Tech Tuesday: The Role of External Communications
Meet Christina Anderson. Expert communicator and the one responsible for articulating BBVA’s message externally. In a world filled of commoditized products and services, and in an industry like financial services with over 5K financial institutions across the country, the role of Director of Communications is crucial. Communicating a brand’s mission, vision, and values to audiences is not an easy thing to do, especially in an authentic voice, but it is something that Christina excels at. Listen in below as Christina and I discuss the role of external communications and what this looks like moving forward.
#TechTuesday Highlight #73: Christina Anderson, Director of External Communications, BBVA USA
How/why did you get into your space?
I’ve been in and around PR since college, starting with my student-employee role as a Sports Information Department assistant at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. I pursued the advertising side of marketing communications for several years, but was fortunate to find my way back to public relations. It’s a career choice that speaks to all the facets of what I enjoy both personally and professionally –everything from being a perpetual student, to telling engaging stories about what you’re learning, to continuous strategic thinking and planning, writing, getting to know people in a wide variety of roles and geographies and learning at least a little about a whole lot.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
I’m fortunate to play a role that narrates BBVA’s digital story in the US to people outside the bank. My role also sets pace on the bank’s overall external messaging. It’s such a fascinating job, for the reasons I just mentioned, but also because BBVA has been thinking about, believing in and working toward the power technology has to change the industry for more than a decade now – far before most were, it seems. When I first came to BBVA, it was very much an us-versus-them feeling between banks and fintechs, where the latter were seeking to take some of the former’s value chain. I think protecting what’s yours is a natural reaction whenever anybody wants to take something you own. But, BBVA had a different approach. It was one that sought to collaborate with fintechs as a way of understanding what they were doing to yield positive reactions from customers. Since then, BBVA’s approach to the technology and transformation it’s bringing to the industry has matured. It’s been really fascinating to watch and understand, as well as figure out how to translate all the game-changing things the bank is doing in technology – and what it means to consumers and how they bank – to the world outside BBVA.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
From an external communications perspective, technology has completely changed the way we are able to tell our story. For instance, when I got my start in PR, we were still sending hard copy press releases with slides literally stuck to them. Today, public relations experts must still be adept in writing, research and communications, but what is increasingly important is the ability to weave together a robust narrative that paints a picture while understanding the audience and in which channel to use. Let’s not forget the ability to measure and report results. Our content arsenal includes news stories we write, traditional press releases, Twitter, Instagram, podcasts, videos and blogs and more. We distribute this content via public facing websites, newsrooms, social networks, social ambassadors, newswires, emails influencers, media relationships, blogs and again, more. And we can’t forget about social media making everybody a reporter with their own circle of influence and ability to tell a story about your brand on the fly. Sometimes I long for the straightforward days of the paper release and the reporter that covered just one beat. But, today, we have more ways to tell our story and the ability to reach more people in the way they want to be reached, not to mention the analytics that tell us if we’ve accomplished our goal or not. You can’t help but be excited by the sheer possibilities of it.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2020 (as it relates to your industry)?
From a banking perspective, I think given what we are currently experiencing with COVID-19, it will be really interesting to see how contactless payments advance from a neat gadget to must-have. In terms of external communications, the question seems to be how much the pandemic will impact the industry and its reputation, particularly the importance of having skill sets in crisis communications and reputation messaging. But, far beyond that, in general the pandemic has made it clear that marketing and communications are more intertwined than ever before, and the latter is not solely a function of the former. Today, more than ever, people want brands to be authentic in their messaging and they will be the first to point out if there is a disconnect in what you’re saying about your brand in any of the channels to which they have access. With all the channels consumers access today, it’s hard for brands to break through, but external communications can help formulate and create the strategies that will help do it in an authentic way.
Who is a person that inspires you in the space and why?
I draw a lot of inspiration from the team I’m surrounded by. They have shown how adept they are at shifting course from our plans for 2020 pre-pandemic to now. All of us are still engaged and working hard to manage the external communications efforts around the pandemic and its impacts on the bank and the financial industry as a whole. The team’s cohesive, calculated agility in this manner produced a steady stream of content, positive earned media hits and new procedures that could effectively change how we work, for the better. What I truly admire though is the team’s ability to think creatively, outside-of-the-box and as one cohesive unit in order to meet and conquer the challenges that come our way. We are stronger as a team because we respect what each one brings to the table, and our strengths complement each other. We like to have fun in both work and play, and we really do enjoy one another’s company, even as we push each other to do better and be better. What could be more inspiring than that?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your space?
There are a lot of characteristics of good external communication practitioners, and some, like writing and communication skills, are table stakes. The more intangible aspects of good external communications pros include a desire to constantly be learning in an always-changing industry, unafraid to say what you don’t know and the ability to build relationships based on trust. In other words, be somebody people want to talk to because you provide value and a unique perspective.
#businessunusual #communications #financialservices #storytelling #pr #brand #mission #vision #value
Have thoughts on this week’s trends or questions for me or Christina? Post your thoughts in the comment section or share them on Twitter. Please include the hashtag #techtuesday and mention me @ScarlettSieber! Until next week. 🙂
You can connect with Christina on LinkedIn.
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