When Silence Isn't Golden: Responding to Crises in Financial Communication
Silences are open to interpretations! And such interpretations hardly ever work in the favour of the brands
In the ever-expanding and evolving world of public relations, the crisis seems to be the only constant. With the growth of digitization and easy affordability of smartphones, content consumers are now turning into content creators on the digital media. Although empowering to users, providing an outlet for them to voice out their concerns, the transition has clearly fuelled the growth of unperturbed social media vigilantism. The shift in the paradigm, however, warrants the present day brands to tiptoe across eggshells, with any crack having the potential to be blown out of proportions in the digital circuits.
While such is the current state of affairs, financial communication is a further slippery slope. Dealing with people’s money isn’t easy and on top of that, tech disruptors in the finance sector must answer to multiple key stakeholders, including the consumers, regulators and investors. With different stakeholders tightening the rope and closely observing the space, the field hardly leaves any scope for human error.
Oftentimes, instead of openly embracing the crisis and initiating conversations around the same, brands may tend to stay silent and wait for the storm to pass. However, silences are open to interpretations! And more often than not, such interpretations hardly ever work in the favour of the brands, given the general sentiment of people, typically perceiving financial companies as the animals of prey, luring and feeding off on the hard-earned money of the individuals.
Given the involvement of multiple stakeholders, crisis communication in the finance sector requires a broad-spectrum approach, one that not only placates the aggravated users but also invokes an action on part of the regulators and yet reinstates the trust of the investors. The bullet-proof crisis communication, thus, should pan over multiple stakeholders and cover:
Consumers: Users who have put their money in the brand or its products and services are definitely anxious, and understandably so. Going quietly in the times of a crisis would only beget more anxiety, perhaps leading to ridicule and mass abandonment. Thus, brands must painstakingly persevere to keep the communication channels open for the exchange.
Releasing an official statement is an obvious step to take in such a scenario. The statement must clear the stance of the brand, perhaps articulating the entire glitch and giving a tentative time-frame within which the resolution should be expected. Some reassurance, whatever is within the ambits of the brand, would also help.
In addition to sharing the statement with the respective media outlets and publications, the same can also be put on the social media channels. In fact, brands can further use their social media reach to keep in constant touch with the audience and address their concerns. They may take to Blogging, Twitter Chat, Facebook Live, amongst other mediums, to answer queries and strengthen personalized bonds with their user-base.
The Internal Team: In the times of crisis, the company needs to stay strong as an entity. However, the internal employees comprising the brand may also panic under the scrutiny. Agencies, thus, need to facilitate internal communication, not only to ensure optimism but also monitor any unsolicited situation. Controlling negative communication from within the organization, while sharing continuous updates of the progress with the internal team, is vital for optimal crisis management. Agencies can further help their clients come up with digital boards to provide timely updates, meant at keeping employees in the loop.
Regulators: Reconciling with the regulators is often fraught with challenges, since the authorities may tend to give a cold shoulder and remain quiet. However, efforts should be made to get in touch with the regulators and seek an official reply from the same. Furthermore, these pro-active efforts should be shared with the media and on social channels, in order to win the trust of the publications and the brand’s audience.
Media: In the face of a crisis, winning the trust of the media is paramount. Oftentimes, when clients are only the victims of regulatory or procedural hurdles, they might actually be painted as the culprits in the eyes of the media. Effective crisis communication thus demands a focused media outreach team, leveraging their relationships to communicate the client’s side of the story and hence, neutralizing the reportage. By taking media into the confidence, once can easily avoid further insults to the injury.
Lastly, the overall sentiment conveyed in the stories, especially the ones initiated on behalf of the clients, must carry an optimistic sentiment. This is especially true in the context of crisis management, where otherwise the typical word-of-mouth only goes to induce anxiety and panic amongst the users. Instigating media coverage that would inspire faith and trust in the brand and communicate its efforts towards remaining transparent and ethical would go a long way in not only managing the crisis but ensuring a successful longer haul for the brand.
A first generation Technology journalist, seasoned PR veteran and digital media exponent, Gaurav Patra has explored every aspect of his key strengths through his rich association with the media since the past two decades. He has been brandishing his innate communication and management skills to ably realize his dream of furthering his own entrepreneurial venture from vision to execution. After building a solid base in journalism across leading publication houses like Cyber Media, Media Transasia and Jasubhai Digital Media, he has seen and tracked the rise and shine of the IT industry in India over the last 20 years, lending keen insight and perspective as Assistant Bureau Chief at The Indian Express Group.