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Banker Action Figures? You Never Know…

With more than 80,000 people dead and nearly 35 million out of a job, America is desperate for some good news. 

According to an April 17 McKinsey & Company article, “A leader’s guide: Communicating with teams, stakeholders, and communities during COVID-19,” crises can produce great leaders and communicators, those whose words and actions comfort in the present, restore faith in the long term, and are remembered long after the crisis has been quelled.”  The same, of course, can be said not just of leaders and communicators, but companies and brands.

What’s a great example of a brand “that will be remembered long after the crisis”? Mattel, for its Play It Forward program.

Mattel is “playing it forward” with a new set of “Thank You Heroes” that celebrate the selfless courage of essential workers and first responders. According to the company’s website: “We're talking about those brave souls who carry on doing their jobs despite the risks in order to keep the rest of us safe, secure and healthy. We salute these heroes, and we think they're pretty amazing role models for kids. Let's play their heroism forward by lending a helping hand and sharing a little gratitude.” With each online action figure of the #ThankYouHeroes Collection sold, $15 is donated to FirstRespondersFirst, a fund dedicated to providing essential supplies, equipment and resources for frontline healthcare workers and their families. In another recent promotion, Mattel donated one Barbie Career Collection doll for every doll sold to the First Responder’s Children Foundation, which to date has:

  • Funded more than 11,000 hotel room nights for first responders who couldn’t go home
  • Awarded more than $1 million in immediate grants to hundreds of first responders with financial hardship due to COVID-19.
  • Distributed more than 100,000 FDA certified, surgical grade masks to first responders
  • Paid for funerals of first responders who have died from COVID-19, and
  • Continues a 19-year mission funding college scholarships that benefit children of first responder parents killed or injured in the line of duty.

But Mattel’s roster of superheroes may not be complete.  And here are just a couple of examples.

Like all community banks, Jill Castillas Citizens Bank of Edmond is doing its best to ensure the safety of customers, while taking some innovative steps to maintain the level of service that customers need and deserve. In order to encourage drive-thru use and make it work, the team at Citizens Bank of Edmond “came together and adopted a Chick-fil-A mentality,” Castilla says, “where we use walkie-talkies and tool belts and try to assist customers with our drive through.” With the bank’s new curbside service, customers can actually go on the bank’s website and make an appointment for a particular service, which they can then transact in the bank’s parking lot. “You can not only select the service you need with the day and time, but can also request a particular employee with whom you’d like to meet.”  The bank is also offering limited lobby service by adopting the “restaurant-style” use of buzzers that alert customers to when they can enter the lobby.  One of the beauties of the buzzer system is that, according to Castilla, “the buzzers travel far enough that a customer can visit a downtown shop or restaurant while waiting!” 

And then there’s Zach Turner, who manages the Regions Bank in Ooltewah, Tennessee where as recounted in American Banker’s “Coronavirus through the eyes of front-line bankers,” his bank was faced not just with a pandemic and an economic crisis, but a natural disaster, as well. “As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough of a challenge, seven tornadoes hit the Tennessee Valley in mid-April. Bankers and customers alike faced ruined infrastructure and internet and power outages. Once Turner’s branch got back up and running, his team pivoted to helping customers handle large insurance payments related to the natural disaster.”

As Dave Martin pointed out in his American Banker article, “many banks are deferring payments, lowering rates and often providing additional financing (at extremely low rates) for customers to be able pay the money owed to their own suppliers, for example. These efforts were not brought on by a government edict. In a time in which days matter — and government agencies take weeks to respond — the nations’ banks are standing among the economy’s first responders.”

Do you think Mattel might add a community banker to their action figure collection?  We think they should.  What do you think?

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Leading your Institution in a Time of Crisis

On March 11, 2020, according to the World Health Organization, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) officially reached pandemic status. Corporations, and their leadership, are now faced with a crisis unlike any in our lifetimes. Even the challenges presented by the 9/11 attacks, as devastating as they were, do not equal those faced by America’s business leaders today.

What are the most important characteristics of good leadership in a crisis? Credibility, transparency, and visibility. These may not be all of what’s needed, but they’re certainly in the top ten.

What the leaders of financial institutions must do right now is respond in the way Mayor Giuliani did in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In Paul Argenti’s Harvard Business Review article Crisis Communications: Lessons from 9/11, he describes Giuliani’s response, now legendary. “New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani arrived at the World Trade Center within minutes of the first attack to take charge of the rescue operation. In the days and weeks that followed, he would conduct several press conferences in the vicinity of the destroyed towers, attend many funerals and memorial services, and maintain what seemed like a ubiquitous presence in the city. His visibility, combined with his decisiveness, candor, and compassion, lifted the spirits of all New Yorkers—indeed, of all Americans.” 

The challenge you face now is different and, in many ways, tougher. 9/11 did not create the isolation that we’re experiencing with Covid-19. Predictions have the unemployment rate at 20%, and businesses are closing, complete industries are shutting down. Groceries and medications are in short supply. Schools and daycare centers are closed, leaving many parents to not only try to maintain a household in a tough economy, but care for their children, as well.

If ever there were a time when you should be making use of every social messaging tool you have, this is it.  Keep your members and customers abreast of the important developments that are occurring every day, as well as the products and services that you can offer to help. And use every available tactic to do so:  social posting, advertising, newsletters, email and direct mail. Some institutions are even holding live stream town hall meetings for those who bank with them, giving leaders an opportunity to literally converse with stakeholders.

Financial institutions have a responsibility to keep their customers and members, as well as their families, informed… and more. You also have the opportunity to instill the confidence, optimism, and a sense of shared goals that people desperately need at this moment.

For more information on how BankMarketingCenter.com can help your institution with communicating vital information to both your customers and your associates regarding the Covid-19 crisis, visit www.bankmarketingcenter.com, or contact Neal Reynolds by phone at 678-528-6688 or by email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.