March 13, 2009

Survey: Firms losing credibility can benefit from better media outreach

Reports of fear and uncertainty surrounding financial service firms increasingly dominate media coverage. It's an additional obstacle for firms already struggling to hang on to their credibility. Journalists say it's a battle some companies are losing but have an opportunity to turn around.

More than 70 percent of financial journalists view the biggest obstacle for financial services firms is to overcome a credibility gap with their constituencies, according to survey results released this week by BackBay Communications, a marketing and public relations firm.

Getting firms to talk is a frustration, respondents say. Forty-eight percent say they can't get firms to communicate - an added headache to finding the time and resources to cover everything, which 47 percent say they can't do. What's more four in 10 journalists say they don't know who to believe.

"With the banking crisis, severe market downturn, hubris and outright fraud dominating the headlines, there is a great deal of fear and uncertainty that needs to be addressed through tangible actions and clear and credible communications," says Bill Haynes, president, BackBay Communications. "All financial services firms, regardless of whether they are having financial troubles, need to adjust their communications to address marketplace anxiety. Those firms that can offer reassurance through words and deeds will be best positioned for success."

Mistake No. 1, according to financial reporters, is failure to communicate newsworthy developments promptly and honestly. The dodgy responsiveness is leading to negative coverage and speculation as to what - if any - actions are being taken in response to the financial crisis.

"Today's corporate communication executives should highlight their company's unique developments and discuss strategies they are using to deal with the economic downturn," says Michael Nowlan, president and CEO, Marketwire, Inc. "Press releases are a very effective way to maintain consistent, credible communications with all stakeholders at all times, but particularly during uncertain times."

Best ways to receive positive coverage:

  • Developing relationships with reporters - 78 percent
  • Having company executives available to discuss industry trends - 78 percent
  • Developing studies on marketplace issues - 58 percent
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