Which? recently highlighted the top 10 most useless financial products including things such as mobile phone insurance and packaged current accounts.
Whether you agree with the Which? assessment or not, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at these products from the point of view of the PR person that has to promote (defend?) them. Which? essentially said that people don’t need these products or that they can get better deals elsewhere. So how do you contend with that?
Well, it depends what the criticism is. If it is that the rates or returns aren’t competitive, then fair enough, people don’t have to take these products but there might be many reasons why they might want to do so. For example ease of use/ ease of applying, service, consolidating different types of products with one provider or other benefits that come with the product. Price is not the only factor and some people simply don’t want to constantly shop around for the best deals, they just want to go down the simplest route.
If the criticism is that people don’t need the product, then that simply isn’t valid for everyone. People don’t NEED to buy mineral water, they can just get it for free from a tap. People don’t NEED to buy super unleaded petrol, they can just buy the normal grade. But people sometimes want to do these things so if consumer demand is there, however niche, then there is nothing wrong with catering for that, provided that people have all the information to make a decision.
This leads to the next criticism, which may be that people are hood-winked into taking out a policy or buying a product and not realise what they are getting into. This is where things get much trickier for PRs as your company or client is being accused of dodgy sales practices. There are no easy answers here and protestations that people should have read the small print are not going to find much sympathy with journalists. Ultimately, you can only do the best you can, but if something is rotten, it is rotten.
From a commercial point of view, bad media coverage does not necessarily mean that the providers will amend or withdraw the products. If the product is generating revenue then some companies will take the view that bad PR is a ‘price worth paying’. However, it is the PRs duty to flag up risks and to do their best to change companies for the better, too make them more transparent and to improve their reputation. It would be great to be in a position to make organisations more consumer-friendly using external reputation as leverage. This is what PR can potentially achieve.Read More