SOURCE: Marketwire and BackBay Communications

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Marketwire and BackBay Communications

March 17, 2010 08:15 ET

Financial Services Firms' Reputations and PR Challenges Explored in Second Annual BackBay Communications and Marketwire Survey

Journalists Say Financial Services Companies Need to Rebuild Trust and Overcome Credibility Gap

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - March 17, 2010) - Financial journalists say the finance industry's reputation has declined over the last year and financial services firms need to overcome a credibility gap with their constituents by being more honest and demonstrating they have customers' interests in mind, according to the second annual BackBay-Marketwire Financial Services Reputation Survey.

Of the 107 journalists polled, 83% said the reputation of the financial services sector has declined over the past year, with 59% saying it has declined significantly, and 24% saying it has declined slightly. Reporters blame the decline on the taxpayer bailout of banks and the bonuses paid to Wall Street executives.

The survey by BackBay Communications, a strategic marketing and public relations firm focused on the financial services industry, and Marketwire, a full-service newswire and communications workflow solutions provider, was conducted from January 15 to February 8, 2010.

Fifty-four percent of reporters polled rated the communications efforts of financial services firms "fair," while 21% said they were "good," 2% "excellent," and 21% "poor."

Reporters say their own industry's effectiveness was only slightly better, with 42% giving journalists a "fair" rating at covering the finance sector, 38% rating themselves "good," 5% "excellent," and 12% "poor."

Most reporters don't expect any improvement in financial services firms' communications efforts in the first half of 2010, with 64% saying it will stay the same, 25% saying it will improve, and 9% anticipating a further decline.

Greatest Financial Communications Challenges
According to respondents, the biggest communications challenges for financial services firms in the next six months will be overcoming a credibility gap with their constituencies (82% vs. 66% in the February 2009 survey), managing crises (33% vs. 57% in 2009), and responding to regulatory changes (49% vs. 50% in 2009). Reporters also said financial firms need to do a better job explaining complex developments in a way people can understand them.

According to respondents, financial services companies have an opportunity to rebuild trust by being seen as honest and credible (74% vs. 69% in 2009), having their customers' interests in mind (64% vs. 58% in 2009) and being financially sound (41% vs. 71% in 2009). Reporters also said financial institutions need to admit they bear some responsibility for the financial crisis, be willing to accept reasonable reform, and educate citizens about the important role financial firms play in facilitating economic growth.

"While last year reporters were focused on the problems financial institutions were having communicating effectively during the depths of the financial crisis, this year's results reveal the extent to which trust has been lost and needs to be rebuilt," said Bill Haynes, president, BackBay Communications.

Difficulties for Financial Journalists
Not surprisingly, in an era when the media are under financial pressure, financial reporters say their biggest challenge is finding the time and resources to cover the news (50%), followed by getting financial services firms to communicate in a downturn (44%), and knowing who to believe (41%).

Unresponsiveness and evasiveness can lead to negative media coverage. According to the financial reporters polled, the most common mistakes by financial firms that lead to negative media coverage include: evasive responses (79%), not responding to calls or e-mails seeking commentary (78%), and failure to communicate newsworthy developments promptly and honestly (73%).

"Because we distribute news, we bridge the divide between news makers and media communities," said Michael Nowlan, president and CEO, Marketwire. "These survey results help us provide more knowledgeable counsel to our financial services clients so they can build better relationships with their journalist constituencies and benefit from more balanced, favorable media coverage -- always important, but particularly so during an economic downturn."

Communications Best Practices
Survey respondents say the best ways for financial services companies to receive positive media coverage is through having company executives available to discuss industry trends (79%) and developing relationships with reporters (76%).

"Relationships and respect are cornerstones of good media relations," said BackBay Communications' Haynes. "Journalists are always looking for competent, trustworthy sources with fresh news and insights to share on their company and the industry, who are also willing to be honest and forthright when their companies are facing difficulties. A strategic public relations firm can help companies identify news, conduct studies, write news releases and papers and make introductions to journalists that will lead over time to fair coverage and enhanced brand recognition."

The survey found e-mail (79%), news releases sent over wire services (51%) and face-to-face meetings (50%), are some of the best ways for financial services firms to communicate with their constituencies.

Personal contacts (89%), direct communications from companies (77%), and commercial wire services (52%), are the primary sources reporters use to identify article topics.

"Journalists confirm that adherence to the core principles of communications -- responsiveness, transparency, access -- have not improved among financial institutions over the past year. This has led to a further decline in overall trust of the financial industry," said Jessica Strange, executive director, media relations, Marketwire. "Financial institutions are missing opportunities to rebuild credibility and investor trust in today's challenging market through appropriate, ongoing communication."

Survey Methodology
The second annual BackBay-Marketwire Financial Services Reputation Survey was an online survey sent primarily to North American financial services journalists between January 15 and February 8, 2010. Of the 107 survey respondents, 88 were from the United States, 17 from Canada, and two from the United Kingdom.

For a complete copy of the study, contact Bill Haynes at: bill.haynes@backbaycommunications.com, 617-556-9982, x224.

About BackBay Communications
BackBay Communications is an independent strategic marketing and public relations firm focused on the financial services sector. With offices in Boston and New York City, BackBay serves companies and professional organizations across the United States, with current clients in Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. Through strategic partnerships, BackBay provides U.S.-based clients with services in Europe and Asia. www.BackBayCommunications.com.

About Marketwire
The only fully integrated North America-based global newswire, Marketwire, Inc. is a full-service partner to IR, PR and MarCom professionals seeking top-tier press release distribution, media management, multimedia and monitoring solutions. Marketwire's customer-centric corporate philosophy focuses on being the best by infusing every aspect of its business with the following core attributes: precision, adaptability, innovation and simplicity.

Marketwire delivers its clients' news to the world's media and financial communities, fulfilling disclosure requirements in North America in compliance with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), and serving as Primary Information Provider (PIP) with the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA). With a reputation for technology leadership, Marketwire offers innovative products and services -- including Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, Dashboard Mobile Financial, News Dashboard coverage reports, exclusive access to networks such as the Canadian Press Wire Network, Easy IR and Easy PR workflow solutions, and more -- that help communication professionals maximize their effectiveness while ensuring accuracy and best practices. Having merged companies (Market Wire and CCNMatthews) in April 2006, and enjoying a combined history of 25 years of service, Marketwire is now majority-owned by OMERS Private Equity, which manages the private equity activities of OMERS Administration Corporation and today has $4 billion of investments under management. The group's investment strategy includes the active ownership of businesses in North America and Europe. For further information visit: www.omerspe.com.

Marketwire distributes the majority of press releases issued by publicly traded companies in Canada and serves more than 11,000 clients worldwide through 20 offices on four continents. For more information, visit us at www.marketwire.com.

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