Digital and financial literacy as part of a Public Relations campaign in the financial institution

Digital and financial literacy as part of a Public Relations campaign in the financial institution

During the creation of new technologies, methods, approaches, products, services regardless the field where it intends to be developed, it needs to be paid attention to “whether consumers will be “friendly” with all these technologies?” as well. In the struggle to be the first in launching the latest digital "toys," deliberation strategy is always missing. However, loud advertising messages and visuals are prepared a few months in advance. It could mean that communicators are caring about the creativity of advertising and a flurry of applause for creativity more than about the ways of adaptation of these new online services.

The digital behavior of a society, of a customer base, is not something you can necessarily steer very effectively as a single player in the whole financial services market. What it means by that, is people are increasingly getting more comfortable with digital, but it’s driven by how consumer technology has evolved. (Dr. Wei Ke, Head of Financial Services, Simon-Kucher& Partner)

Dr. Wei Ke, in one of his interviews, links it with confidence – “could I do it in the right way or not?” He calls this “barrier” for adoption: people still go to the branch to do large transactions. Why? Because they weren’t confident that they did the transaction properly.

It needs to be kept in mind that people are more interested in the benefits that they would receive from the proposed innovations rather than in the technology itself, all the more so, in the competitive struggle of banks who have better technological capabilities.

In particular, in rural regions, the integration of new digital innovations becomes a complicated process. Many villagers are not aware of self-service technologies like internet banking, for example. While analyzing the data of money transfers operations it was found out that customers prefer to waste time and come to the branch to send money instead of using “card to card” service. In other words, ‘the technology will only work if everyone is willing to adopt it’ (Rana Kapoor CEO, YES Bank)

But, not only digital tools must be adopted. During the internal investigation, it was also identified that many of the farmers, who are loan customers of the bank, do not have appropriate knowledge about the conduction of business, and as a result, they are not able to cover all bank liabilities. The majority of customers have no clear understanding of the terms that they could find on brochures, flyers, newsletters, or social channels of the bank.

Research is first.

“Innovation must be driven by what customers want, not by what banks think they want.” — Cathy Bessant, Chief Operations & Technology Officer, Bank of America

Once an urgent email about low sales indicators of a certain product or service has been received from the CEO, the first concept that will appear in mind is whether message or channel was correct or maybe, context that had been used was not effective and it would likely have been considered to update the plan: “let’s try again but by another way.” But, what is missing is an investigation. Underlining the fact that a bank and its branches all over the country are a big opportunity to conduct a research to identify the reasons for the unpopularity or ineffectiveness of some products, then getting data shall not be so difficult. Just one paper with several questions would describe visitors’ judgments on a certain service or product. Moreover, by using internal communication tools such as an intranet, chats, even meetings, it is possible to have employees’ points of view as experts in this field who have direct contact with a customer. Walker Susan, the author of a book about employee engagement, recommends listening to and talking with specialist advisors more often than others as there is no one else who knows customers better. Additionally, employees’ involvement in this process will be useful in terms of creating effective internal communication and let employees feel that they are part of process. In case of the necessity for confidentiality, it should be borne in mind that the guarantee of anonymity is assured in the survey.

Digital task - digital resolution

So, what measures should be taken to prevent all above mentioned “barriers”?

As it calls again by Dr. Wei Ke, “educator function” has an important role in this process - you can proactively steer customers towards digital — or at least expose them to the possibility of using digital as a way to do that transaction.

The implemented survey in branches of one of local bank demonstrated that only a little percentage of daily visitors pay attention to brochures, flyers, while less of them take it away. It allows us to come to the conclusion that explanation content and a step-by-step description of “3D secure” or “cash by code” self-service operations shall not be useful for people. Instead of paper, it would be more effective to use 3D animation, which explains all steps in the short animation video. Such types of videos were intended to be aired all day on the tabloid which announces queue status:

“Trust is at the core of financial services.”

Indeed! After all, in case of a car, for example, the customer can see it, touch it, even test it, which is impossible with bank products. All that financial institution has is a good name, reputation, successful image, references, and trust. Banking PR specialists rightly assert that people can buy an unknown product from a manufacturer, but will never put money in a bank that they know nothing about.

“The development of trust is particularly important within service industries because of the abstract nature of most service products” (Coulter, Coulter 2003)

According to many surveys and reports within the service industry, a significant factor influencing the trust of a customer is a frontline employee. Thus, an employee becomes an effective instrument of your communication plan. Customers trust and recognize the specialist during watching videos where employee shares some useful recommendations and techniques about bank operations. After all, advice of a loan specialist about an effective way to take loan would be more impactful both, in terms of credibility and comprehensivity, than the data taken from the interview of the head of PR about the same question. It would look like as an operation specialist would share recommendations on how to conduct a CSR campaign.

Series of videos were shot on the following topics: “Several points in regards with prompt and effective loan repayments”, “Securely using plastic cards”, “Getting a loan in spite of inappropriate credit history” and others:

Talk, share, listen, and create.

As it was mentioned above, the situation with digital and business literacy in rural areas is in bad circumstances than in the urban regions. Yes, it is a serious obstacle but not unsolvable if specialist’s assistance has been offered. Indeed, the financial institute has quite enough knowledge and experience to share with its customers as an advisor. So, conducting seminars, training events among the customers will enable bank representatives to identify and resolve pain points of clients living in the suburban areas. In addition to it, an increase in the capacity of financial literacy will lead to successful business outcomes of customers.

Technological changes bring both challenges and opportunities. Regardless of age, health, or economic circumstance, everyone needs bank. Electronic banking, for example, can be particularly socially or digitally challenging for older people. It is worth to note that only in Baku (the capital with 3000000 population) 1450 fraud cases were observed regarding aged customers through the last year. Taking all these into account, educating and assisting aged customers also were implemented as a part of a financial and self-service literacy program on the outskirts.

Let them tell

According to the findings of the internal survey, majority of consumers have trust in recommendations from friends and count on consumer opinions posted online. With this in mind, let us ask about the product and services of the bank from costumers themselves. Thus, it was considered to involve customers into process, using their voice. Each of them shares their own experience with the bank and gives a short recommendation about business leading and warns about mistakes which need to be avoided. Surprisingly, friends and colleagues of them have had much interest in products of the bank than the current customers as a result of sharing these videos on social channels by interviewers.

In this video a client of bank, who has issued a loan for creating art studio, shares her own experience with others.

…not just for show

The loud advertising messages and press releases with bold and colored headlines about new service are not enough. Unfortunately, sometimes organizations care about creativity and making bustle around product or service, more than about functionality. Many of us meet with situation when some technical problem on website or failure with self-service device, or even not updated information on official pages of organization brings to confusion and disappointment of user, especially when they are told: “sorry, because of technical problem please try later, we are temporarily out of service or the terms\tariffs were changed and new ones have not published yet.” In parallel with offering new digital tools, do not forget to refresh them and be assured that all buttons work properly. Otherwise, the loss of reliability and trust will become a matter of a minute.


1.     Walker, S. (2012). Employee Engagement and Communication Research. London: Kogan Page.

2.     Tench, R &Yeomans, L Eds. (2014). Exploring Public Relations, 4th edition. Harlow: Pearson Education, Internal communication

3. Business Today


Age UK


The financial brand


The financial brand

7. The effects of industry knowledge on the development of trust in service relationships, Keith Coulter, Robin Coulter


The-Role-Of-Trust-In-Consumer-Relationships, Prof. Chris Halliburton and Adina Poenaru

9.     The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan (MIA)

10.  Customer experience: New capabilities, new audiences, new opportunities

Number 2, June 2017, McKinsey & Company


G20/OECD INFE Policy Guidance Digitalisation and Financial Literacy


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