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Britain’s biggest banks are set for a change of tactics to target small businesses after efforts to collectively woo the sector have struggled to increase lending volumes.

Santander: has called in Eulogy to launch its SME programme

Santander: has called in Eulogy to launch its SME programme

The British Bankers’ Association co-ordinated the launch of the Business Finance Taskforce a year ago on behalf of the UK’s six largest banks to improve relationships with the UK’s SME sector.

Despite a concerted outreach campaign, supported by Portland, the BBA announced last week that lending volumes continued downwards during the third quarter, with 74 per cent of the sector declining to seek a loan or overdraft during the previous 12 months.

It is understood now that the UK banks are likely to position themselves away from the collective drive to grow SME lending to concentrate on their own tailored offerings and individual campaigns.

Santander, a participant in the taskforce, has this week appointed an external PR agency on a new brief to launch its SME programme and support it for the next two years.

Eulogy will handle a national and media relations campaign to grow awareness of Santander’s Breakthrough SME investment fund, designed to plough £200m into growing UK businesses.

The agency, which picked up the work following a competitive pitch, will also handle publicity around Santander’s new Social Enterprise Development Awards, which reward firms that regenerate their local communities.

It is understood that Barclays also has a business banking brief out to pitch, as the six UK banks all look to increase their lending to UK business as part of the commitment they made by signing up to the Government’s Project Merlin scheme.

Meanwhile, it is understood the banks are to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the future plans and PR requirements of the collective Business Finance Taskforce.

Portland picked up a £200,000 six-month contract via the BBA in February, funded by the banks. That contract was subsequently extended and Portland remains engaged on work for the Taskforce, but the final event of the Better Business Finance roadshow campaign was in Norwich on Tuesday.

A Portland source said: ‘We continue to enjoy working with the BBA and the Taskforce banks in promoting their support for SMEs. We are currently working with them to develop their plans for 2012.’

It is believed that any PR or public affairs support the Taskforce requires in 2012 would be on a significantly reduced budget. It is also thought that a requirement for further agency support would result in a likely pitch process, given the significantly different nature of the brief.

Source: Alec Mattinson, prweek.com, 29 November 2011, 6:15pm

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Hill & Knowlton has rebranded to become Hill+Knowlton Strategies a year after merging with US lobbying agency Public Strategies.

Jack Martin: global CEO

Jack Martin: global CEO

The WPP-owned agency said in a statement that the name ‘reflects a renewed emphasis on strategic communications advice that ensures a client’s business imperatives are achieved’.

Jack Martin, global chairman and chief executive officer of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, commented: ‘The new brand points to a shifting market for our clients, one with an explosion of information and a revolution in the ability of almost everyone to find that information. This democratisation of information is fundamentally changing the way they do business.’

Martin founded Public Strategies and became executive chairman of the joint agency following the November 2010 merger. He took on the global CEO role in January after the departure of Paul Taaffe.

One former senior H&K executive said at the time that the merger was in effect ‘a reverse takeover’, handing control of H&K to the top executives at Public Strategies.

The rebranding and new name take effect this week. The company currently has 85 offices in 46 countries around the globe.

Source: Alec Mattinso, prweek.com, 01 December 2011, 5:30pm

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