With all the talk about “fake news” in the past two years, it’s not surprising that many Americans don’t trust what they read in the newspaper or see on TV. A recent report found media to be the least-trusted industry group, with only 42% of Americans saying they believe what they hear, regardless of whether the source is The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Facebook, CNN or InfoWars.
The second-least trusted industry, according to this attitudinal survey, is financial services. Only half of respondents said they trust financial advisors and asset management firms. (Financial services as a whole did slightly better, with a 54% trust level).
The good news for financial firms is that they didn’t lose any ground this year, after several years of increasing trust. This year’s trust figure matched the one from 2017 after several years of improving attitudes toward financial services, fueled, to a large degree, by the success of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which as obtained some the $12 billion in relief for more than 27 million consumers since 2010.
There’s always been the perception that bankers and Wall Street are out to screw the little guy, but the CFPB was perceived by supporters as way to level the playing field. It’s hard to tell if consumer attitudes will be as positive in the future as the bureau’s current leadership seems to be rewriting its mission.
(CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney, who, as a congressman, co-sponsored a bill to eliminate the bureau altogether, has ordered staff to revisit current regulations and delay new ones. He also recently withdrew a lawsuit against a group of online payday lenders which were charging interest rates as high as 950% on short-term loans.)
People Matter More Than Brands
But Wall Street and Main Street are two different places and whatever happens on the regulatory front, it’s important for financial professionals on the front lines to recognize that while individuals may do business with a bank or an insurance company, which they don’t trust, they have relationships with the people they personally deal with in those institutions.
And this presents an ideal opportunity for those professionals, and really anyone in any business who deals with the public, to put a human face on the corporate brand. There are many opportunities to use your knowledge and expertise to further build trust with your current clients and to expand your reach to new ones at the same time.
In the past, becoming a recognized expert was a painstaking and difficult process. Getting your ideas and expertise in front of current and potential clients without looking like you were trying to sell them something was tough. The third-party endorsement that comes from being quoted in a major newspaper or magazine or, even better, on the evening news was invaluable, but the opportunities were limited. That type of coverage is still invaluable but hard to achieve without the support of public relations professionals who have established media relationships and know how to pitch a story to an editor or news director.
If you have the budget for it, professional help can go a long way toward raising your profile in a short time, but there’s also a lot you can also do yourself. (You can find some tips on making the most of your existing content here.)
Show Your Expertise
Social media and the online world can be a great equalizer when it comes your public presence and profile. Every business has a Facebook page these days and Twitter lets you stay current and topical, but to really show your knowledge and expertise, we recommend longer-form writing. Two great outlets for that are LinkedIn and Quora.
LinkedIn, which many people think of as Facebook for the business world, allows you to post content on topics that are important to you and that can showcase your knowledge and expertise, not to mention a bit of your personality. It’s a platform that many of our clients use effectively.
LinkedIn is designed to help users build relationships. Your connections are notified whenever you post something and your three most recent posts are shown as part of your profile. If someone in your network likes your post, they can share it with their network, thus opening up your profile and expertise to a broader audience of potential clients.
The platform also offers lots of help for users to make the most of their content, such as this Content Marketing Tactical Plan. Quora on the other hand is where people go to ask questions about all kinds of topics, many of them financial, and giving good answers can really pay off for your reputation and your business.
Two recent relevant questions are: “What would be a better investment, mutual funds or real estate?” and “I’m 28 years old and haven’t started saving or investing. Is it too late?”
Both of those questions would be real soft pitches to just about any financial professional, but there the types of things that people ask about every day. It’s quite possible to offer an intelligent answer without giving anything away.
Consumer trust is the most valuable currency for financial firms, and really any business. And one of the best ways to gain that trust is by helping your customers solve a pressing problem. You’ve probably already created a lot of content, but may not know what to do with it. Posting content that shows you can do that, without obviously trying to sell anything, takes time and hard work but you probably already have some good content on hand, and it’s an effort that can pay serious dividends over the long-term.
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