Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Is Anyone Talking To The People?

Posted by B2W on September 29, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There has been a great deal of media coverage, both traditional and online, about the U.S. government $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry. CNN has done a good job of outlining the key provisions of the bill.

One of the key points that everyone has been focused on is that, at the heart of this historic move, are the people that are at risk right now. It is about helping the families that are about to lose their homes, the ones who are teetering on foreclosure, the individuals that are being hurt by the economic challenges and the mortgage meltdown.

To put this issue into some context, there is a good blog article in U.S. News & World Report that cites RealtyTrac and The Real Estate Bloggers that says that in August 2008 foreclosures were up by 12% over July 2008 and up 27% from August 2007. According to this report, 1 in every 416 houses received a foreclosure notice in August. Those are astounding numbers.

I have watched every television station I can (CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, CBC, CTV, Global, Fox News….the list goes on and on) and I watched President Bush give his television speech on this bailout. There is a lot of big picture talk…but no one can answer the one question that journalists keep asking: “What should a person facing foreclosure do?” No one can answer that question – they are so busy getting the bill passed and holding press conferences that the details have not yet been put out to people.  The bill is set to be voted on this morning. It may be that they are not answering the question until the bill passes, but that isn’t going to stop people facing foreclosures from asking the questions.

Think about the hundreds of thousands of phone calls that will now go to local politicians, to banks and other lenders, to mortgage brokers … people asking what this bailout means for them. What if as they announced this bailout, they flashed a help line and website across the screen. In my opinion (and keep in mind, I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes) they could have had a dark site (website that is complete but not live) set up, ready to go that had basic information about what it means for homeowners across the country.

Until the bill passed, it could have been a basic website explaining the process and what happens next and BAM! – the moment the bill is passed, a website that helps people. It could have:

  • FAQs
  • What to do if you are facing foreclosure.
  • What documents you need to have in hand to approach your bank.
  • Questions to ask.
  • Questions to be ready to answer.
  • Who to speak with in your area.
  • A financial planner blog.
  • A real person (a mom?) who blogs on how to cut expenses in hard times.
  • A psychologist blogger who speaks about the emotional fall out from financial challenges.

They could also offer some Instant Messenger chats so someone panicked about their situation could talk to a real person either on IM or in person, perhaps they could have also set up a text message system where citizens could text in their zip code or address and be sent a list of numbers to call for help.

I keep hearing the word crisis, issue, grave situation…and yet from what I have seen, no one is speaking directly to the people being affected – the homeowners facing foreclosure.

Setting up a dark site would have been a good idea – and one that could have be planned and executed more efficiently and easily than you might realize.

This is a huge initiative in response to a crisis that has global ramifications and it was possible to take the solutions right to the individuals being affected. Think about what you could do for your organization during a challenge, an issue or a crisis. Could you have a dark site sitting quiet, ready to launch when you need to communicate directly with your stakeholders? 



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