It took us billions of dollars in bailouts, destroyed public trust, and over a decade of cleaning up, but the economy is strong again. That doesn’t mean that the financial industry should get too comfortable.
Last year’s Federal Reserve stress tests were done to establish whether banks have enough capital to survive another financial crisis, and they came back with interesting results. For one thing, Goldman Sachs reported different results than the Federal Reserve and issued a flimsy statement to explain the discrepancy.
Conversely, Wells Fargo, who sailed through the Fed’s test, has been running a campaign aimed at “Earning Back Your Trust”, in which the company acknowledges the fake account scandal and explains what they have done internally to correct the problem since the incident a few years ago.
These tests and trials almost force financial companies to be transparent. Almost. There’s no way for the public to know the whole truth, meaning not much has changed from a decade ago as far as the average consumer is concerned. Economists are warning of a slow down in growth, and experts are confirming an impending financial downturn.
Anyone in financial services needs to take the federal, banking, and consumer reactions to the market crash into account before forming their PR strategy. To build a crisis-ready strategy, look to The Three T’s:
Truth—PR was born to manage crisis situations. Honest communication between PR practitioners and your company limits misunderstandings. If the PR agency knows what is going on behind the curtain, everyone will be better prepared to respond quickly to a crisis—whether it’s your company on the chopping block, or spillover from someone else’s scandal.
Transparency—The financial crisis was bred from investments that looked desirable but were rotten at the core. Since profits were good, no one questioned the stability. Today, people are skeptical and can do their own research on how and what to invest in. Customers now expect and demand that financial services companies list their fees up front without making them chase the numbers down. Even after a decade, this is a red flag maneuver for many consumers.
Trust—Bailouts eroded public trust of both the government and financial institutions, leaving the impression that the government cared more about the banks than the unemployed. It didn’t help that there were no real consequences for any of the bad actors–the only ones who really suffered were the consumers. Despite how good services are, if customers lose trust in what a company is presenting, they will look elsewhere.
Truth within an organization and transparency with consumers will naturally build trust among your customers. No bank is too big to fail, and a PR strategy focused on The Three T’s should be a part of their recovery plan.
Tony DeFazio is an accomplished public relations professional and entrepreneur who has led three agencies. He bootstrapped his first business, growing it through the Great Recession to achieve an exit. He excels at developing narratives and delivering them with resonance and impact to influencers and media around the world. DeFazio is a respected thought leader who has served in leadership positions of industry associations, and was elected President of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Philadelphia Chapter and Heritage Region Board of Directors, representing 17 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West.