Banks Should Manage Relations with the Media

Article excerpt

Banks Should Manage Relations with the Media

MANAGING THE MEDIA relations program at most banking institutions is too often simply a matter of reacting to news media requests and occasionally disseminating a news release on a noncontroversial subject.

Seldom does it consist of a program with planned objectives and outcomes. One reason for this approach is that bank management has limited understanding of the ability of the media relations function to be an integral part of the business plan of the institution.

Another reason is a general tendency on the part of banks to downsize the functional area simply by adding it to another major responsibility, such as advertising, or to locate it at a lower staff level. In either case, it is a miracle if the bank discovers that the media relations program could have a major role in the bank's business plan.

Planning an effective media relations program involves recognition of the potential of a program and providing adequate resources for its execution.

For a banking institution to have a strong media relations program, the following must take place:

The bank must develop a workable philosophy about media relations.

An analysis must be done of strengths and weaknesses as the bank relates to the news media.

Goals, objectives, outcomes, tasks, and expectations must be agreed upon and committed to in writing.

A platform must be developed to which the media program adheres.

A spokesperson program must be put into place in which the bank determines which trained executives speak on what subjects.

A program must be developed for managing the function's day-to-day activities, such as handling inquiries and distribution of written or electronic news releases.

The feedback mechanism must be developed that measures the media's activities against goals and suggests improvements.

A Workable Philosophy

The two most important factors of any media relations program are credibility and accessibility. Being credible with the news media personnel is the most important.

Most banking institutions inherently have a strong measure of credibility by the nature of their business. They lose credibility, however, by the way they deal with news media personnel. Elephants, financial analysts, and news media personnel have long memories. It may take five years for an institution to live down sins of commission and omission that occurred years before.

Integrity is the anchor of effective news media relations. Because it is important, it is worth fighting for and defending. Any compromise of integrity means loss of credibility with the news media.

The best media relations program is built on openness and honesty. As every news media relations professional knows, in a firefight involving thorny issues these principles are difficult to defend and maintain.

Linking Bank, Media Plans

Develop a news media plan within the bank's overall plan. The media relations activity is a supportive element to the corporation's business plan. The media plan can be designed to fit what the bank decides that it needs to be-- a community bank specializing in agricultural lending, a mid-size bank dedicated to medium-size companies, a regional bank with balanced commercial and retail emphasis, or a money center bank with international, corporate, or middle-market aspirations. …