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How To Communicate During a Crisis

230602 Crisis Communication Blog

‘Silence is the worst because then people will assume and make up their own judgments of what is going on.’

When banks started failing in March, thousands of healthy banks found themselves in a quandary: What to say? How to say it? Do we say anything at all?

If crisis communication wasn’t already top of mind, it got there fast. American Banker spoke with banks of varying sizes about how they handled the crisis. Here's a breakdown of the lessons learned.

Transparency, Not Panic. Banks that decided to make a public statement on the liquidity crisis walked a fine line between sharing information and sounding alarms. A confident and fact-filled message that reassured customers of the bank’s strong liquidity position worked for Seamen’s Bank in Massachusetts, CEO Lori Meads said. “I didn't want to come across as alarmist,” she said. “Silence is the worst because then people will assume and make up their own judgments of what is going on.”

Always Be Prepared. Ideally, banks already have communications strategies in place for a wide variety of crises, from the more common to the cataclysmic, so they aren’t left scrambling. “It’s the stuff you haven’t been through recently that you need to think about,” said George Morvis, president of a financial services consulting firm.

Email Is (Not) Dead. A 2021 survey from strategic communications firm Pinkston shows that a high number of customers actually do read communications from their banks. And email was the preferred vehicle for more than 60% of respondents. Text messages/phone calls were a distant second place at around 40%.

Educate Employees. Even if a bank decides a statement is not in its best interest, that doesn’t mean customers won’t ask questions. Therefore, staff at all levels and at all locations need to be well versed on a variety of topics, even down to the bank’s capital ratios and investment strategy. “If employees are feeling confident in what they are saying to customers and understand it, it just further promotes reassurance to the public,” Meads said. 

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