The criticism in your news analysis piece “Railtrack PR push misses the points” (MW March 12) is based on a shallow understanding of Railtrack’s position. However, Lucy Killgren is right to say that advertising alone is not going to change perceptions of Railtrack or the railways themselves.
Despite the implications of the article, I believe Railtrack knows this – Lloyd Northover Citigate was appointed at the beginning of last year to advise the company on how best to improve its identity. Following our appointment, Railtrack’s key shareholders have been involved in an extensive consultation process. Members of the travelling public have also been interviewed and have contributed to focus groups.
One of the key findings was that Railtrack needs to make its efforts better known, so it can gain credit where it is due for improvements to its facilities and services, but that it should not promote itself too far ahead of its ability to deliver. In other words, communication has to be backed by tangible action. In this context, the new advertising campaign is directly on strategy.
The advertising, however, forms only a part of the communications strategy. We are working with Railtrack on the longer term development of new station branding and signing systems. This will not only increase the visibility and accountability of Railtrack, but also help to create better station environments.
In parallel, a number of tangible initiatives have already been undertaken, including improvements to station security and disabled access. And a significant refurbishment programme is underway to improve facilities at the major stations under Railtrack’s management.
Such work will bring benefits to consumers in terms of better facilities, clearer information and improved customer service. Railtrack recognises that getting the product right is fundamental to the success of any marketing strategy and to improving in its image.
It also recognises that it cannot deliver a modern, efficient, customer-focused company overnight.
I believe Railtrack is “grasping the nettle” and has learned some lessons from other privatised industries both in how to do it and how not to do it. Watch this space.
Lloyd Northover Citigate