Promoting Direct Deposit and Direct Payment
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Promoting Direct Deposit and Direct Payment

Direct Deposit and Direct Payment are two electronic payment methods that, in comparison to checks, cost pennies to process. They work by moving payments directly from the bank account of the payer.

Paul Holmes

Direct Deposit and Direct Payment are two electronic payment methods that, in comparison to checks, cost pennies to process.  They work by moving payments directly from the bank account of the payer – such as the employer or customer – into the account of the person or business receiving the payment.  These payments travel over the secure Automated Clearing House (ACH) network, which has worked accurately and reliably for the government and the private sector for more than 25 years. 
 
In 1998, the Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Coalition engaged Weber Shandwick Worldwide to promote the use of Direct Deposit and Direct Payment.  The coalition – composed of the Federal Reserve, NACHA: The Electronic Payments Association, and regional ACH associations – is devoted to educating its target audience about the benefits of Direct Deposit and Direct Payment and encouraging people to use them.
 
RESEARCH AND PLANNING
 
An extensive market research study was conducted in 1997 and 1998 to understand the consumer and business attitudes toward electronic payments.  The study combined existing ACH research with insight gained from focus groups and written surveys.  Conclusions drawn from this research were incorporated into the plan and used to develop our key messages.
 
For example, our key messages for both Direct Deposit and Direct Payment explain the benefits of these services.  In addition to cost savings, each user of Direct Deposit and Direct Payment benefits directly from the convenience and security of these tools.  However, Federal Reserve research shows that many consumers prefer to use other payment methods because they perceive a lack of reliability, security and control with Direct Deposit and Direct Payment.  In turn, some businesses that do not offer Direct Deposit or Direct Payment say it is because they perceive a lack of demand among their employees and customers.
 
Our main objective is to increase use of Direct Deposit and Direct Payment by companies, organizations, and consumers.
 
STRATEGIES
 
Our goal was to educate businesses, consumers, organizations and third parties about the broad range of uses and benefits of Direct Deposit and Direct Payment.
 
We wanted to position Direct Deposit and Direct Payment as effective tools for every stage of a family’s or individual’s financial life, from managing today’s household expenses to saving and investing for the future.
 
We used examples, case histories and testimonials to show our target audiences that more and more people are moving to Direct Deposit and Direct Payment because of the multiple benefits they offer.
 
EXECUTION OF TACTICS
 
Third Party Outreach – We delivered our messages to a variety of organizations, such as billers, consumer advocacy groups, not-for-profit groups, and state tax administrators, through meetings, speaking opportunities, letters, and by participating at industry conferences.  We used these opportunities to educate groups about the benefits of Direct Deposit and Direct Payment, enlist them as advocates, and encourage them to boost their current promotion of these services.  We also distributed a bi-monthly e-newsletter with articles and updates on Direct Deposit and Direct Payment activities to third parties.
 
Media Outreach – We mounted an aggressive effort to increase the media’s awareness about Direct Deposit and Direct Payment and to achieve coverage of our messages.  Examples of our efforts include the following: distributing informational materials about the bill payment industry, conducting surveys and releasing newsworthy statistics, pitching interviews with coalition spokespersons, and responding quickly and directly to inaccurate, incomplete, or positive media coverage.
 
AdvertisingWe created and placed ads in selected trade and college alumni publications to capture the attention of businesses that bill customers, fundraising organizations that collect donations, and influential consumer segments.  Each ad highlights the benefits of using Direct Deposit and/or Direct Payment and is customized to appeal to its targeted audience.
 
Web Site – We continuously enhanced our Web site to provide visitors with information on Direct Deposit and Direct Payment.  The site includes answers to frequently asked questions, tools to start and promote Direct Deposit or Direct Payment programs, information on how these services work, testimonials, case studies, press materials, and an interactive U.S. map for finding the nearest ACH contact.
 
Testimonials and Case Studies – We interviewed consumers, organizations and businesses that use Direct Deposit and Direct Payment about the benefits they received from these two services.  The testimonials and case studies were used in pitches and articles, and posted on the Web site.
 
Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Week – We designated May 15-19, 2000, as Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Week.  Our efforts earned the support of governors and mayors who issued official proclamations.  We also arranged media interviews with a prominent financial psychologist who delivered the message that small changes in behavior, like using Direct Deposit and Direct Payment, can have a big impact on financial management.
 
EVALUATION OF RESULTS
 
Our recommendations to state tax administrators on how to increase use of Direct Deposit for tax refunds are being used by a number of states and considered by others.  Our efforts have resulted in state revenue departments’ adding the Direct Deposit logo to tax forms and linking to our Web site.
 
Coalition spokespersons and key supporters participated in 22 interviews with media from trade magazines, top tier daily newspapers, The Associated Press, and mainstream business publications.
 
Widespread media coverage of our April survey included supportive quotes from representatives of the Consumer Federation of America and Consumer Credit Counseling Service on the benefits of Direct Payment.
 
We selected publications for advertising based on their quality, audience and value for our dollar.  In total, we spent $92,975 on ad placement to reach more than 3 million consumers and 217,791 industry professionals.  In effect, each impression cost less than 3 cents.
 
Our Web site has been visited approximately 6,500 times per month, and we receive an average of 50 e-mail requests for more information per month.  We respond to every e-mail.
 
Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-VA) issued a statement supporting Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Week that was inserted into the Congressional Record.  Eleven U.S. Governors, eight U.S. Mayors, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Democratic Governor’s Association issued proclamations declaring May 15-19 as Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Week.
 
Our radio media tour that kicked off Direct Deposit and Direct Payment Week resulted in 23 radio hits, reaching an audience of 6,662,000.  The radio news release generated an estimated 725 broadcasts, reaching 6,584,595 listeners.
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