Third Sector Excellence Awards: Use of Digital Media

The National Union of Students mobilised its members with a Facebook campaign to pressurise HSBC to drop controversial bank charges, and it worked.

NUS Facebook campaign
NUS Facebook campaign

For the most innovative use of digital media, such as CDs, text messaging, podcasts, email and Web 2.0, including social networking sites and wikis

Judging panel:
Sue Fidler, charity IT consultant
Ian Leggett, director, People and Planet
Dean Russell, head of digital marketing, Precedent Communications
Chris Stalker, freelance consultant

Beat (Eating Disorders Association)
Crimestoppers Trust
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Missing People
National Union of Students’ HSBC campaign

Winner: National Union of Students’ HSBC campaign
The National Union of Students, a non-profit membership organisation, launched its HSBC campaign when the bank introduced interest charges of nearly 10 per cent on graduate overdrafts for anyone graduating from 2007 onwards.
The NUS estimated the move would cost students £20m in the first year and might prompt other banks to follow suit. The charges were introduced without notice during the summer, when students were away from their universities. The NUS decided to run the campaign on the social networking site Facebook, which is popular among students and permits an instant response.
The site was used to gather case studies and to build support for a planned demonstration outside HSBC’s headquarters. The NUS also offered a toolkit recommending different forms of action that activists could take. Considerable press interest in the campaign’s novel use of Facebook also boosted support.
Despite having no budget beyond the staff time involved in setting up the Facebook page, the campaign gathered 5,000 supporters within two months. HSBC wrote to the NUS to say it had decided to drop the charges and to refund any interest it had already charged. It admitted the campaign had been the reason for its change of heart and offered to give £300,000 to the NUS to carry out research into student life to use as evidence in future campaigns.The victory was covered extensively in the national media.
Ian Leggett, one of the judges, said the campaign was an outstanding example of using the power of digital media to achieve a defined campaign objective. He said: The NUS brought about a major change in corporate policy with a fine understanding of its constituency, with few resources and with stunning effect. It was an entry that proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to win a campaign, provided it is well designed and sufficiently targeted.

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