Tuesday, May 19, 2009
How banks are handling the current crisis
It’s no secret right now, but we are in the middle of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. That’s obvious, right? So how is this impacting financial institutions and what are they doing to uphold their brand image?
First, let me give you a background on me. I’ve worked in the financial industry for the past five years and have an educational background in public relations and marketing. I currently work for a Top 10 U.S. financial institution. While I don’t claim to be an expert on anything in the financial industry, I feel I have a solid understanding on how things work.
From here on out, I’m going to refer to various banking institutions and financial companies as simply “financials.” Please note that this is referring to the company, not their actual “financials.”
What’s your opinion on financials right now? Pretty negative I would assume. And rightfully so. After all, they’re lying, misleading, stealing money from the government, etc. However, despite the economy going down the toilet, a lot of financials are doing great things from a PR stand point.
One thing you need to remember is the level of regulation placed upon financials. It’s this scrutiny that limits what a financial organization can talk about publicly. They have shareholders to protect, their brand, their consumers. Public or private, PR for financials is quite difficult.
With that being said, other than a few of the bigger financials (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan), a lot of the financials are taking a more reactive approach. Normally, this is not the approach one should take, however; it’s appropriate in this instance. Keep in mind, this isn’t a traditional crisis communication plan that financials are utilizing. Again, protecting shareholders, brand image and consumers is the number one priority.
This isn’t to say that financials shouldn’t be proactive during the crisis. Managing your reputation and promoting your products and services is still vital for an organization’s success. Financials should still be continuing their traditional marketing and communication plans, but also realize that the coverage may not be what it normally would be in more traditional circumstances.
Like everything PR, the big push for financials is social media. A number of companies are actively engaging and building an online community. A few that come to mind are Bank of America (@BofA_Help), Wells Fargo (http://blog.wellsfargo.com/) and American Express (http://www.openforum.com/). Used primarily as a customer relations tool, financials are finally realizing that reaching their respective communities is requiring a non-traditional approach. Like traditional PR, though, Web 2.0 is pretty tricky for financials due to regulations.
Overall, I think the majority of financials are doing well with their PR. There are certain topics that they can’t avoid - TARP, but these topics are also ones that shouldn’t be avoided. You’ve heard it before, but these are unprecedented times. Money is the backbone of our society (that’s another story) so managing the reputation of
financials is critical to their future existence.
What are your thoughts? How do you see certain financials? What do you think is going well? What needs to be improved upon?
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