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Progressive Building Society

The mutual had been under the radar for a number of years although its results were better than most other financial institutions remaining in profit throughout the financial crisis.

The mutual had been under the radar for a number of years although its results were better than most other financial institutions remaining in profit throughout the financial crisis.

Aiken’s brief was to increase the profile of the society.

Strategy and Tactics

There were a number of factors were considered in developing Progressive’s strategy:

  • lack of trust that the public had with financial institutions following one the worst financial crises for more than a generation
  • Progressive’s low profile with lower than expected awareness levels of the society in recently conducted research that the mutual had undertaken

Our strategy to redress this was to build momentum and sow the seeds of growing trust and awareness in the first six months (July to December).

  • Highlight how it differs from banks and the fact that it isn’t dependent on shareholders and providing dividends, its relationships with its members and its commitment to communities throughout Northern Ireland would be key
  • Build its profile, growing rational respect, developing emotional attachment with the public and stakeholders from 2014 on, the year of Progressive’s Centenary celebrations.
  • To position Progressive within the mortgage lending and savers debate and maximising the opportunity that its Centenary celebrations would bring we needed to start building relationships with media and stakeholders alike

Positioning spokespeople

With a talented, experienced and committed team and CEO, we quickly set up regular meetings providing the opportunity to present, update and gain buy in from the Board.

Working with Board members and the CEO, Darina Armstrong we developed a series of opportunities to position their credentials including Darina being positioned as NI 2013 Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year Award.

Media Relationships

Previously, the only time that Progressive engaged with media was at their annual AGM in April. Utilising two key events in the first 6 months to directly meet and grow those relationships, confident in the knowledge that both were strong positive stories we briefed media on;

  • Details of Progressive’s planned merger with City of Derry Building Society
  • Announcement within a UK wide survey that Progressive was the second most ethical financial institution (globally) 

Positioning Products

There are a series of housing market reports every quarter both at a local and UK wide level. With mortgage lending in Northern Ireland starting to increase towards the end of 2013, we developed strong picture led stories announcing details of Progressive’s offerings to coincide with the reports.

CSR Programme

Through its community partnerships and a series of local sponsorships we started to build affinity with the Progressive brand geographically across Northern Ireland through targeted media stories of its CSR commitments.


Jan to June 2014 – Centenary celebrations

DFP Minister visit and First Minister opening

Utislising our strong public affairs credentials we sought and oversaw the visit of the Minister Simon Hamilton to Progressive’s Head office using the opportunity to issue a strong picture led story and gain significant coverage of Progressive’s rise in mortgage applications which was in line with the Minister’s narrative of an improving housing market.

With Progressive investing in a significant redevelopment of its Ballymena branch we arranged for the First Minister to officially open it, positioning its commitment to High Street and its direct engagement with customers. This piggybacked on the successful direct mortgage campaign story we had issued earlier in the year and built upon our Plan English Crystal Mark tactic, to cut out the unknown jargon for Progressive’s customers.


Its annual AGM – we continued to develop the relationship with the media, briefing them in advance to ensure blanket coverage on Progressive’s continued success 100 years on, on the day of the report.

BSA Event

With the organisation soon to be Northern Ireland’s only locally owned building society, with the City of Derry merger imminent and with Darina Armstong the only Northern Ireland person ever to hold office on the UK wide Council of The Building Societies Association we developed, arranged and oversaw a stakeholder event at Stormont to further build relationships and communicate Progressive’s growth and continued success.

Centenary dinners

As the key event to celebrate Progressive’s 100 years we arranged an event for 150 of its stakeholders and business partners at Queen’s Great Hall to celebrate the organisations significant achievement. Key media attended with whom we had been building relationships and having arranged a series of engaging speakers throughout the evening we developed a strong media hook around the speech of Economist Professor Neil Gibson.