Media relations is key to aid financial companies' image

On March 18, American International Group (AIG) CEO Edward Liddy faced the slings and arrows of an angry Congress that was further emboldened by the public outrage over the latest news that the insurer doled out millions of dollars in bonuses to those essentially responsible for the company's near collapse.

On March 18, American International Group (AIG) CEO Edward Liddy faced the slings and arrows of an angry Congress that was further emboldened by the public outrage over the latest news that the insurer doled out millions of dollars in bonuses to those essentially responsible for the company's near collapse. Each day the company edges closer to the point of no return, where no amount of communications will be able to save its reputation.

Financial service providers are notorious for keeping mum about many things, including their PR and marketing plans, but the time to break tight-lipped habits is now. Financial service companies can serve themselves, journalists, policymakers, and the bailout-funding public by using their communications resources to stem the tide of frustration and anger coming at them from all sides.

PRWeek recently wrote about a survey conducted by and Marketwire that showed most reporters feel they don't get information about newsworthy events from financial institutions. At least seven in 10 reporters said the biggest mistake leading to negative coverage was evasive responses, dishonest and late replies, or no reply at all.

As the recession grinds on, financial service companies must provide a constant stream of honest and accurate information about how they're working to get their companies and the economy back on track. Media relations can be critical to those companies that need to get word out that they are doing all they can to use public money wisely and rectify the nation's grim financial situation.

Changing perception should be among financial companies' highest priorities. Maintaining regular communication with media will help them get there. It might be too late for AIG, despite the legions of communications support at its disposal. But for others in this industry, there are reporters nationwide sitting at their desks, waiting to add those forthright and truthful comments to their stories.

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