Out of Sight — Out of Business

A recent research report from The Nielsen Company shows that “out of sight” can mean “out of business” for financial services institutions.

What’s the most effective way to stay “in sight” and “top of mind?” The research indicates that public relations strategies are more likely than advertising to be effective in building consumer confidence in financial institutions.

When asked what factors would increase confidence in the safety and soundness of their financial institution, respondents cited:

  • Reading positive news/features stories in the press, 44 percent
  • Seeing regular advertising for that institution, 25 percent
  • Receiving regular mail or e-mail offers, 25 percent
  • Regularly seeing Internet offers/advertising, 21 percent

The research results amplify the point that the most effective messages are those that are transmitted through trusted third parties or by word-of-mouth.

The Nielsen research on brand confidence was a national online survey of 5,500 U.S. respondents, who were asked questions about their confidence in:

  • The bank where they have their personal checking and savings accounts
  • The company that handles their investments and retirement accounts
  • Their life insurance company

The current economy underscores the importance of marketing via third-party influencers and channels, one of the true domains of public relations. Since unpaid media placements are more credible to buyers, public relations should play a key role in building brand value, especially among high involvement brands like financial institutions.

Are you using public relations to stay “in sight” “top of mind?” There’s never been a better time to consider public relations.

So, What Makes You Special?

Everyone is trying to be different, better, faster, smarter, special.

We believe it’s important to continually challenge your beliefs and business practices to enhance performance and effectiveness for clients. Here are five starting points to help figure out what makes you “special.”

  1. Consider (reconsider) Your Business Model. Has your market experienced significant changes? If so, how has your basic business model adapted to those changes? Consider how the way you do business can be leveraged as a differentiator in your marketplace.
  2.  Examine Your Processes and Systems. Do you have some processes and systems that are outdated? Which ones run so smoothly that they allow you to do something that no one else can do (or do as well as you can)?
  3. Put Your Culture to the Test. Sometimes this is the “most special” factor! Figure out to package it and translate it into a tangible benefit to your customers.
  4. Take Stock of Your Products. Do people still want your products? Are people excited enough to tell their friends to buy them? If not, determine how you can introduce new products, and define the benefits and/or a special way to present them to your marketplace.
  5.  Re-evaluate Your Services. Can you respond faster? Can you provide an enhanced level of customer service? Spend some time studying how you can make your service factor a true specialty of your company.

Now is a great time to bring new life to your company. Do some spring cleaning. Get rid of those cobwebs of how you have always done things. Plant some new seeds right now that you can harvest before the end of the year to gain market share and increase your profit margins.

Avoid Catastrophic Cost

One of the most elusive measures of public relations is the impact of quality counsel and crisis avoidance. One effective method is to examine the outcomes other companies experienced in similar crises.

In one case, A Fortune 100 company faced environmental litigation from the state’s attorney general over a clean-up site. Before taking a position to fight or submit, the company’s lead public relations executive recommended working with the CFO to study peer companies to see how they handled similar challenges and what happened as a result.

The study examined the market capitalization of 10 companies in similar circumstances. It found that the five companies that resolved the environmental issue swiftly saw short-term stock price declines before generating an average stock price gain of 8 percent in the ensuing 12 months. Those companies that chose to either not respond or fight saw an average stock price decline of 10 percent, and some never recovered.

The CEO here decided the risk was too great and chose to negotiate a settlement with the state’s attorney general. The company’s stock price declined for a week following news of the settlement, but rebounded to finish the year with a 12 percent net gain.

This is the kind of value effective public relations can deliver and in terms senior leaders and the board of directors understand.