Banking on PR

July 29, 2009 at 7:05 am Leave a comment


Rep. Barney Frank

Rep. Barney Frank

The Politico headline says it all: “House Democrats Wage PR War on Banks.”

The core issue is the Obama administration’s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, charged with supervising a broad spectrum of financial products and services. The new agency would strip other agencies of traditional oversight roles including the Federal Reserve and FDIC, putting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (in favor of the agency) at odds with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and FDIC Chair Sheila Bair (best described as having certain reservations).

If disagreements between the executive branch and independent federal agencies don’t prove this issue’s contentiousness, the looming battle on Capitol Hill leaves no doubt. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency pits banks and Wall Street firms against the Democratic Congress and allied groups favoring more government control of the financial industry.

Rep. Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, announced the counterattack on lobbying and PR efforts by financial institutions against the proposed agency. His fellow committee member, Rep. Maxine Waters, vowed to enter the fray as well. She created an indelible image of the financial crisis when given a telephone runaround on “Nightline” while trying to call lenders on behalf of constituents facing foreclosure.

House Dems are joining forces with “Americans for Financial Reform,” a coalition of approximately 200 groups campaigning for “real reform in our banking and financial system.” Coalition members are a who’s who of politically astute and communications-savvy organizations:

AARP: Don’t let the “R” for “Retired” fool you; this is one of most active and powerful lobbying groups in the country. And as America gets older, AARP’s constituency grows.

ACORN: A favorite target of conservatives and the subject of voter fraud allegations, ACORN is an undisputed leader in grass-roots organizing. The symbol of the Internet’s emergence in politics and fundraising, has grown in prominence during the decade and has been called a key factor in the Democrats retaking Congress in 2006.

SEIU: The 2-million member union is a proven master of public and government relations, seen most frequently when it claims the media high ground against management in labor negotiations across the country.

Barney Frank, Maxine Waters and by extension Barack Obama have an A-team on their side in the declared PR war over the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. As for the opposition, PR pro Richard Miles sums up the banking industry’s communications woes in his blog, “edit30,” namely a lack of transparency and proactiveness throughout the financial crisis. They are playing catch-up against an alliance of tough pros who relish engaging the media.

The American public may be taking a deep breath regarding increased government involvement in health care. But as the “Great Recession” continues, the financial industry will enjoy no such pause in the call for overhaul.


Entry filed under: Crisis Communications, Public Affairs, Public Relations. Tags: , , , , .

A CEO Who Gets It 2000 Uses; One Great Marketer

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