Public relations strategy: an obligation to boost financial literacy

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Last week marked the annual treasury management conference for the National Association of State Treasurers…not your traditional marketing idea engine, but an event that provides the opportunity for states and vendors to share viewpoints on critical issues that face a broad spectrum of Americans. There were a number of takeaways, but chief among them was a rejuvenated focus on marketing in areas that haven’t traditionally lent themselves to “going loud.”

Let’s take the intricacies of state sponsored college savings plans and financial literacy (not as random as it may seem, this is an area of concern for EZG and its clients, so…stick with me, here). The fact is we’re facing a national epidemic: a study by Jump$tart tells us that only 25% of young adults end up graduating college, and high school students scored just 48.3% on standard 31-question financial literacy exam.  Most young people in this country don’t believe they can afford higher education or, more to the point, aren’t even trying to understand how to plan it out.

These are complicated challenges, and they are (or should be) at the center of discussion for nearly every family nationwide.

So at long last, we get to the marketing point of all this. If you’re still reading, you win a prize! Click through to receive your much deserved reward.

The marketing solution might be as complicated as the subject matter. Social media tactics are getting a serious look, for example, as the “new and improved grassroots marketing” tool. But in financial services, the use of social media continues to be stunted as it simply isn’t intuitive to the complex concepts at hand.

To wit, a question: How do you marry a viral, discussion-friendly marketing approach with subject matter that is tax-heavy and riddled with investment-speak?

Answer: Very carefully (Note – there’s a joke about flossing a crocodile’s teeth that needs to be told here. I’m going to lose sleep over not including it…but perhaps another time…)

So I’m personally wary of social media as the answer, although it may be a part of broad discussions about financial literacy. I believe the effective course will be found in the fundamentals of outreach: influence the influencers. This was the thrust of a panel on financial literacy (hosted by EZG client Upromise Investments), which drove home the idea that unless teachers are equipped, enabled, and enthused about working financial literacy into their students’ days, in a decade there will be yet another generation of under-educated youths struggling to make ends meet.

To reach the teachers, we must reach the superintendents, education boards, and certainly not least of all, the parents. This requires a smart, targeted, relentless campaign to infuse regional education systems with a sense of urgency and purpose.

My point? It was refreshing to see that marketing is getting its rightful airtime among conference attendees. It will be more refreshing when that airtime becomes directed with some force behind it, and I’m encouraged that even as the world of public relations changes from week to week, the fundamentals of communication will have to be put in play to make a difference in this critical challenge. Go team PR.

(Cue chant: USA! USA!)

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One Response to “Public relations strategy: an obligation to boost financial literacy”

  1. Culture, confidence, and a matter of messaging « EZG Blog Says:

    […] of work to be done on this front, and as I’ve noted before communications will have to be a central piece of the effort.  Especially for lower to middle income families, there is little pressure (or hope) of education […]

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