UTS Library

Elders Rural Bank Launch


Elders Limited

PR Company: 

Turnbull Porter Novelli

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2001 G 15



Executive Summary: 

Elders Limited appointed Turnbull Porter Novelli Adelaide to develop and implement a public relations strategy to launch Elders Rural Bank (ERB). TPN had five weeks to develop the strategy and prepare materials.

TPN devised a strategy that engaged all levels of the Bank, and helped achieve marketing and public relations goals. The approach informed Elders staff, motivated regional managers to become involved in promoting the Bank, created national and regional launch events, and secured extensive media coverage in metropolitan and regional areas.

The launch attracted more than $120 million worth of deposits in the first five weeks. The Bank achieved $1 billion in assets by its first birthday - well in excess of its $150 million target. More than 7000 new clients were attracted in the first nine months.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

A survey of clients using the Elders customer service centre showed that an outstanding 87% were prompted to call because of PR activities.

Evaluation shows the program was an outstanding success on every level, with the planned program being delivered on time and on budget. It has become a benchmark for the 160-year-old company for integrating PR activities into marketing programs.


Situation Analysis: 

Elders Rural Bank is a joint venture between Elders Limited, which is wholly owned by the Futuris Corporation Limited, and Bendigo Bank Limited.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

It aims to secure deposits and provide loans to the primary industry sector by attracting deposits from metropolitan and rural investors.

The process of applying for the banking authority was exhaustive, taking more than two years. Elders had some indication from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority when a decision might be made, but no specific date. Timing of the announcement was also dependent on the availability of Federal Minister for Financial Services, Joe Hockey, and had to take into account stock exchange requirements for publicly listed companies.

The launch was likely to occur during the final countdown to commencement of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australias new taxation system, when the public and media were focusing heavily on the GST and related issues.

The launch had to target both metropolitan Australia, which had limited knowledge of Elders, and rural Australia, where people knew Elders as a stock and station agency with limited financial services. Promotion activities had to reach 150 branches across Australia which were ready to operate as "banks" from the first day of trading.

An issue was that Elders branch staff and regional managers had not previously been encouraged to become involved in public relations activities which were traditionally carried out from Adelaide headquarters.

The launch also occurred in a climate where major banks had been withdrawing services from rural communities and there was considerable negative feeling towards the banking sector.


Elders undertook comprehensive preliminary qualitative research to identify the needs of agribusiness, including farmers, in relation to the banking sector.  This research was used by TPN to develop key messages for the communication program, and to identify target publics.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Preliminary research also included:

  • Research which identified existing attitudes towards Elders by clients and potential clients, in particular in relation to financial services
  • Briefing sessions with Elders and ERB marketing and brand managers
  • Desktop review of processes and information generated to secure the licence
  • Research gathered as part of a Churchill Fellowship studying communication practices targeting farmers in six countries.
  • Government and private sector research on preferred information sources in regional communities and rural industries, and learning behaviour of farmers.
  • Review of existing internal communication practices and Elders marketing models

Target Policies: 

Preliminary research by Elders and TPN clearly identified the following target publics, existing attitudes and the role they would play in achieving campaign objectives:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • Metropolitan investors (low awareness of Elders)
  • Rural/regional investors (low awareness of Elders as finance service provider)
  • Existing Elders customers (considerable loyalty to Elders brand)
  • Metropolitan finance editors (low awareness of Elders but high of ERB chairman and former Federal Treasurer John Dawkins)
  • Specialist rural sector media (high awareness of Elders but not finance services)
  • Regionally-based print, radio and television media (reasonable awareness of Elders and high awareness of banking service issues)
  • Elders staff (limited knowledge of Bank and PR activities)

Communication Strategy: 

To deliver the objectives in the limited time frame to the broad geographic area targeted, TPN devised a strategy that aimed to engage Elders at every level, and prove the value of integrating marketing and PR activities.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The multi-layered approach employed tactics that leveraged ERB board and Elders management, State and regional finance teams, and the branch network. The aim was to maximise credibility and appeal to the target publics by recognising the different credentials, appeal and experience of each level.

For example, for the media program, metropolitan finance media and the Canberra press gallery were linked with board chairman John Dawkins; national and state specialist rural media were linked with Elders CEO David Hills and Elders Rural Bank managing director Ian Mansbridge, major regional media were linked to state managers and district finance managers, and local community newspapers were linked to branch managers who were known and respected by local farmers.

An important element of the strategy was to empower and assist Elders branch staff and district finance managers to become actively involved an approach not previously taken by Elders and regarded with some trepidation at a corporate level. This would only be achieved by making it as easy as possible to implement local activities, and by motivating staff to understand the potential benefits from being involved.

Another important aspect of the strategy was to ensure consistency in messages and the quality of material used to promote the Bank, whether it was a media release for a small local newspaper, or a television interview being networked across south-eastern <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia.


The communication program had seven main elements:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

1.      Training key Elders finance staff, who would help drive PR activities at a state and regional level. TPN proposed a road show to central locations. Consultant Liz Kellaway traveled with the Elders Rural Bank launch team to five States in six days, with sessions designed to introduce the Bank to finance staff, and coach them on marketing and PR strategies.

The TPN training session focused on why PR was important, and how each DFM and branch could become involved.  This included training on how regional media works, how to handle interviews, liaising with local media, and developing ideas for a local branch launch or promotional event.

Impromptu on-the-spot interviews helped sharpen key marketing messages and how to convey them clearly to clients or the media.

2.      Development of a public relations tool kit for use by district finance managers and branch managers to generate local publicity.  Kit contents were developed by TPN, with final design and production being handled in-house by Elders. TPN was commissioned to prepare the section on working with the media to generate editorial coverage, and event management and promotion.

The PR component included:

  • A media release which could be tailored with local details
  • Tips on working with the media
  • Suggestions for a local advertising feature
  • A checklist to organise a local launch
  • Concepts for events, stories and photos
  • A floppy disc containing copies of media materials
  • ERB media guidelines

3.      Developing media materials which would appeal to various media sectors, including:

  • Media alert faxed to metropolitan-based finance and rural editors, and distributed to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Canberra press gallery boxes and journalists, immediately after official clearance was given and with less than an hour to get media to the Parliament House media conference.
  • 3 different media releases tailored for appropriate audiences a national version for metropolitan audiences, a version for specialist rural media, and a local community version for regional media.
  • Background information on the people behind the bank, and the APRA licensing process.
  • 2 video news releases a version distributed via courier to all regional television newsrooms, and a SA specific version featuring endorsement from Premier John Olsen. This went to both Adelaide metropolitan and regional television stations, highlighting the fact the new bank would be headquartered in SA.

4.      An intensive media liaison program which linked the various materials to different media sectors, taking into account deadlines and time urgency issues for each sector, and the availability of various spokespeople (a copy of the media plan is included in the appendix). The program included developing a detailed distribution plan to brief the consultancy team and keep the client fully informed. Phone follow-up with media was timed to take into account media deadlines and priorities. Systems were set up to manage an intensive number of incoming media calls.

5.      Creation of a specific database which linked Elders district finance managers, and branches with specific coverage areas of regional media outlets. This drove tailoring of media release content to highlight its local relevance and appeal.

6.      A national announcement and media conference at Parliament House in Canberra, with Federal Minister for Financial Services Joe Hockey. TPN was given the go ahead to notify media less than an hour before. A prepared alert was faxed/emailed to media, and consultants operating within Parliament House targeted the press gallery and managed the media conference. Briefings were provided to the Minister, ERB, Elders and Bendigo Bank participants. Kits were prepared and distributed to media. TPN negotiated for the conference to be relayed via the Parliament House broadcast system, and had video material available for supply to regional stations on request. Photos were also taken and distributed electronically and by post for print media.

7.      Support for branch managers and district finance managers. To encourage Elders staff and help drive local use of the branch kits, TPN provided a help-line service for staff, providing additional assistance where required to deal with media requests and event management.


The approach used for the launch was successful according to every level of evaluation required by the client, and has since become a model for marketing and communication activities within Elders.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

In line with the specific objectives:

1.      Elders staff Australia-wide received information about the Bank before the launch. All key staff received copies of media releases and a comprehensive question and answer document as part of an internal education program. All State finance managers and most DFMs attended training sessions.

2.      More than 95% of district finance managers attended preliminary training. Media analysis, anecdotal feedback and a DFM survey indicate this training, the PR kit and help line services motivated them to general extensive local publicity for at least 70 branches, exceeding targets.

A survey showed 100% of DFMs believed that tailored local media releases play an important role in raising the banks profile. This survey and anecdotal feedback indicates most worked with local media, far exceeding the 25% target.

3.      The strategy secured enormous media coverage in all targeted sectors. More than 100 interviews were given to major metropolitan and rural media in the first two days alone.

More than 30 people, including three television networks, attended the Parliament House launch.

Media analysis clearly shows the success of matching different levels of the Elders organisation to specific target audiences according to their expertise, credibility and appeal.

4.      Elders Rural Bank attracted more than $120 million worth of deposits in the five weeks after the launch, with almost 50% coming from the metropolitan sector.

A survey of people using the Elders customer service centre showed that an outstanding 87% were prompted to call because they had read an article.

Support from investors resulted in the Bank achieving $1 billion in assets by its first birthday - well in excess of its $150 million target.

Elders Rural Bank is extremely pleased with the tangible benefits brought about by the launch.

A major campaign success factor was the level of cooperation, decisiveness and responsiveness of Elders management, who referred to TPN as a business partner in the launch, and treated them as such. The campaign has led to an ongoing relationship between Elders and TPN.


Evaluation of the program has been based on:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • Media response/interview requests generated
  • Qualitative media analysis
  • Deposits generated
  • Call centre inquiries
  • DFM survey
  • Formal debriefing with Elders management


This evaluation highlighted that:

  • All media material featured key messages and strong branding in photographs, headings and text.
  • DFMs were actively involved in promoting local branches
  • 50% of deposits came from the metropolitan sector
  • The bank achieved an asset base in excess of $1 billion dollars at 30th June 2001
  • 87% of people who used the call centre rang because they had read an article.

Evaluation also drew attention to the fact that existing media monitoring agencies do not provide comprehensive coverage of regional and rural specialist media outlets.  TPN believes monitoring may have only trapped about 50% of coverage.



Turnbull Porter Novelli's communications strategy for Elders Rural Bank strictly adhered to the PRIA's Code of Ethics.

The campaign fully complied with each of 15 elements of the code, particularly in relation to the treatment of confidential information, and dealing fairly and honestly with the client, communications media, and general public.




1.  Planning

  • Letter of support from Elders Rural Bank
  • Tasklist/timetable for Elders Rural Bank Launch
  • Budget outline for program

2.  Staff Education program

  • District Finance Manager training presentation
  • Local Public Relations Guide (as appears in Envelope 6 in the Bank Information and Promotion Kit see separate resource material).
  • Staff Question and Answer document


3.  Media Materials

  • Media plan
  • Media releases
  • Release 1 National announcement
  • Release 2 <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Adelaide announcement
  • Release 3 Regional release (was tailored to mention specific branches)
  • Video news release shot-list
  • Regionally specific photographs
  • Background material The People Behind Elders Bank
  • Background material Meeting Australian Prudential Requirements

4.  Evaluation

  • Call centre customer service centre finance report
  • Media clippings (in bound document separate to this folder)

Clippings are sorted as:

Clippings directly generated by TPN

  • Electronic interviews
  • National finance and statewide rural and agricultural media
  • Regional print media generated by TPN media releases


Clippings generated by local branches

  •  By state


5.  Additional supporting material separate to this folder

  • Media Clippings (bound document)
  • Video News Release