I have been acting as unpaid PR Director for the campaign group Bully-Banks which represents an estimated 40,000 plus victims of mis-selling by banks of interest rate swap products to small businessesacross the UK. (One of my businesses, the Wakefield Media Centre was adjudged to have been a victim of the mis-selling by both the Financial Ombudsman and the Financial Conduct Authority Review process for mis-selling.)
The Bully-Banks campaign has been a campaign that I’ve been incredibly proud to be assoiciated with, working with a great group of people who all volunteered their time, energy and commitment to take on the might of the banks, and right a wrong to secure justice against mis-selling. (Also, not forgetting much appreciated support from freelance PR Joanne Gill.)
While many battles have been won, the war still goes on, with widespred criticism of the speed and scale of the Review process, new types of mis-selling emerging out of the woodwork, (what are now being called ‘Hidden Swaps’), t5he horrors faced by business people who have been forced into administration or gone bust by the mis-selling, and new further dimensions to the on-going saga with news this week of the Royal Bank of Scotland being accused of allegedly putting companies out of business. There are a number of people who think there are even bigger skeletons in the cupboard, with claims of serious fraud being committed by bank employees which have yet to be formally investigated.
So, despite the many hours of unpaid work it has been rewarding on another level, as a source of immense pride. I put it alongside my earlier peaks of PR pride back in 1991 when I worked to save the closure of the Treats Ice cream factory in Leeds from closure – again, under extra-ordinary pressures, limitations, and with no budget! (Is there a pattern here?)
It’s also been rewarding on a further level – where the work won recognition last week, having picked up the Gold award in the Issues & Crisis Management category of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Pride awards in its South West region, where the campaign first started. (The quality of the PR work was also recognised in the UK-wide CIPR awards having been shortlisted in the ‘Best Low Budget Campaign’ category.)
The CIPR judges praised the Bully-Banks entry: “This was a strong campaign, showing the power of ‘ordinary people’ against the might of the banking industry. From a kitchen table, with zero-budget origination. the Bully-Banks group pooled member talents and resources to give a voice to their cause, achieving real credibility and impact. The judges were particularly impressed by the interaction with the FSA, leading to justice for the group. It was a worthy winner!”
Sadly, like all good things in life, some things have to come to an end. Recognizing that I have some important new activities that I need to deliver in the year ahead, I have taken the extremely hard decision of standing down as a director and board member of the company running the Bully-Banks campaign, Ordinary People in Business Ltd. Although I’ll still be supportive of the campaign, and helping where I can, I recognized that something had to give.
One door will be closing. Many more however, will be opening. Watch this space!
Check out the award-wiunning Bully-Banks campaign here 11.25.13 v2 southwest cipr issues