5 COMMUNICATIONS LESSONS FROM THE BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION
By Lindy Jones, transformation, communication & marketing leader with over 20 years’ experience working at the Director/General Manager level in Australia & internationally for ASX listed companies, multi-nationals and not-for-profits.
The Banking Royal Commission started at Easter time last year and ended with the final report tabled in February this year. While the outcomes are not new, the industry – and the big banks in particular – was dealt a massive reputational blow from the Royal Commission’s exposure of greed, self-interest, incompetence and carelessness at a systemic level.
For financial services communications professionals tasked with crafting messages, managing issues, creating narratives and responding to social and traditional media coverage, the challenge of rebuilding consumer trust has never been greater.
Here are 5 principles of good practice that can ease the way forward:
1. Less is more – stick to the KISS principle. This is one that the regulators have misunderstood for years. The idea that more consumer documentation is better is a gross fallacy, especially in jargon-laden financial communications. I urge comms professionals to master the art of writing economically. Use only the words you need to get your point across. Importantly, this is not about excluding an idea or compromising on meaning, but conveying your intended meaning in the most clear and concise way.
2. Be an order maker not an order taker. Leaders are busy and not always focused on audiences, nuancing or positioning. That’s why we have a job. Don’t wait to be given a brief with key messages. Listen, eavesdrop, go to meetings and read everything so you can answer the question, ‘If I was the CEO, what would I say about x?’ In our ambiguous and complex working environments, we need to think creatively to put order in the chaos and drive the messaging. That’s how we add value.
3. Don’t put lipstick on a pig. Comms (and marketing) professionals need to be the voice of the customer or audience. Resist the pull to be internally-driven in your thinking. If you’re asked to write something that contravenes customer-centricity, speak up and make sure that your messages stay true to the promises of the organisation. To rebuild trust, we can’t afford to fake it till we make it – ever.
4. Keep it real. If there’s one thing I could change in the financial services industry, it would be to give it a human voice. Ban corporate speak and jargon! Write like you talk – an intelligent, empathetic and thoughtful person. Love this infographic that spells it out (source: The Hoffman Agency):
5. Stay agile. The first thing I’m often asked to do in a new role is to develop a comms plan. Reality is that pre-prepared, inflexible, linear comms plans are so last year. Comms professionals still need planning disciplines but you also need to be nimble, fluid and agile in when and how you deliver your messages.
Financial services is full of unnecessary complexity and confusion. Communications professionals can play a significant part in relating to customers and other audiences in an authentic, human and clear way. Sounds simple, but as always in this industry, not easy.