Steven Katz, TransUnion's director of consumer communications, is a rare commodity - a finance expert who is easy to understand.
From mortgage issues to identity theft, consumers are hungry for credit-related knowledge. With his talent for clear, straightforward communication and insight into consumer credit concerns, Katz has helped land nearly 220 million consumer-specific media impressions in the US so far this year.
"We're in the news virtually every day," he says. "The relevance we can have in consumers' lives is significant. I'm here to empower through education and access."
The Rosen Group handles consumer PR specific to TransUnion's TrueCredit.com in the US and TransUnion.ca in Canada. GolinHarris is its global agency handling b-to-b and consumer efforts beyond the Web sites. Media relations have been refined and expanded since Katz joined in 2005.
"Whether with mortgages, refinancing, credit-card issuance, or fraud and identity theft, we use [consumer experiences] to develop relevant media relations efforts," says Katz. "Then we [can] educate and drive [the audience] online to learn more about credit and access tools."
The latest development is the mortgage crisis spread from the subprime market into the broader market. TransUnion's message is consumers need not have a subprime loan to worry about credit.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine contributing editor and "Ask Kim" columnist Kimberly Lankford reports that consumer credit issues are among the most frequent topics readers ask about.
"Someone who can explain things is very important to me," she says. "Readers are craving any information [about credit reporting]. It's complicated. Some of it is secret. Steve doesn't dodge - he answers and explains. It's not spin, and [it's] not just trying to promote his company. [He] stands out from a lot of PR people. He knows exactly what we're looking for."
Significant consumer experience (both in-house and agency) provided Katz strong branding and consumer insight.
Arriving at TransUnion, he faced "the perception issue" about the credit industry's lack of transparency and consumer contact. A consumer tendency to only talk about "the credit they were declined" also made it challenging to build positive buzz about credit and credit reporting companies.
"Historically, TransUnion [did not] have a lot of consumer awareness," says Mark Marinko, TransUnion's EVP, consumer services. "[Steve is] very good at [knowing] what consumers are looking for. And, he doesn't just say, 'Here's the problem.' He has the fix. He's taught [many] of us that it's not just about selling products. You can't push product to someone who is not educated. [Educating consumers] benefits the whole company."
Lucy Duni, director of marketing for TransUnion's TrueCredit.com, credits Katz with helping the company build relationships with top consumer finance reporters. "He can talk to anyone about these topics," she says. "He makes messages very clear."
New efforts include the launch of TransUnion's TrueCredit.com Insurance Scores, which helps consumers better understand how insurance companies view them. Between May and August, the effort garnered more than 30 million media impressions and contributed to approximately 200,000 online unit sales. A new, exclusive fraud and identity theft tool also launches this month.
"We have the goods to back up what we're trying to tell people," Katz says. "I enjoy being part of a global company in an industry that's working to help people. [People's] dreams to buy a home, car, [or pay for] college [are] important. Credit reporting makes it possible. It facilitates millions of credit transactions across the globe. That makes coming to work every day worthwhile."
Director of consumer communications, TransUnion
Principal, Point Z Consulting
SVP, Porter Novelli
Managing partner, Market Access Group