How The B of A PR Crisis Could Have Been Prevented

Today, we saw a new result of a disturbing trend among big, public corporations. Relatively speaking, PR is just not that important for them these days. But maybe others will learn from this lesson.

After weeks of public backlash that show how important PR can be, especially in a digital age, Bank of America has reversed its decision to charge a monthly fee for having a debit card. The company says it based its new decision on public feedback. But, it seems that if PR had an appropriate “seat at the table” from the beginning and top executives had actually listened, they would have never made the decision in the first place.

Bank of America’s CEO made nearly $2 million last year. So $60 per year (the debit fee) probably didn’t seem like much. But, any PR pro could have told him (and maybe some tried) that for a fee fatigued public, that blames banks, at least in part, for the nation’s economic situation, it would be enough to cause a major issue.

This seems to be a symptom of the problem we wrote about three months ago. Big public companies have de-emphasized PR, putting their reputations at risk. That’s because top executives are rewarded for short-term financial performance, not corporate reputation. In this case, what if the company had been able to think about reputation as a primary concern right away, rather than an ultimate factor weeks down the road? It probably would have been much different. Crises can be prevented if corporations decide to reverse the trend and make PR a priority.