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WANTED: Someone who wants to recover the reputation of the financial industry?

November 10, 2008

Had a great meeting with Mark from Purple, where amongst our many tangents off the topic (I enjoy these the best) we talked about what it would take for a bank or financial services firm to regain consumer trust again – esp. today given the economic downturn and scandal in Singapore/Asia around the sale of products linked to Lehmann Bros.

It’s a topic that my CEO, Richard Edelman, covered beautifully at a presentation he did last week talking about how Public Engagement is the future of the PR industry. In short, Mark and I came up with these thoughts about resurrecting the reputation of those firms who should be seen as safe harbours in this economic storm, but are having a tough time:

1. Engage dammit! First rule of crisis communications is communicate clearly, correctly, but most of all constantly. Coke in India is a good example where even in an online crisis, you should look to make friends of perceived enemies as quickly as possible.

2. Do something to give people confidence. While I understand why the Monetary Authority of Singapore has dragged on this issue, countries such as Australia and New Zealand have allayed may people’s fear by saying they would guarantee in bank accounts. It’s all about showing that things are under control and that a brand has the sense of confidence to succeed despite the difficults.

3. Go on, you know you want to lead! Not enough brands are being visible leaders during this important time. Make no mistake, emerging from the other side of this economic crisis is going to take time, but what I’m not seeing yet is firms who are keen to say ‘here’s what I think what’s going on,’ or ‘talk to me, let me know what will make you feel better.’ It’s a cop out – where are those who have a vested interest in ensuring people continue to have trust (and keep their money) in the system?

Whoever that special someone is (c’mon, surely Obama has got you thinking), who has a single-minded focus in showing people that they care and restoring their faith in the institutions who mean so much – I have no doubt that online will be one of the first means of communication – c’mon, it’s not as scary as you think…

What other things do you think need to happpen? What do you think financial brands need to do?

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