There is no doubt that some financial firms are in big trouble right now. However, when a financial giant falls, it doesn't necessarily take down every firm in the industry. My locally owned investment firm in Oklahoma, Capital West Securities, is not only still standing, but also is on firm financial ground. People are scared by the national news, but good communications tactics have eased our client's fears.
I have spent the past weeks addressing the fears of employees, clients, and the media, communicating that my firm is not endangered. As leader of the company, here are some communication tactics I've used to calm the crowds:
Respond immediately and localize the news. For the past month, as news of financial turbulence breaks, I send e-mail updates to a distribution list of employees, clients, and the media. I often comment on where Capital West and Oklahoma stand amid national issues, which gives my employees fodder to calm their clients' fears and the media story ideas for the evening news.
Answer the call... now. When the media calls, I answer the phone immediately. I also rearrange my schedule to take the interview that day. Accessibility is paramount during a crisis, and I understand that the media wants to receive information from a company executive, not the company's spokesperson. Our PR agency gives guidance in messaging, but I'm the one who delivers the messages.
Train employees as messengers. While the media calls me for commentary when news breaks, our clients call their individual brokers. I update the staff transparently and regularly on Capital West's assets and income, so when those calls come in, we can all confidently say we are not in trouble, and we have the numbers to back it up.
Use every platform. While Lehman Brothers made headlines, the Capital West Securities staff was in the middle of planning a client-appreciation event. We moved forward with the event, and I used the speaking platform to strengthen my message. At the beginning of our planned presentation, I spent a few minutes addressing financial worries and reiterating the difference between my firm and those in trouble.
Using a variety of outreach methods, you must repeat your message loudly, clearly, and frequently. If people are talking about troubles in your industry, you need to be part of that conversation – especially if your viewpoint contradicts the national headlines. n
Keith Geary is president, CEO, and chairman of Capital West Securities, based in Oklahoma City, OK.