April is Financial Literacy Month and the intent is always noble: educate yourself and help others learn about how to better manage money while understanding the wider implications of economics. Turns out that’s not so easy when the world has gone haywire.
BUT – you might ask – the U.S. economy is good, right? Unemployment is low, people are traveling and going out to eat again and key stats like average personal savings and home values remain strong. That view really depends on where you get your information at the moment. On the other side, tech and financial services companies are laying off tens of thousands of employees, the banking system is facing challenges (particularly with solvency issues among midsize banks) and venture capitalists are sitting on billions of dollars in “dry powder” (investable money) but aren’t making a move to actually deploy that capital.
How do we make sense of this? Let’s be honest – we really can’t. The world’s best economic minds are trying to figure it out still and they haven’t gotten very far. As time passes, we’ll get more economic signals to deliver a view on where this all ends. For now, uncertainty reigns.
As professional communicators, cutting through the noise is the most significant value we can deliver in a time of turmoil. That’s why Financial Literacy Month is a reminder to be deliberate and steady in the face of confusion while taking advantage of opportunities. Here is the approach we recommend to our clients:
Understanding Financial Literacy
I’m going to advocate two approaches that aren’t mutually exclusive: caution and proactivity. More on the latter in the next point, but first, it’s critical that every organization or spokesperson sticks to what they know during uncertainty. Speculation or offhand comments don’t provide any real value and they won’t advance your goals. Focus on your expertise always.
Fair warning, though: it’s easy in an interview situation with a journalist to be pulled off-topic. Every reporter is working hard to figure out what’s really happening during a time of confusion. When I was a producer at CNBC I’d often ask guests speculative questions in pre-interviews purely based on my own curiosity. There isn’t anything nefarious at work here. Many journalists are naturally curious. Just be cautious and don’t drop your guard – stick to what you know to avoid any accidental commentary.
Why is it Important to be financially Literate?
Times of uncertainty create opportunities for emerging voices, but they must provide conviction and real perspective. Get ahead of the news cycle by offering predictions, not backward-looking summaries.
Is there some risk here? Of course. But a well-developed and researched prediction is one that can always be reconsidered down the line. Just avoid a completely wild take without strong backup.
Communicating Financial Literacy
There is no room for lightweight analysis in this type of environment. Make sure that your comms objectives and planning are built around real data and analysis. Seek out experts who can help shape your plan as well. This is not the time to take risks without fully realized positions.
We’re all watching closely as the economy progresses over the next few months (and likely through 2023). Despite the challenges, there is opportunity to be had but it’s critical to be thoughtful, well-researched and steady in your communications plan.
As always, let me know what you think. Send me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org