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This time is not (vastly) different. Lessons in communications from another crisis

Dafina Grapci-Penney | 29.06.2020

Although comparisons between the global coronavirus pandemic and the global financial crisis of 2008-09 are premature, it is already clear that a reflection on the economic fallout of the past offers some important lessons applicable to the present crisis.

Ten years ago, the global financial crisis led to an unprecedented coordinated response between governments and central banks which strengthened the very fabric of financial markets.

At Greentarget, we saw this first-hand, as we were instrumental in helping our clients shape their response to the post-crisis regulatory environment, enabling them to capitalise on opportunities brought about by efficient, transparent markets. Our clients thrived because they remained engaged throughout the crisis, informing and shaping policies while clearly articulating their value proposition in a changed world. The seeds planted a decade ago have ensured that today, those very same firms continue to play a key role in the financial system by keeping liquidity flowing into the real economy and facilitating access to capital which is vital to economic growth.

For firms considering how to build resilience and stay relevant in the current crisis and beyond, previous experience offers three important communications lessons.



Crises drive both innovation and consolidation, and firms that are able to innovate during unpredictable times can consolidate their position in the aftermath. The last financial crisis led to the emergence of fintech and reg tech, solidified and enhanced the role of financial market infrastructures, and motivated new firms to enter the financial system. Ultimately, the pandemic will also spur innovation and consolidation, and this is why storytelling is imperative. Your competitive landscape is changing, and your messages need to reflect this evolution.


Continue to build trust.

In a technology-driven world, the value of your brand is in its trustworthiness. Many of our clients operate at the intersection of finance and technology, and are consistently fanatical about protecting their brands. There is a reason why barriers to success (if not to entry) in the financial industry remain high, because our industry is centered around money and money requires enormous levels of trust. In a media environment where news travels faster than ever and with the rise of fake news and deep fakes, companies need to be super vigilant and proactive in combatting the threats that could erode the trust in and reputation of their brands.


Communicate with purpose.

The crisis will amplify the importance of purpose-led communications, not just in terms of ESG in the world of investing, but also in terms of a firm’s role and purpose in the wider economy and society. The Extinction Rebellion movement (which now feels like a long time ago) demonstrated how rapidly public mood can change. Faced with the economic and social fallout from the crisis, governments will likely raise the rhetoric against an industry whose role is not well understood. Financial firms cannot afford to be on the defensive – when communicating their purpose, they must engage and educate proactively and persistently.


If anything, the coronavirus pandemic’s legacy will be more impactful than the financial crisis of 2008-09, because a decade ago the industry faced a structural challenge while Covid-19 has affected every area of economic activity. Still, there are important lessons to learn and apply as the current crisis will accelerate trends (good and bad) which were already underway. Firms that proactively focus on protecting and enhancing their reputations in an increasingly fragmented world have a greater chance of surviving and thriving once Covid-19 is under control and the industry returns to a new normal, however that may look.

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