Thursday, January 22, 2009

How do you combat negative headlines?

MERRILL CEO’s DECADENT $1.2M REDECORATION. . .Thain forced out of BofA
Huffington Post - Jan. 22, 2009

Banks Foreclose on Builders with Perfect Records
NY Times – Jan. 19, 2009

Bailout is a Windfall to Bank, if Not to Borrowers
NY Times – Jan. 17, 2009

Loss of confidence in banks causes huge shifts in deposits
USA TODAY Nov. 11, 2008

The articles that followed those headlines were even less flattering. These headlines and articles could be just the beginning of things to come. . . especially as the public turns its frustrations to the banking community. Bank marketers may not be hit from just the traditional media. The increase in bloggers and new blogs gives voice to a whole new grassroots communications sector. Rather than promote products, bank marketing departments could be hit with the possibility of defending their institutions.

First, I’d be cognizant of what products I was advertising. Right after the foreclosures started raining down, some bank marketing departments still proudly pushed their interest only mortgages with the obligatory disclaimer for a looming huge balloon payment. Were the bank marketing execs asleep at the wheel?

Second, be sensitive to the consumer’s perspective right now. Many are currently angry and it’s NOT business as usual. Even if your financial institution is pure as the driven snow in regards to the financial disaster, you’re being painted with one broad brush. You can’t ignore the situation. Have you seriously reached out to your customers. . . not just with a curt “don’t worry about us” letter loaded with FDIC logos. Keep those valued customers that you fought so hard to obtain updated. Use your consumer newsletter to the fullest. Shoot them an email. But be sure you are giving them relevant information. How about providing good, solid consumer help. . . . such as explaining the loan process, FICO scores or how a couple can have up to $3 million in FDIC coverage at your institution. Be honest. Be upfront. Isn’t it a company’s responsibility to educate the buying public about their products? Now’s the perfect time.

Third, don’t pull back on the budget. Don’t eliminate that newsletter or other advertising. If you “go away”, your customers may also. They could perceive it as a trouble indicator. In the end, if you stay on top of the headlines, you may not be buried by them.

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