By Beaird, A. H., Jr.; Ellis, Kristi Lamont
ABA Bank Marketing , Vol. 36, No. 2
The romance of the bank robbery has long since gone the way of the stagecoach and Frank and Jesse James--if, indeed, it ever existed at all. The holdup is still around, however. But, as anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of one knows, there is nothing glamorous or romantic about it.
Even when the heist does not involve physical violence, it strikes a psychological blow that can leave employees feeling distressed; customers, apprehensive; and, the community at large, fearful. All this presents a special crisis communication challenge for banks.
Bank robbery currently is going through one of its cyclical upsurges--particularly in small towns and rural areas. For this reason, it's a good time for your organization's management team to create or update a crisis communications plan that specifically addresses robbery, outlining both internal and external needs. Below is a compilation of information as well as guidelines and tips that can help in performing this task.
The year 2003, with its lingering, slightly sour economy, saw a wave of small-town and meal holdups, according to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. While statistics for 2002 and 2003 have not yet been compiled, experts say bank robberies typically increase when the economy is sluggish. According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program), the nation's Dank robberies hit a high of 11,876 incidents during the recession in 1993. After falling back, the figure began to climb again in 2001, reaching 10,150.
Those who rob banks today are often looking for quick money. Many are drug addicts. Though some of these bank robberies and related incidents parking lot purse snatches and ATM ambushes--are violent, most bank incidents, fortunately, are not.
A handy rule of thumb to follow" when constructing any sort of communication plan, crisis or otherwise, is the old reporter's guide to getting the basics of a story--by answering the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? And how?
Now let's translate this to our bank robbery crisis communication plan. We'll go through each category with basic explanations and some checkoff lists. To do so most effectively, we need to start with the reasons for communicating effectively in such a situation--the "whys."
Why? (Reasons for the plan)
Whether your audience is internal or external (and during and after a robbery it will be both), there are always some core reasons for crisis communication:
* To address people's concerns regarding their physical safety.
* To communicate the basic facts of a situation.
* To direct people to a (preferably) single source of further, accurate information.
* To address people's concerns regarding the safety of their material assets.
* To restart or continue business operations effectively and efficiently.
Who? (The plan's audience)
Now that we know why we are communicating (which will also help us later in crafting an appropriate message or messages), we need to know to whom we are talking--in other words, our audience. While some audiences will need immediate, one-time attention during any sort of crisis, others may have ongoing communication needs that must be addressed.
The second element of "who" is to maintain the confidentially of bank employees and other innocent people involved in the incident. This is important for their safety. When making a public statement, for example, you should refer to a "teller" or a "security guard," and not to Bette Davis, teller, or Harvey Wallbanger, security guard. Now let's cover the realm of audience possibilities connected to a bank robbery:
* Bank employees.
* On-premise customers.
* Off-premise customer.
* Law enforcement officials.
* Media. …