By Pawel Tomczuk, MD, Ciszewski MSL Financial Communications
Has the financial crisis hurt the reputation of the Polish financial industry? How are public relations and communications specialists in the country dealing with the new challenges that the crisis raked up? How are social media changing communications strategies? And what is the impact of a CEO’s personality on a company’s image including shares performance?
Polish Firms Have Coped Better Than the Rest of EU
In Western Europe, most PR activities focus on how to rebuild the eroded trust and confidence. Public debates are dominated by regulatory processes such as top management salaries and banking taxes. However, in Poland, the key issue is how to better combine PR with other banking activities: marketing, product development and customer service. The reason for this difference in communication strategies is explained by the results of our recent study ‘Financial Services Initiative’ (PDF).
The study, conducted by MSLGROUP in 2011, was based on over 50 in-depth interviews of key financial industry representatives in eight countries – Scandinavia, Holland, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, including Poland. The interviewees represented both global companies as well as local market leaders.
The findings of the survey showed that, both from business and reputation point of view, Polish firms had coped with the European crisis far better than their Western European counterparts. And this is why their post-crisis strategies are different. The bottom line of our conference was how we can learn from what happened in the Western Europe and US to manage it better when, one day, it will happen in Poland.
Quality of Media
The media panel was led by Dr. Przemyslaw Barbich, advisor to the President of the Polish Bank Association and Head of PR Team. During the panel, journalists from top Polish and international media discussed the latest trends in the financial media sector and the apparent correlations between the quality of media and the economic standing of the biggest media houses in Poland. The speakers unanimously agreed that the key challenge for both media and financial industry is retaining the quality of journalism despite cost-cutting, loss of talent and high attrition due to experienced journalists moving to PR or financial industry.
Social Media Has Raised The Bar
The role that social media play in communications is now being recognized both in Poland and in Western Europe. The dynamic growth of social media has raised the bar for public relations by multiplying the avenues that they will have to observe.
Currently, social media are still treated as a big threat, but, in the longer run, they are considered as communications tool of the future. Majority of the companies recognise social and digital media as the future, and understand why they need to become more digitally savvy; and most of them have started small projects to gain more experience and learn how to communicate in this new environment.
A CEO’s Impact
A CEO’s personality has a strong impact on all stakeholders’ opinions. Amongst Internet users, the most frequently mentioned name is the head of a bank or insurer. During the discussion, the results of a survey carried out by Instytut Monitorowania Mediów (Media Monitoring Institute) on how the CEO influences the image of institutions he or she represents, were also shared. Read the survey here.
Media Sensitivity & Crisis Management
In the final panel, the directors of PR departments of two of the largest banks in Poland and CEE – Elzbieta Anders of PKO Bank Polski and Robert Moren of Bank Pekao as well as Michal Witkowski of PZU Group, largest insurer in CEE – discussed the latest trends in media and communications in the country.
There is a heightened sensitivity amongst the public to news from the financial sector in current times, according to the panel. Leading the discussion was Jerzy Ciszewski, CEO, MSLGROUP CEE, who pointed out the rising need for PR professionals, along with their increased responsibilities. The panel also discussed crisis communication and how much of it is based on proactive, planned steps and how much is reactive. Finally, the panellists agreed that there is an urgent need of proper financial education in the society and that this is something for which the whole sector should feel responsible.
Pawel Tomczuk is the Managing Director of Ciszewski MSL Financial Communications. In his role Pawel is responsible for managing the largest financial communications consultancy on the Polish market, focusing on investor relations, financial industry, professional services, and real estate sector communications.