Communicating What Matters – Tips from the Financial Industry Amid Crises

In this unprecedented time of crisis, fear and uncertainty are on our collective minds. Unanswered questions abound, compounding our anxiety levels. Beyond health concerns, millions are watching their jobs and investments disappear. Hope for their financial future is evaporating as rapidly as their 401ks. So, how can financial communicators help?

We all look for reassurance from those trusted to safeguard our finances and investments, but right now, there is little verifiable information available to give. This puts financial communications leaders in complicated situations. They must find ways to safeguard our trust and retain positive customer relationships. This means finding ways of relaying information more effectively. But, how?

Bruce Gemmill, strategic marketing advisor to the American Association of Bank Directors and former senior bank executive, explains the marketing and communication challenges facing bank leaders today. “People need information that allows them to make sound decisions. Banks need to take specific care in not just delivering messages their audiences already know, but also to paint a clear picture for the future and sound an optimistic tone,” Gemmill explained. “When communicating with customers in a crisis, or in peacetime, bankers must design messages their audiences will believe, understand, remember, and be inspired by – otherwise it is just more noise in an already overcrowded messaging marketplace.”

Communication is more than just the transfer of information. It is a tool to help reassure customers that bank leaders understand their needs. Much of the coronavirus communications we’ve received have been sterile or lacked leadership. Explaining the details of a loan product, or suggesting investments could provide information, but will do little to comfort someone on the verge of losing a business, or someone worried about their job, child care, or keeping up with the bills. While it may be impossible to give information, offering reassurance, understanding, and guidance during this critical time is critical.

“You must meet audiences where they are and bring them to where you want them to be,” Gemmill continued. “Information that may be important for the bank to communicate may seem useless and insensitive to customers.”

Financial leaders must look ahead to best position clients for the future. That means planning now and conveying messages that demonstrate reassuring leadership. If you plan for a crisis in peacetime, you should also plan for peacetime in a crisis. What are you doing to be ready?

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