Communications & Marketing: A story worth telling


‘I always seem to run towards challenges rather than run away from them’ says Maeve McMahon, Director of Marketing & Colleague Communications for our Commercial & Private Banking (CPB) business. ‘That’s what this job gives me.’

Almost ten years after RBS received funds from the UK government, part of Maeve’s challenge is to tell the story of the work done since to put our customers at the heart of the bank. Being responsible for Communications & Marketing in CPB gives Maeve plenty of things to talk about in that regard. As she says, ‘We’ve been quite internally focused for the last ten years, and that’s ok given where we came from. It’s really important now to go out to market and be proud of the fact that we’re Britain’s biggest lender, we lend to more businesses in the UK so we help create more jobs; I want to help the business tell that story.’


Shifting the focus

Changing the narrative attached to a brand that’s been in the public conversation for several years like RBS isn’t easy to do. For our Communications & Marketing function, the solution was to change the emphasis to the brands our customers work with every day. ‘Our ambition as a business is to be the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy, but the brand we were going to be number one with wasn’t obvious. David Wheldon’s strategy of putting the customer facing brands at the forefront – NatWest as the primary brand, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank in Ireland, plus specialist commercial brands like Lombard and private banks like Coutts and Adam & Co – is critical to future success. These are the brands that will take us to those number one positions in our stated markets. The function’s job now is to row in behind that and say “ok, what stories should we tell? How are we going to be number one as NatWest in England and Wales? Or as Ulster Bank in Ireland? What does that look like, and what’s our position today?”’

But turning their lens to our customer facing brands doesn’t mean the teams are relaxing their focus on internal messages. As Maeve explains, that’s still one of the function’s key priorities, especially when it comes to building advocacy. ‘We know from external research and what we’re seeing from closed loop feedback that engaged colleagues will engage customers, and engaged customers will advocate for us as a brand. There’s a really nice virtuous circle there.’

“We’ve told that story again and again to people who matter, and that ultimately has an impact on what people write.”

Maeve McMahon, Director of Marketing & Colleague Communications, Commercial & Private Banking Business, RBS


On top of speaking to customers and colleagues, the function has risen to the crucial challenge of managing relationships with other major stakeholders in our story, including the media and UK government. ‘What our Media Team and the Public Affairs Team do is critically important to our reputation. Over the last ten years we’ve had a difficult relationship with the press and indeed with politicians because of the help we had, and that’s been reflected in the stories that have been written during that time. But over time that’s begun to change, and I think it’s a reflection of the great jobs the teams have done in managing those really important stakeholders. Getting the press to a position where they believe in the strategy and in what we’re doing to be simple and customer focused, moving back to the core UK and Ireland retail and corporate bank. We’ve told that story again and again to people who matter, and that ultimately has an impact on what people write about us and on what politicians say. As we start to get back to private ownership, managing and influencing the relationship with politicians and talking to them about the good work we’re doing will be a really critical part of what the function does.’


Stories for a changing world

With Communications & Marketing helping to steer the direction of the bank in a very tangible way, it’s an exciting time to join the function. By all accounts it’s also a great team to join. As Maeve tells me, ‘our vision as a team is to be the best team you’ll ever work in as a marketer or a communicator’. And while the function’s done a lot of challenging and rewarding work over the last few years, their job is far from done. There’s the continuing task of telling the story of how we’re working to help our customers to a number of different audiences, but there’s also navigating the opportunities and potential pitfalls of communication in the digital world. ‘Customer expectations are changing because of technology, and adapting how we talk to customers in an omni-channel approach has a knock on effect on our advertising, like how we buy it and where we go. We also need to guard our brand and keep it safe in that online environment. You could be searching for something on YouTube, and our brand could end up in the wrong place very quickly. We need to be on top of making sure that doesn’t happen.’

When you begin to consider the scale of the change the industry will face over the next few years, it’s clear that great communicators will be essential to any bank’s success. From regulation like Open Banking to the disruptive potential of FinTechs and the task of harnessing AI and automation, people who can tell a story well internally and externally will be indispensable in meeting the sector’s challenges. At RBS, you’re sure to find a story worth your time.


Written by Jonathan Meyrick - originally posted on  





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