What You Do, Amplified: ABA Program Aims to Build a Better Understanding of Banking

By Bray, Ashley | ABA Banking Journal, November 2013 | Go to article overview

What You Do, Amplified: ABA Program Aims to Build a Better Understanding of Banking


Bray, Ashley, ABA Banking Journal


One of the great frustrations of being a banker is widespread lack of understanding of what the profession is all about. Not the details of the work, but its positive impact. More than simply a lack of knowledge, the situation often results in an unfavorable impression of the industry. This is not a new thing, but it has been aggravated by the financial crisis and its aftermath.

Bankers are open to constructive criticism, but the steady drumbeat of negative opinions has had very real consequences in terms of policymaking.

ABA has been aggressive in pushing back against misinformation, yet the association's leadership felt something more was needed--an ongoing effort.

Out of this was born Amplify, a far-reaching program to ensure that what banks do is better understood by policymakers and consumers. The program was launched at the ABA Annual Convention last month. It is not an advertising campaign, nor is it a short-term fix. As the name implies, the program's goal is to build the process and structure to support an ongoing, from-the-grassroots effort, in which banks themselves--along with the ABA and the state bankers associations--get the word out about what they do.

"We chose the word 'amplify,'" says Stephanie O'Keefe, ABA's executive vice-president of communications, "because we weren't going to create new things--we didn't need to. The work that banks do and their community leadership speaks for itself. We just need to amplify that."

Survey suggests four themes

The decision to create Amplify came together following the results of a public opinion survey commissioned by ABA. "It's always good to survey the public about your own industry to determine where you stand," observes James Ballentine, executive vice-president of congressional relations and public policy at ABA.

The survey found that the banking industry still stands in the shadow of negative perception, and that while the situation is improving compared to the past few years, much still needs to be done.

Amplify seeks to continue this improvement, and it begins by focusing on the survey's four overarching points regarding what resonates with customers about banking:

* Banks are the safest place to keep your money.

* Banks make people's lives more convenient.

* Banks have a stake in the economic growth, health, and vitality of communities.

* Your local banker is there to help you through all life's milestone events.

These points became the "Key Messages" tab on the Amplify website (www.amplifybankers.com), a dedicated site that is the focal point and platform for the program.

Six "Take Action" resources were developed to help get the program rolling. These are:

1. SPEAK TO A LOCAL GROUP. This section contains tips on planning a presentation, sample speeches, PowerPoints, and more.

2. ENGAGE THE MEDIA. Resources here include customizable press releases, interview tips, a guide on how to best utilize the media, and more.

3. TWEET YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. Bankers can send tweets and get tips on maintaining a variety of social media pages.

4. SEND AN EMAIL TO CONGRESS. Users can send build a better understanding of banking emails through the ABA system to let members of Congress know about banking issues. Talking points on current issues are offered to aid in email writing.

5. SET UP A BANK VISIT. Inviting an elected official to the bank is the best way to have a discussion on banking issues. This section offers steps on how to plan a visit, sample invitations, a video on ensuring a successful visit, and more. (Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said at the ABA Convention that a visit by CFPB officials to Nebraska's Gothenburg State Bank at the invitation of the bank's CEO, Matt Williams, ABA's immediate past chairman, had proved very useful to the bureau's staff. …

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