Banks results may be good, but they need to gain their customers’ trust

Banks may not be the nation’s favourite institutions, but the latest PRmoment research indicates that leading banks are generating a substantial amount of positive news at the moment. Analysing Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland online coverage in the last two weeks shows that around two-thirds of stories about RBS and Barclays are positive. Over half of Lloyds TSB news is also good news, although HSBC generated just 28 per cent of positive coverage.

Supplied by Echo Sonar

All the banks have had positive results to report recently, for example on 6 August, reported: “Royal Bank of Scotland's pre-tax profit has risen to £1.14bn in the first half of the year from £15m a year earlier … RBS's results follow upbeat performances from Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds.”

Supplied by Echo Sonar

Financial news may be encouraging, but this does not mean that banks are becoming more popular with their customers. Freelance PR consultant Claire Thompson believes that the banks have a way to go before they regain the public‘s trust: "They've improved their image with the stock markets (money talks there), but they will have to work hard to regain the trust of the general populace and small businesses. No amount of freebies at school fetes is going to build that trust back up without taking a good hard look at what their brands stand for and backing it up in action."

Thompson’s opinions are supported by the findings of the fourth fast.MAP/Direct Marketing Association Financial Services Tracker, repeated every six months among a panel of 1,067 UK adults. The latest, carried out in June and due to be launched by the DMA on 19 August, will reveal that people are still putting very little trust in marketing information from the financial services companies they use. When it comes to customer service reputation, Royal Bank of Scotland and Britannia Building Society get particularly low ratings (just 3 per cent feel these institutions have a good customer service reputation).

Mark Baker, director at PR consultancy Wriglesworth, thinks that the banks have a huge image mountain to climb: “Lavish banker parties such as the one hosted by Square Mile magazine only make the sunlit uplands of positive PR more difficult to attain. To help improve their image, they need to re-educate the media, businesses and consumers about the value of the services they provide.

"A bank announcing that it is rewarding hard-working staff or city workers celebrating several tough years of trading would be a lot easier to support in these circumstances."

MethodologyPRmoment asked Echo Sonar to analyse online media coverage of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and RBS. The research period was 25 July to 9 August 2010.