Community Banking PR Can’t End with Free Gas

Made me grin last Friday: this article from Chattanooga, TN, detailing a popular “free gas” effort sponsored by local community banks.

Not local community bank. That would be banks. Plural. This was done across the U.S., in 20 cities, highlighting that community banks can be a vibrant part of their communities.

Banks have a public image problem that as an industry extends down to community banks. Credit unions gain, it’s thought, because the public believes that credit unions are member-driven, while banks, since they’re shareholder-owned,  don’t necessarily care about the customer. Of course, if any bank is worth it’s salt, it’s going to think of the customer first, but the fact remains – in the view of the public, if credit unions are Jimmy Stewart, then banks are seen as an industry of Potters.

It shouldn’t be this way. Sure, it’s easy to rag on the big banks, but many community banks are as invested in their communities as any credit union. Anyone that’s served on a local civic or non-profit board will likely attest to the vibrant role bankers often play in the communities in which they live.

This is an industry issue folks. And events like offering “Free Gas” – where community banks, despite being competitors, team up to educate the public that community banks can focus on the “COMMUNITY” – are a good way to boost public perception. But it cannot be a one-shot deal – the news in the papers on  the latest “big bank” scandals aren’t going to stop, and unfortunately, when the general public sees the latest bank fiasco in the news, they lump the industry together as a whole, big banks on down.

So get creative and think strategically. How can YOUR bank further reach out to the community (or team up with the competition to do so)? How about a financial education booth at the local career fair? Or turning your bank’s Facebook page into a community resource, like First Niagara Bank? Think about what will be right for your bank and your community, and commit to it. People want to trust their bankers – but bankers have to create that trust.

In the news:

Safest banks in the World? U.S. doesn’t even make the top 25.

Credit unions raising fees too.

BofA eliminating more branches to “streamline expenses and better serve customers’ changing banking habits”.

What’s Hot – and What’s Not – in financial marketing.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Half-Baked Marketing = Missed Opportunities « Heart of the Matter

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