The RBS press office is one of the busiest in the FTSE 100, with the 24-person team proactively engaging with more than 350 journalists, across national, regional, consumer and trade publications, which generated around 14,000 articles in 2018 - equivalent to around 270 week - of which 97 per cent are positive or neutral.
The team, which works across RBS, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Coutts, Ulster, Lombard and NatWest Markets, is currently split into five desks - RBS parent brand, campaigns and regional, digital, personal and corporate banking - which come together to work together on proactive and reactive campaigns across the year.
On average, the team handles 90 journalist queries every week from the traditional media, and if that were not enough, it has started engaging with a range of different influencers.
It is a team that very much reflects the organisational design of RBS, which is the only company to have featured on The Times list of top employers for women every year since it was launched, is regularly in the top 30 per cent of the Stonewall Index and has an ambitious target to achieve 14 per cent BAME leaders by 2025.
The press team is currently 58 per cent female, eight per cent BAME while two of the three senior managers are women. One in five work flexibly and every member works from home at least once a week.
Last year marked a change in tactics for the RBS press team. As the bank approached the ten year anniversary of the financial crash, the team switched from a reactive approach in its dealings with the media to a more proactive one with the motto Ten years on - own it, tell it, move on.
In part, this reflected the performance of the bank. In February 2018, RBS reported full year profits of £752 million for 2017 after nine years in which accumulated losses totalled £58 billion. This was followed by annual profits of £1.6 billion in 2018, when the team used ‘engaging videos’ to announce its numbers on Twitter for the first time. The tweets were viewed more than 36,000 times.
The press team highlighted the turnaround in the bank’s fortunes and a ‘return to normality’ with infographics illustrating ‘then and now’, such as the reduction in headcount from 199,800 in 2008 to 70,000 in 2018. The campaign generated 657 items of coverage, 77 per cent of which were deemed neutral, and the ‘return to normality’ was the best performing message.
While recognising that RBS ‘clearly planned ahead’, Douglas Fraser, business editor of BBC Scotland, said that it ‘took this anniversary as an opportunity to go on the the front foot, and to tell a more positive story about the bank’s recovery, its current condition and the future of banking’.
Among 11 proactive campaigns, the press office helped secure 455 articles for The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, a Treasury backed review led by RBS’ deputy chief executive. (Rose was recently promoted to the top job.) The coverage was deemed 100 per cent positive, with 19 per cent of articles mentioning ‘Rose Review’ in the headline. Subsequently, RBS has seen a 17 per cent increase in new accounts opened by female-led businesses and a ten per cent increase in lending.
The bank’s reputation with journalists is now at its highest point in years, and the team have been described as ‘the best in the sector’ in a Populus poll. The judges ‘liked this entry, which gave a good mix of information about who the team is and what it achieved’.
They added: ‘We liked the decision to flip from defensive to offensive PR, and it was great to see the impressive recognition from the sector’s journalists on their number one position’.