Community Banker Advocacy Toolbox

Community Banker Advocacy Toolbox

Effective Community Bank Advocacy Tool: Writing an Op-Ed

By: Allison Coccia, PACB

Writing and Op Ed

Part of being an effective community bank advocate means spreading the word about the great things community banks do every day. Humble by nature, it is not something that comes naturally to community bankers. However, it is important for citizens, lawmakers and local centers of influence to understand the uniqueness of their local community bank.

When banking at a community bank, consumers have access to community experts with a rich understanding of their local economies and the needs of the families that dwell within. They are provided with a consistent voice who knows their name and connects with them face to face. They are an institution that gives back to their community with charitable giving and countless hours of volunteer service. And, they are working with an institution who is grounded in providing quality service, safety and soundness, and whose reputation and success is bound by the success of their customers and community.

Authoring a positive community bank message helps elected officials and others truly understand community banks’ significant contribution to the local economy, business development and the well-being of their constituents. When community banks share their expertise they will be seen as a resource for others while reinforcing consumer trust and loyalty.

A Different Medium

Experts say it takes up to 6-8 touches to effectively communicate a message. These messages should be seen, read and heard. Today, multi-channel communication can include television, mail, social media, face to face interaction, email, websites and newspapers. Writing an Op-Ed provides community banks with a platform to communicate and educate people in their communities who might not otherwise visit their websites or stop at a branch.

Reading an Op-Ed penned by their local community banker allows residents to receive an important, informative message in an unexpected way, a message they can review, save and go back to.

A consistent message across several communication mediums can help reinforce the information one is trying to convey. The written word can be a powerful thing.

Set the Narrative…Communication Is Key

Often times citizens only read or see negative news items about banks. An Op-Ed provides the writer with the opportunity to cut through the noise and tell their message in their own words, precisely as they wish to tell it with no interruptions or alternate opinions.

How to Write an Op-Ed

Select One Topic & Base It In Facts
The piece should be no longer than 700-750 words and should focus on a singular topic. These days, one doesn’t have to write an Op-Ed only as a response to a previous editorial written in the paper. Writers can chart their own path and educate citizens on timely topics like financial literacy, savings advice, purchasing a home, and even current legislation or a regulation that will affect their banking needs.

Capture the attention of the reader early in your piece and keep it interesting along the way. But, most importantly, make sure your points are accurate and based in fact. It only strengthens your argument.

Know Your Audience
Speak to the people who are reading the local newspaper. Doing a little background research on readership will help to tailor the message for that specific audience. Generally, these individuals are not industry experts and will not be familiar with typical banking anacronyms or jargon. They relate to themes that may affect them personally and issues that impact friends, neighbors and their community.

Give Them Action Items
Now that your readers have taken in this information, what should they do with it? An Op-Ed should educate a reader and then expressly instruct them on what to do with the information they have received. Providing action items teaches readers and provides them with a task list of how to incorporate this information into their own lives.

How to Submit Your Op-Ed
Most newspapers provide information on how to submit Op-Ed’s on their websites. Most use a specific email address. Make sure to follow the news outlet’s submission’s instructions and always include your name, title and institution.

Help on Submitting An Op-Ed
Contact Allison at PACB at allison@pacb.org for issue ideas, sample Op-Eds, and help with submitting your piece.