Issuing a new banknote or series:
Public Education campaign planning
De La Rue Currency interviews Ben Crosland,
Ben Crosland is a senior communications adviser who has worked with governments, financial institutions, and philanthropic leaders on strategic communication campaigns. He was responsible for devising the ‘New Fiver’ campaign at the Bank of England.
He has also been press officer to the UK Prime Minister, worked with Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates on global health communications and set up his own consultancy, NYX Advisory.
“There are fundamental hurdles you need to clear to physically launch a banknote into circulation successfully.”
When planning the launch of a new banknote, what makes a launch successful?
There are obviously fundamental hurdles you need to clear to physically launch a banknote into circulation successfully. Having a viable stock of quality banknotes, ensuring the cash handling industry is prepared and establishing a critical mass of technology is updated (ATMs, payment machines, etc.) are all essential elements of a successful launch. A huge amount of work and investment understandably goes into those elements. What’s also essential is engaging the public and cash handling businesses before they’re expected to use the banknote. So communications, engagement and education are also vital to a successful banknote launch, and if forgotten about, can often undermine an immensely resource intensive project for the issuer.
A communications strategy when planning the launch of a new note or series is essential. Based on your experiences with the Bank of England, what would be your advice be when defining a strategy?
Your strategy should be shaped around some key pillars; awareness, understanding and education. The ultimate goal you’re trying to achieve is confidence in the currency, and those three pillars can help support that. If users don’t have confidence in using a new banknote, it effectively becomes a worthless piece of paper. Firstly, awareness will help reduce any potential shock when the banknote is first issued – people will recall that this was going to happen, and it will prevent confusion and rejection. Building an awareness raising strategy through mass media and communications will help drive this. Secondly, generating understanding of why a new banknote is needed – that’s often about making them harder to counterfeit or a newer technology making them more durable - will help drive adoption and acceptance. Thirdly, education ensures cash handlers know what security features they can check to validate the banknote. People can sometimes forget that investment in fantastic new security features is only as worthwhile as the end user knowing how to spot a fake.
“Your strategy should be shaped around some key pillars; awareness, understanding and education.”
What are effective ways to define and engage with the different audience segments and stakeholders when planning a public education campaign?
Taking an audience-led approach to your education and communication is a smart first step to ensuring high awareness and engagement.Regardless of what country you’re operating in, people are all slightly different and will digest news and information in various ways. Using media consumption insights and segmentation are pretty blunt tools to establish your target audiences, but necessary ones when constructing a mass public campaign. Audience segmentation data is often publicly available and can act as a great guiding principle when building your communications and education plan. Approaches can vary, and there are pros and cons to using various segmentation methods, but commonly you can use age, socio economic background, geographic location and gender to establish a matrix of audiences. Using your media consumption insights (either gained from established data or your own insights) you can ensure your communications campaign will combine the right mix of media to reach each of your audiences. An important step is to then consider harder to reach audiences and how you should engage them. In my experience this can be the elderly, the visually impaired and people who don’t speak or read the native language.
Issuing authorities need to be cost effective when planning a public education campaign, what can be done to make the most of a limited budget to maximise reach and engagement?
Cost is always going to be a constraint to work within and there are ways to ensure your campaign is efficient and cost effective.
However, unnecessarily minimizing communications spend is a large risk to your currency launch so a considered approach should be taken. With little budget to spend, ensuring you focus your energy on maximising earned media and owned channels is really important. By ‘earned’ I mean persuading journalists to write about or broadcast your banknote launch, and by ‘owned’ I mean using all your in-house resources (these may be official social media profiles or even people) to communicate about the launch in an organised way. Rather than spending money on advertising, ensuring you buy in expertise to build a strong earned media strategy is often a more cost effective way of driving awareness. This can involve establishing different stories to tell about the banknote and the design process, creating events to invite journalists to and in some cases providing special access to certain journalists – but a bespoke approach is always beneficial.
Every country has its own demographics and cultural references. What is a consistently effective means of engagement with the public to educate them as to the issuance of a new note or series?
Some things always transcend demographics and cultures and for a banknote launch I would say it’s all about powerful imagery. Simple, clear and attractive imagery of the banknote is essential for building awareness of what it looks like. Investing in some professional imagery which can then be used in lots of ways is a smart use of budget. If you have the means, building a simple website (or webpage on your existing website) is another smart tool. Internet use is globally widespread regardless of your nationality, age, background, or education level. Nearly everyone, and increasingly older generations, has internet access and can effectively use Google and search out information on demand. Ensuring you have an official source of information to meet that demand is also a good idea.
Do you consider customer touch points in the public, to be more effective than digital content, or traditional media methods?
Different forms of media are effective at achieving different goals. Establishing a complementary mix is often the best blend for success. When launching the new Bank of England £5 note, we took the new note on a tour of the country in the weeks before it was launched. If we were relying on passing footfall to drive up awareness amongst the public, it would be a very long and arduous campaign! What a customer touch point does give you is an event to invite local media to, and opportunity for the public themselves to be interviewed on TV or radio to say how they feel about the new banknote. This is more powerful than you may think as most people will trust a person who looks and sounds like them more than an official from a bank, business or government organisation. So while digital assets can go far and wide, and are less resource intensive, face to face work can provide platforms for complementary media activity and the opportunity to bring the public in as an authentic spokesperson.
“I was really struck by how passionate people feel about their own currency.”
What were some takeaway experiences working on "The New Fiver" campaign?
I was really struck by how passionate people feel about their own currency. It goes as far as being part of national identity and pride, and has a huge bearing on the reputation of the issuer. It was really clear people don’t like change when it’s forced upon them and handled in an inconsiderate way. I’m glad to say we didn’t do that with the new £5 banknote and the public acceptance statistics were really strong, but that was largely down to how we handled those public insights and built our outreach plan.
That brings me on to a second point which is use of data. I’ve always had an appreciation for data, and using it as a guiding principle for effective communications. But the insights and polling work we did before and throughout the campaign was incredibly useful and actually saved us money in the end. It gave us the confidence that we didn’t need to access contingency budgets for more outreach, and allowed us to target our communications (and resources) on under-served audiences rather than across the whole population. It was also a vital reporting tool to senior decision makers in the Bank who could approach the launch with confidence that the public were aware and supportive of the new banknote.
What 'new thing' or approach would you like to see as part of a future public education campaign?
I think there’s scope to have a bit more fun with education and engagement. We thought about a few options when we were launching the £5 and £10 notes which weren’t suitable for very sensible reasons in the end.
My favourite was the concept of a treasure hunt for 10 new Jane Austen £10 notes, hidden in books in shops around the country, with clues tied to design and security features. Fundamentally though it would have been impossible to coordinate that before the launch and would have posed security issues with the notes being in circulation too early. Ultimately our launch objective was about raising awareness prior to launch, so doing it afterwards wouldn’t work with our agreed goals. Still, it would have been a great way of attracting earned media and would have engaged the public, and hopefully kids, with the security features.
I also wanted to ‘wrap’ a popular newspaper in the UK (this is where you essentially pay for the newspaper cover as a large advertisement) with the new polymer substrate when we were launching the £5. The concept of ‘plastic money’ was new so getting people to touch and feel it would have been quite a novelty. Again, quite sensibly, it just would have been too complicated (and expensive).
But I do think there should be some push to be more creative and fun with communications and outreach.