWatch Financial ranked Nationwide top out of more than 1,000 financial services providers for the fifth successive year, while the PressWatch Corporate survey, which analyses coverage in business and City pages, placed the building society top for the second year running, scoring 2,475 points against its nearest rival which scored 915 points. Reputation Institute’s RepTrak Index also suggests Nationwide has the strongest reputation against other banks and building societies.
Indeed, it was the only financial services company in the top 50.
The team’s greatest strength, according to a personal finance editor on a national newspaper, ‘is consistency and depth. They are very customer focused. They always try to do the right thing’.
‘There is real evidence of teamwork to deliver a specific and ambitious goal, which the group has achieved as evidenced impressively,’ said the judges.