Advertising only first step in bank's response to crisis

As customers worry about the safety of their money in banks across the country, massive advertising campaigns with reassuring messaging appeared from various companies, including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

As customers worry about the safety of their money in banks across the country, massive advertising campaigns with reassuring messaging appeared from various companies, including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

Ads for Washington Mutual, which was bought by Chase on September 25, say, “We love Chase. And not just because they have a trillion dollars,” and the more serious “WaMu & Chase. Safe & Secure.” Financial guru Suze Orman is featured in ads for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation saying, “You can't lose a penny if your money is 100% FDIC-insured.”

While the immediacy of some of these efforts is to be commended, a catchy tagline or well-known face won't help companies explain the facts to consumers and others who need practical advice and straight talk about their finances. PR, however, gets in close and reaches people. Rather than just putting up a pretty graphic, PR can help companies think strategically about what they want their Web site to say and how to convey their situation to the public and the media.

PR pros can coordinate all outreach efforts into one, centralized, strategic effort, where communications to employees, investors, partners, and the media – from blogs to The Wall Street Journal – receive professional and serious consideration. A PR staff can also help ready executives for the litany of media interviews and other talks the C-suite, or any company touched by Wall Street, will be required to participate in as long as the economic crisis continues.

PR has the unique opportunity to create a dialogue between banks and their stakeholders, asking about the specific issues they are worried about and what they need from their financial institutions. Companies should take advantage of these abilities and the unique opportunity to talk in an effective way to an audience that is clearly paying attention.

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