Financial brands' reputation rests on a willingness to play nice in Washington

Rather than bemoan restrictions and billion-dollar fee reversals, financial leaders ought to consider the value of partnership.

Rather than bemoan restrictions and billion-dollar fee reversals, financial leaders ought to consider the value of partnership. Correcting what's wrong will take thoughtful choices and sacrifice. Forging allies now will help financial brands shift their focus from loss to opportunity. Those who insist on playing the victim face endless, fruitless, and costly policy debates that will prove lethal in the communications war.

Finding common ground is vital and solution-based thinking is the key. As the balance of financial power shifts and Washington forces concessions, brands that fight change risk losing credibility. Brands must reassess and reposition themselves as partners in a process that ultimately rests on consumer approval.

Humanizing communications and offering transparency will be most productive. But how do financial entities put this pride-swallowing game plan in play?

Pick your battles. Some battles, like proving how much revenue you're losing, won't get you far. Involve influentials early and weigh in on policy as it's being made. Successes hinge on mediating conflict, shaping opinion, and building your reputation as an industry leader with a long-term vision. Work with legislators, not against them, adding your voice to the dialogue to create influence.

Do what's right. Recent revelations have put the public on high alert for fraud. Play off this: Confront the elephant in the room with direct responses. Engage your audience. Be committed to transparent, cooperative solutions. Send communications that build confidence that you address issues with integrity and support consumer-friendly legislation.

Tell consumer stories. Washington is captivating consumer interest by telling human stories about a new and better financial market. Financial brands must respond in kind and tell real-life stories about the people they serve. This humanizing approach brings brands to the populace and places messages at their level. Because digital communications democratize information exchange, this strategy isn't negotiable. To stay reputable, financials must connect with their audience.

The battle over financial messaging may continue to spark heat for some time. Recent sparks - and ongoing revenue busting - keep the debate top of mind. As I work with stakeholders and clients, I see a recurring view: To influence the policy agenda, it pays to play nice. Brands that insist on conflict will be worse for wear.

Torod Neptune is SVP and US public affairs practice leader at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

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