The Public Affairs Awards 2017
In-house Professional of the Year
The 2017 Public Affairs Awards are dedicated to celebrating the best work that the Public Affairs industry has to show. As Media Partner, PubAffairs is contributing to reward excellence by showcasing winning entries in a number of categories.
The below entry is Fergus Campbell's submission in the In-House Professional of the Year category. Click here to view the full list of winners.
Fergus Campbell, Head of PR, Gumtree
Appointed in May 2016, Fergus Campbell is Gumtree UK’s first Head of PR. His appointment represented a significant shift for the business in taking a more pro-active approach to media, political and stakeholder relations to meet the emerging needs of the business.
Over the past year, Fergus has had an enormous impact at Gumtree. He has developed an agenda-setting approach to external communications and thought-leadership, focused on building Gumtree’s brand, tackling misperceptions of the company and contributing to overall business growth. He has also overseen a significant increase in investment in to the department, and has recently been promoted on to Gumtree UK’s Extended Leadership Team.
The context facing Gumtree in 2016/7
Gumtree is the UK’s largest online classified platform. The site hosts over almost two million adverts at any given time and receives between 14 million and 19 million unique views from the UK’s internet using population each month.
Gumtree’s size means that it has become a core part of the UK sharing economy and, as a consequence, attracts heightened scrutiny from stakeholders and government, and media attention. Gumtree also host classified ads regarding jobs, homes, second-hand goods and even the rehoming and sale of pets. These are sensitive markets that, on occasion, have attracted criticism from political decision-makers and negative coverage in the media.
These complex areas have not historically been fully presented or understood, leading in some instances to a misperception about the brand which had the potential to negatively impact Gumtree’s reputation, and the willingness of consumers to use the site. Redressing and remedying this misperception has been core to securing Gumtree’s long-term future success.
A new approach: improving online trust and safety
Within this context, Fergus has developed and implemented a comprehensive programme of communications activity. This has explored the issue of online trust and safety and demonstrated how people can avoid falling victim to a scam or a fraud.
This approach marked a radical departure for Gumtree, which despite having operated in the UK for 17 years, and being owned by eBay Inc since 2005, had previously not actively sought to engage with these issues through public affairs campaigning techniques.
The new strategy developed by Fergus sought to:
- Place Gumtree on the front-foot as an online classified platform in terms of informing the debate and tackling online fraud and scams;
- Enable Gumtree to put instances of online fraud and scams into a broader context regarding the sheer scale of activity that is being facilitated;
- Use the issue of online trust and safety to build extensive relationships across key stakeholder groups to generate support for Gumtree and advocates for its positive role in the UK sharing economy.
This work has coalesced around Gumtree’s Psychology of Scamming report. This is a ground-breaking piece of research, commissioned and devised by Fergus. The research brought together academia, industry and law enforcement stakeholders along with a reformed scammer exploring the behaviours that underpin:
- How and why fraudsters scam people;
- How and why consumers fall foul of online scams.
This research has been instrumental in enabling Gumtree to shape the debate on online trust and safety. The report has identified a gap in the research and policy landscape. Through this report, Fergus has enabled Gumtree to position itself as the leading and authoritative voice within the sector.
Achievements of the online trust and safety campaign
The online trust and safety campaign devised by Fergus has proved to be a landmark programme of work for Gumtree.
Its main achievements have been:
- Contributing to Gumtree’s wider brand update and refresh. Taking a proactive approach to the issue of online trust and safety has played a central role in the successful launch of Gumtree’s professionalised brand update;
Facilitating extensive engagement with key stakeholders and policymakers both during the research stage of the report and following the report launch. The Psychology of Scamming project has provided opportunities for Gumtree to meet, brief and build relationships with:
- Tech and sharing economy industry groups and experts (including Sharing Economy UK; Digital Catapult);
- Police, fraud and law enforcement agencies (including Action Fraud; National Fraud Intelligence Bureau; National Crime Agency);
- Key policymakers (including ministers and officials at the Home Office; Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).
- Facilitated stronger ties and involvement in key industry groups such as Safer Jobs, Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group and Pet Advertising Advisory Group. This has led to recognition in Parliament by ministers highlighting Gumtree as an example of an online platform doing the right thing;
- Created a platform for Gumtree’s voice to be heard more readily on relevant policy issues, including the developing Digital Charter, internet safety strategy and the Home Office’s Joint Fraud taskforce;
- Increased joint working with law enforcement agencies to push for e-commerce fraud to be placed higher up as a police priority;
- Achieving greater differentiation from competitors in the online classifieds space by positively engaging on the challenges facing the sector.
Gumtree UK has sister sites across the world as part of the wider eBay Classifieds Group. Fergus’s work has been watched closely by contemporaries in other counties as a template for effective, proactive campaigning to secure wider business objectives. Fergus has achieved recognition across the Group for tackling business critical challenges through an innovative approach to communications.
Fergus is a highly experienced PR, marketing and communications consultant, having worked at senior level within the PR agency world before taking up the newly-created role at Gumtree in early 2016.
- Head of PR, Gumtree UK (2016 – present)
- Executive Director, Golin (2011-2016)
- Senior Consultant, Blue Rubicon (2007-11)
- Marketing Manager, ABC Media (2006-07)
- Marketing Executive, Newsworks (2003-06)