January 23, 2014

In 2008 the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was put into place by the U.S. government to help support a staggered financial industry – what the media and the public at large referred to as a “bailout.” Since 2008, America’s larger retail banks have repaid this money – something the public is at least somewhat aware of right?

Think again. TARP’s lasting impact on people’s perception of the financial industry is clear from our latest survey data which found only 4% of the American public believes America’s large financial institutions have paid it back.



So what should the financial industry be doing?

Let’s be honest, it’s too late for an information campaign. No one wants to put TARP back on people’s radar. But the fact that the American public fundamentally believes most large banks and financial companies OWE THEM, can’t be ignored. It’s essential context for what Americans will give the financial industry permission to say and to stand for going forward. A bit of advice for members of the financial industry:


Don’t make excuses.  When you do have to talk about TARP, don’t pass the buck or make excuses. Effective communications acknowledge your role and responsibility when people perceive you’ve done wrong.

Focus on your audience. Because they think they bailed you out – and that you still owe them, you don’t have permission to claim that you contribute to the overall stability and wellbeing of the economy (you’re part of the problem, remember?). They want to hear about how you are contributing to fixing the problems you created—such as helping out small businesses.

Be humble. It’s natural to want to talk about the good impact your organization has or how great a product is—but if you sound chest-thumping, given the context of TARP perceptions, it seems like you are just doing it all to cover up for the bad stuff.  Instead, take the tone of “we are here to serve.”

Listen. Many Americans think financial institutions are tone deaf.  That they are completely out of touch with America and Americans.  As a result, it’s important to demonstrate that you are both LISTENING and HEARING what they expect from you.


Call or email us to see the full data and cross tabs or to talk about how lack of trust in the financial industry might impact a communication challenge on your plate today.  JDahm@maslansky.com at (917) 677-9100.


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