Features | 22/07/21

In the last edition of the magazine, I wrote about our political engagement. We explored why it is important to engage with the different groups and individuals that fall within that segment. While that work continues with meetings at HM Treasury and correspondence with the Financial Services Minister, this time I want to share some of our recent work around engaging with the media, another one of our key stakeholder groups.

Unsurprisingly, there are a range of media outlets (online and in print) with a mixture of paid and freelance writers publishing stories. Some have a negative view of our sector, that is unlikely to change. Briefs change quickly and journalists cover a wide range of topics, making it more difficult to build relationships and get your stories and views into the right hands.

Despite this, the media is still an area where we can share our strategic campaigns such as our work to protect access to credit. We can also engage on our priority issues, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and Claims Management Companies for example, depending on the interests of different journalists.

In recent months, we have been working hard to develop our relationships with the media. This has been through a mixture of briefings, sharing statements and comment, and responding to journalists that have written about the market. We have also gently pushed back on pieces that include misconceptions about the sector to make sure the information out there is up to date and based on fact.

Much like our other engagement, you need to take time to build relationships, make the story relevant to their aims and ensure that you can provide timely information when it is needed. They need to know where to come to.

Good relationships in the media are useful to us for many reasons. It helps build the profile of the association and its members, with the ultimate aim to become the recognised home for and authority on alternative credit. It is also an excellent channel to use to promote and amplify our campaign to protect access to responsible credit.

It also acts as a vehicle to deliver those messages to other stakeholders. Though we want good relationships with journalists we are ultimately trying to get these pieces (and the information included) to those that we need to influence and educate.

There has been growing media attention in recent months, in some part driven by the departure of Provident from the home-collected market and the uncertainty over the future of Amigo Loans. This has drawn interest from across the media, keen to get an up-to-date picture of what is happening in the sector.

Business journalists are interested in the ups and downs of big companies, particularly those with shareholders, while those with consumer briefs are keen to know about the customer and how they use the product. And of course, at the moment everyone is interested in the impact of Covid-19 and what this has meant for family finances and lending.

When Provident and Amigo sparked press interest, it was important for us to point out the likely impact that market exit will have on consumers. This is a key part of our campaign to protect access to responsible credit.

We were speaking to the media about the problems with the regulatory structure and claims management companies, but ultimately trying to show the negative consequences for the customer if access to credit continues to be reduced.

Our engagement has seen the CCTA feature in a range of pieces. We were quoted in a BBC online piece exploring the reasons behind Provident’s decision to withdraw from the home credit market. There was also an appearance in the Financial Times that explored the future of the sector. More recently we have seen coverage in a longer Reuters piece, looking at the impact of the complaints on firms.

And our work on the side lines in briefing Journalists, and highlight various reports and research seems to be having an impact too. We have seen an increase in pieces investigating the current state of illegal lending and the expected growth if access alternative credit is restricted.

There have also been a range of stories looking at both the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the FOS. With the regulator we have seen coverage of its approach to claims management companies and the new ‘consumer duty’ it has proposed. On the FOS, journalists have explored if the FOS is fit for purpose, given the budget changes and an increasing backlog of complaints. All messages we have been pursuing.

As Parliament turns a little quieter over the summer recess, we focus in on our media engagement- briefing new journalists and building connections for the future. We will be searching out data and research that supports our campaigns to share.

It is always interesting to hear from members if they have had any engagement with the media or have their own campaigns that we might be able to help support.

Lucy Donovan
Head of Communications