List of PR Blunders in Financial Sector Continues to Grow

Monday, February 01, 2010 10:15
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List of PR Blunders in Financial Sector Continues to Grow

Executives in the financial services industry undoubtedly think they're getting unfairly pummeled by the media and public. While the industry often takes steps that seem to reflect a basic misunderstanding of PR, some are getting it right.

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There have been a number of PR blunders made by the financial services industry over the past year. They include executives taking private jets to meetings with Congress, as well as news that one institution purchased a $1,200 waste basket while recording a $12 billion loss. While many mistakes have been made, some financial firms are actually getting it right.

One example of ING, the online bank that famously markets its savings accounts. In December, the company announced it was canceling its holiday party and would apply the money toward one mortgage payment for 500 customers. Rather than selecting people randomly, the bank invited customers to submit essays explaining why they were in need. The best thing for ING is this contest not only lent an air of objectivity to the contest, but gave them a variety of personal stories that could be turned into media pitches.

After winning the battle for Wachovia, Wells Fargo took its message directly to the people by launching a new blog emphasizing the tagline "One team twice as strong." By quickly establishing the new site, Wells garnered a variety of positive publicity and was the blog was cited as a great way to increase transparency in the online age.

The common theme behind these campaigns lied in the fact that they addressed current market turbulence head on and used the platforms as a way to build stronger relationships. This is particularly significant because the financial services industry has long been criticized for not thinking like a traditional consumer-oriented company. Although it's unfortunate that it took a crisis of confidence to shake things up, the fact that a transformation is occurring at all shows tremendous progress has been made in a relatively short amount of time.

While the speed of information flow has unquestionably delivered a variety of benefits, it can also be a curse when there are mistakes made. Mistakes that negatively impact a brand can have both real and perceived consequences, making it vitally important that companies think about the potential damage a message can have before they're forced to play damage control.

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