How Financial Services Firms Can Master Public Relations to Avoid Risk and Fuel Growth

For financial institutions, navigating public relations can feel like a triple threat with heavy regulations, complex products, and a history of public mistrust posing significant challenges. Any misstep can have real reputational and financial consequences.

But with the right plan in place, financial services firms can use PR to build their reputations, foster trust with clients and improve their bottom lines.

Building trust through transparency

The 2008 financial crisis and more recently the 2023 Silicon Valley Bank crisis have perpetuated negative feelings about the sector and severely damaged public trust in banks and other financial service providers.

To combat that, financial services companies need to work twice as hard as others to establish themselves as trustworthy partners who prioritize their clients’ needs by focusing transparency and accountability.

Make a plan to clearly and consistently communicate your values and goals to clients and stakeholders, and demonstrate a commitment to ethical behavior. Make a point to be responsive to client concerns and feedback, make appropriate changes based on what you learn, and communicate those changes as part of your commitment to clients.

Understanding the rules and regulations around advertising and marketing

Financial services companies operate in a highly regulated environment, and regulatory compliance is essential to avoid penalties and reputational damage. These regulations can be complex and challenging to navigate, particularly in advertising, marketing and PR.

To address this challenge, build a working alliance between your legal and compliance team and the communications department.  Make sure legal and compliance is reviewing PR and communications at every stage. It’s always a good idea to consider additional help from experts in financial services communications and to invest in regulatory training for your in-house teams.

Develop a crisis plan

Like all companies, financial services companies are vulnerable to crises, such as data breaches, scandals, or other negative events. But because they are subject to higher scrutiny from regulators and the public, they may suffer more reputational damage than others, further eroding hard-earned client trust.  

Responding effectively to crises requires a well-thought-out crisis communication plan. Develop a crisis communication plan that outlines the steps they will take in the event of a crisis. Include specific procedures for notifying stakeholders, communicating with the media, and managing social media channel, and conduct regular drills and exercises to test the plan and identify areas for improvement.

Break down complex financial products and services in a simple way

Most financial services companies offer a range of complex financial products and services, which can be difficult for clients to understand. Focus on distilling complex information into consumer-friendly messages that are coherent and concise.

At the same time, invest in content marketing and thought leadership programming focused on financial literacy and education. Make it visual as much as possible by using infographics and videos.

The bottom line

Financial services companies can turn public relations risk into an opportunity for growth by creating a strategy centered on transparency, compliance, crisis management, and clear messaging. Not only will clients feel valued, but firms that adopt this mindset will also attract and retain the industry’s top talent.