OTP Bank Romania is a subsidiary of OTP Bank, the largest independent banking group in Central and Eastern Europe. The group invests heavily in corporate responsibility programmes across the region, but did not yet have a CSR platform in Romania. To mark its five year anniversary in 2010, the bank asked Porter Novelli to help it develop a long-term social responsibility programme that would have a real impact on the people of Romania.

The team came up with the idea of a campaign to help the development of the country’s children by giving them better access to books and reading, and the Right to Read campaign was born. Its aim was to supply every primary school in a rural area of Romania with enough books to create its own library. OTP Bank prides itself on its excellent customer service, and the management team loved the idea as it would take that service to another level by helping to improve the lives of its customers and their communities. The initiative was supported by research showing that pupils in rural areas had very limited access to books, as there are few libraries in villages. Not only was the skill of reading dying, but children were missing out on a crucial element of their education and development.

The specific objectives of the campaign were:
• Donate carefully selected book and appropriate furniture to create libraries in 20 rural schools recommended by the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports
• Get the public to support access to reading by asking them to donate books, and put children’s education on the public and media agenda
• Collect donations of at least 15,000 books throughout 2010 to allow for the installation of at least 15 additional libraries
• Get at least three opinion leaders to back the campaign.

Strategy and Plan

Porter Novelli persuaded the Ministry of Education to support the campaign, and to identify the communities with the most urgent requirement for children’s books. The campaign needed to get the public involved in the case, and make them aware how children in rural areas were desperate for books and other school materials.

The target audiences were school children, teachers, and local authorities in rural areas; the wider Romanian public; other interested parties, including publishing companies and NGOs, opinion leaders, and the media, with a focus on education, business and glossy magazines.

The key messages were:
• ‘Let’s give them back their right to read’
• ‘Reading gives future generations a complete education – donate a book!’

Book donation points with campaign posters and flyers were set up in all 106 branches of OTP Bank in Romania, as well as Humanitas Publishing’s 16 public libraries and at the Bookfest and Gaudeamus book fairs. Some book shops also hosted book collection points, and three leading publishing houses - Meteor Press, Diverta and Eminescu – donated up to 100 books each.

The team set up a Right to Read Facebook page, a website (www.estedreptulmeu.ro), and channels on YouTube and Flickr.

Media partnerships were formed with TV stations (Antena 1, Antena 2 and Antena 3), print media (Jurnalul National, Felicia, Good Food, Top Gear, Good Homes, Financiarul, Saptamana Financiara, Confidential), Europa FM, and the online Intact Media Group. The team also asked prominent Romanian bloggers to write about their favourite childhood book and the importance of reading.

Four opinion formers became ambassadors for the campaign: Marius Tuca, a well-known journalist, who became a key advocate of the message ‘it is time to give children access to reading again’; Romanian actor Marcel Iures, also know as the voice of Europa FM radio station; celebrity Dani Otil, who announced that he would donate 250 books to needy children through the Right to Read campaign; and poet Nina Cassian, who agreed to launch her new book on Right to Read’s launch day, 1 June 2010.

The media and stakeholder relations activity was supported by television, radio, and print advertising, plus advertorials. All materials carried the Right to Read logo.

As the books were donated, events were held in schools across the country to create their new libraries. Media group Edipresse was invited to help install two libraries in Buzau county, and a students’ association volunteered to install libraries in two schools.

Results and Outcomes

The initial target was to collect enough book donations to create libraries in 20 rural schools in the first phase of the campaign, and a further 15 during 2010. Right to Read has been so successful, however, that it has already had a much bigger impact on Romanian children: in total, 53 schools in 18 Romanian counties were equipped with libraries from March to December, giving pupils access to a range of books for the first time.

In a relatively short time, the team made a huge number of people aware of how disadvantaged school children are in rural Romania. The campaign really resonated with the Romanian people, and more than 30,000 books were donated by the public, publishing houses and other stakeholders during 2010 – double the target. The campaign was so effective that many organisations, publishers and celebrities offered their help without it being solicited.

Right to Read generated more than 150 pieces of print coverage. Around 6.9m people aged over four were reached at least once through the television (more than 60% of the population) and 5.9m people head about the project on the radio. All the coverage was positive, and 90% communicated the key messages. Capital magazine even awarded OTP Bank its weekly ‘OSKAR’ award for the national social responsibility campaign.

Headlines included:
• ‘Donate a book!’ Elle magazine, April
• ‘The right for a better world’ Jurnalul (national daily), May
• ‘To read is your right!’ Look magazine, July
• ‘A beautiful childhood starts with a story’ Mami magazine, August

Blogger outreach led to 225 discussions about books and reading, and more than 32,000 people heard about the project through recommendations on Facebook by opinion leaders and publishers. The Facebook page has 13,150 fans, and the YouTube channel has been viewed more than 1,000 times.

Marcela Grigoriu, the headmaster of Coropceni School, one of the beneficiaries of the campaign, said: ‘Our 198 pupils were more than delighted that they would have their own school library and would no longer have to walk five kilometres to the community library to borrow the books they needed. Thank you from our hearts for this wonderful gift you have made us and we wish you that the new year bring you light in your hearts just as the 500 volumes shine our way to completely new horizons.’

OTP bank marketing director Diana Misa added: ‘Every effort and every idea can become a success if it has behind a strong and dedicated team that understands our philosophy and gives its best to make things happen. The Right to Read programme has become a success thanks to their dedication, their creativity and to the original thinking in this project. The resources and the huge availability of the team were beyond our requirements.’

Right to Read in 2011

The campaign followed its course and kept on growing to even more impressive results. Thus, during this year 20 new schools from the rural environment were equipped with books and libraries.

Following the general objective of the campaign all 20 schools were proposals sent by the civil society mainly through Facebook. The Facebook page currently has almost 18.500 fans and continues to be used as an interface between the campaign and the civil society.

Until august the amount of books donated was of 26.600 thus reaching an overall number of more than 12.500 children in the whole campaign. Another important result comes from the media coverage of the campaign. The Right to Read campaign generated 22 new articles:

Headlines included:
• “The results exceeded all expectations in the Right to Read campaign” Saptamana Financiara, (weekly business magazine), June
• “OTP Bank Romania helps with books the schools in Iasi county” www.iasiplus.ro (news website), May