Update: Quicken Loans has also published a recruiting blog for the past year (thanks Ann-Marie, see comments below and NetBanker post here).
I've been a big proponent of blogging. In my Online Banking Report on the subject published last fall (here), I predicted there would be 300 financial institution blogs by the end of this year. While there is no definitive listing, OpenSource CU's blogroll lists just 15 CU company blogs. Even if you add the CU employee blogs, MySpace pages, and four blogs from Wells Fargo, the grand total is less than 100 today, and unlikely to get much higher than that by year-end.
Why the slow start? Having worked inside several banks, I do not underestimate the difficulty in creating a new communication channel. And from what I've heard, many banks and credit unions just don't believe the benefits, which are largely intangible, will outweigh the costs. And with so few banks blogging, Wells Fargo being the only major in the U.S., it's hard to show examples to demonstrate the power of the blog.
That's why we were happy to see one of our favorite companies, eBay's PayPal unit, launch a blog a few weeks ago (here). As you can see it's not too fancy, and they post to it only a few times each week. But it really hits the mark, in my opinion.
1. Humanizes the organization: The initial posts are by various department heads or senior staff and discuss briefly what they do and a major initiative each is involved in. Each post has a small head shot in the upper left that increases the credibility of the posting (see screenshot below).
2. Educates in a more interesting way: PayPal managers are obviously excited about their projects as their enthusiasm comes across in the writing and makes the reader interested in the subject. For instance, last week CIO Michael Barrett posted seven paragraphs (here) on improving the safety of your online computing experience. It's a good way to get a simple message across, that users should use up-to-date operating systems and browsers. Usually, that advise is buried five layers deep in a security FAQ.
3. Sells with a more "consultative" approach: Several of the blog entries are designed to "sell" but again, when the head of consumer marketing blogs about the latest program, as Hillary Mickell did about PayPal's back-to-school shopping portal (here), it's much more believable than a banner ad slapped onto the homepage (see screenshot below).
4. Communicate during an outage or severe service problem: The most recent entries (here and here), both posted on the Sept. 2 holiday, informed and reassured customers about the problems with subscription services.
The challenge is generating readership. Would I subscribe to the blog if I was a consumer making an occasional PayPal purchase? Unlikely. But if I'm a merchant, and the PayPal system is an integral part of my livelihood, you can bet I'll pore over every word (note 1).
So, financial institutions, if you want to get into blogging, find the communities where you really make a difference and start speaking to them (see note 2).
1. The press and analysts will subscribe, spurring articles on your company such as this one.
2. Although perhaps just a shade too critical of the industry for my tastes (see the first comment for some balance), Verity Credit Union's latest post (here) speaks from the heart about the sub-prime lending fiasco and the CU's "Keep the Dream" fund to help at-risk borrowers keep their homes. Great post. Great program. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything on the website about it.