I can hear the loud chuckles and scoffing and see the fire engine red faces already. Over the last few years, news coverage of the banking industry has not been warm and fuzzy –e.g. Wells Fargo – but admittedly, that was the institution’s own doing.
And while politicians have made it popular in their circle to howl “fake news” when something hits print, broadcast, or online media that’s unflattering, some of journalism’s tried and true practices can help banks craft their brand.
In a recent post on LinkedIn, Daniel Dawson, the B2B Marketing Coordinator at Wilmington, N.C.’s SWK Technologies, offered “Three Reasons Why Marketers Should Think Like Journalists,” and we added a couple more to the discussion that can help community banks flourish in everything from vetting their marketing ideas and crafting compelling ad copy to crisis management and attempting to “see around corners” to head off potential public relations problems.
Dawson’s overarching point? “Not all journalists are marketers, but all marketers should possess the basic qualities of a good journalist.”
Here are Dawson’s points in summary. Read his entire post HERE.
- “Marketers should question if their idea is ‘marketing worthy’”: Every reporter has been through this sometimes-painful exercise known as “the story pitch.” That is, taking an idea to the editor and talking through whether the story is newsworthy. Different tests apply to different types of stories. For example, timeliness and impact are critical in breaking news stories, while different factors come into play in a human-interest feature, opinion column, or analysis.
Marketers must go through their own tests, to determine if ad copy, a radio spot, or campaign will be worthy. In those brainstorming sessions, it’s best to talk through whether the pitch will resonate to existing and potential customers. It’s like the adage “Let’s run it up the flag pole and see who salutes it.” You also must examine unintended consequences of an ad campaign. Is there the risk of offending a segment of our audience? And then there are the bottom-line measures: How much will it cost and is the ROI worth it?
- “Marketers should write clearly and concisely.”: Dawson makes a winning point when considering how to craft campaign copy of value: “If there’s a call to action (CTA) it’s apparent what the reader needs to do next and what they will receive in return. Oftentimes, marketers get caught up in their cleverness; they want witty copy and a strong brand voice that delights the audience,” Dawson writes. But then he cautions: “While there is absolutely room for wit and branding in marketing copy, it also potentially dilutes the core message or CTA.” He urges experimenting with wit to get the basics down. For banks, that means finding your voice, like good journalists do. Dawson also recommends a great book that helps in crafting compelling copy, William Zinsser’s classic, “On Writing Well.” Another great tool vital to good writing from our view is “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
An aside, how important can the lessons of those books be to reporters? At my alma mater, Auburn University, aspiring journalists are required to take an introductory course in which “The Elements of Style” is one of the required texts. Students are tested on the text, as well as spelling and Associated Press style. During my college days, a passing grade in that introductory course was an 83; anything less was an “F”. Fail the course twice, and students washed out of the journalism program. The lesson here: Strive for excellence, even in seemingly little things.
- “Marketers should desire to dig deep.”: Dawson’s last point reminds me of an old newspaper friend who worked with a reporter who would one day win journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize.
“The thing about her was that after she had pounded the pavement reporting a story, she was back in the office writing, but never stopped working the phones, continuing reporting to make the story better, deeper, more detailed,” he said. “There was always another source to call, another fact to confirm, another hole to fill.”
The friend shared that his colleague always sought feedback from him, her editor and fellow reporters, making sure she had covered her bases.
Dawson makes the point that marketers need to take the same approach, never settling for the first answer to a marketing problem, always looking for alternatives, always asking the question why something works or doesn’t. Like my friend’s award-winning colleague, dig deeper.
There are two brief points of our own that bankers can take from the news business.
- First, remember timeliness. In crafting a marketing campaign, think ahead, months, even quarters ahead. A rushed campaign is a sloppy campaign. And hurrying to get a campaign on the streets takes away from the time to properly take the steps Dawson laid out above.
And in crisis management, the corporate world is rife with instances when an entity failed to respond quickly to a crisis and that delay dumped gasoline on a raging public relations fire. The lesson here – anticipate, try to see “around the corner.” And when a crisis hits, respond quickly, but thoughtfully. And the best advice? If you make a mistake, own up.
Back to my newspaper friend: Every paper of any size where he worked had a “Nine-One-One” or “Jump” team, ready to roll whenever a major breaking story hit. They had been trained to respond quickly and thoroughly. Have your own crisis response team ready – and a crisis management manual – to respond to any problem.
- Train Your Team: For any crisis, be like the newspaper’s “Jump” squad. Be trained. Know exactly who will respond on behalf of your bank in the event of a crisis. Designate who will be the institution’s voice or voices in such an event. Anticipate questions from the media, from customers, from shareholders and board members and have ready talking points.
Make sure that all employees know who the designated spokespersons are and make clear that only those designees are authorized to speak on the institution’s behalf.
Think of potential questions and craft answers to those questions, so that you speak with a clear, concise, cohesive voice.
After the last 10 years in banking, every bank should have a crisis management plan!
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