Regulated Storytelling: Building Trust in a Transforming Financial Market

Expert insights for the banking industry.

Sector Challenges

At Nucco Brain, we work with a lot of clients in the financial market and know how hard it is to be both creative and observe the strict industry regulations governing messaging. With trust in the market having plummeted after the 2008 financial crisis, a host of new brands emerging in the sector, and the landscape changing with digital advancements, how can financial organisations use storytelling to keep competitive and relevant while complying with the regulations?

On April 25 2019, we hosted an event on this very topic, focusing on the use of storytelling to build and retain trust in the financial market. Kate Bohn, Incubator and Accelerator Lead for LBG Innovation and Strategy at Lloyds Bank, and Harry Ashbridge, Writer at Monzo, joined our very own Mark Kershaw, Client Engagement Director at Nucco Brain, to discuss how to successfully and creatively communicate regulated messaging within a changing environment. Read on for a summary of their insights.

Regulated Storytelling: Building Trust in a Transforming Financial Market
Regulated Storytelling: Building Trust in a Transforming Financial Market

Changing the Story

As the industry rebounds from the financial crisis, it’s important to change the story, learn from past mistakes and rebuild trust with the public. The language and messaging used are vital. Previously selling themselves as unshakeable, promising to always be successful and never make mistakes, banks set themselves standards so high, they could never deliver on them. Customers consequently experienced a huge difference between what they said and what they did, losing trust in banks. As Harry Ashbridge notes: “You can take years and years to build trust, and then you lose it in a second.” To improve relationships with customers, financial institutions need to be realistic and accountable, to acknowledge they’re not perfect, but they’ll do their best. Things may go wrong; it’s how you deal with them when they do that matters.

Kate Bohn explains that at Lloyds they are returning fundamentally to communicating and delivering on their core values, what they’re really about, keeping messages simple and clear. While there can be fatigue around a single messaging piece, banks need to strip things back, reassess what they’re offering customers, what they really stand for, what promises they can deliver on. The consistency of this simplified messaging also helps build trust. As Ashbridge points out, it’s important for your communications to feel the same across the board: “Your writing is tangible evidence of what your values are for customers and employees. And if there’s a big gap between how you sound in one place and another, people are going to believe that the [worse] version is the true version.”

Communicating Within the Lines
As a highly regulated industry, financial institutions’ communications have to adhere to certain rules. On the one hand, these regulations can be very helpful when crafting messages, ensuring real clarity, transparency, and openness with consumers. This not only helps banks get their messages across well, but also provides them with a safety net. As Bohn explains, if down the line people try to criticise something you said years earlier, “as long as you can reflect ‘this is what we knew at the time’ very transparently,” you can justify your messaging: “the evidence about your decision-making process is very important.” So, through driving transparency in communications, the regulations help protect the banks as well as the customers.

However, the strictness of the regulations can also make communicating harder for banks. Bohn notes that it can be difficult to craft a fun, creative narrative, and that instead of communicating in plain English, by trying to be very clear, you can “end up reverting to overly formal language or overly contrived language”, which simply makes people switch off. Engaging the public thus becomes even more of a challenge. This is where storytelling comes in. Bohn explains “you have to take it away from the transactional” and bring it back to the human story, focusing not simply on the product you’re selling, but on how – through the product – you’re supporting people in creating the life they want to live. Storytelling can help you really engage with the public by transforming your communications while keeping messages clear.

Going Digital
The ever-changing digital landscape has hugely impacted the financial industry, with the rise of new online-only banks and retail branches rapidly disappearing from our high streets. The traditional players now have to compete with the convenience, ease and innovation offered by the newcomers to the market. And with it being easier than ever to change banks, all financial organisations really have to make themselves stand out from the crowd, show consumers how they’re different, why they’re better. They need to tell a convincing, engaging story and get that story in front of people. The digital world is a great platform for that, but it isn’t without its challenges.

As our lives revolve ever more around our screens, Ashbridge explains that banks “have to perform better to catch and hold people’s attention, because the internet’s made everything more entertaining than it used to be.” Competition is fiercer than ever, with banks not only competing with each other, but with the whole stream of content churned out online. As such, the messages you put out are vital: every word matters. You need to tell a story your audience can engage with, not just sell them on a product. You need to be creative.

The scope for creative messaging and storytelling is rife online. The multitude of platforms offers new opportunities for communicating with consumers, enabling banks to share numerous messages through numerous types of content at numerous touchpoints. Mark Kershaw describes how Nucco Brain developed successful digital videos for HSBC and PensionBee, using storytelling techniques to craft creative narratives that both engaged consumers and conveyed information clearly.

The internet also supports ever-increasing personalisation in messaging, with the ability to capture data and categorise people. As Bohn points out: “The individuals that we deal with are inherently different. […] People can be introvert, extrovert, they can like direct messaging” or favour other communication formats. Using data to better understand people, banks can now share messages that are targeted to individuals, engaging them in a style they like. However, Ashbridge emphasises that it’s important not to overdo targeting and personalisation, “fine tuning to the point where you lose the core message.” Of course, being ethical and retaining people’s trust is also essential: data should be used to give people content and information that interests them, not to simply tell them what they want to hear as a means to your own ends.

Storytelling for Success
Rebuilding trust within the regulations is all about being honest with consumers, getting back to the core of what you’re about, and conveying a clear, transparent, engaging message. Done the right way, communicating through storytelling will help you regain public trust and encourage people to let you be part of their story.

Want to learn more? You can check out the live stream of our event here.

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