How do you tell a bank’s lending story in the middle of an economic crisis?
As COVID-19 severely impacts the economy in the spring of 2020, many businesses around the country have faced their most significant challenges in decades. The CARES Act, passed in late March, included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a forgivable SBA loan designed to help keep employees on the payroll.
Valley Bank is one of the largest SBA lenders in Florida, and it faced the daunting task of quickly setting up an application process, fielding customer questions and quickly processing as many loans as possible. Its bankers were flooded with calls and emails from business owners who had questions about document requirements, the process, and how much they could qualify for.
Valley quickly set up an interest form on its website, and more than 13,000 business owners submitted forms requesting PPP loan information in the first few days.
With such fast-changing information, B2 turned to media relations as a powerful way to tell Valley’s story. B2 remained in close communication with Valley Bank’s SBA team, including numerous calls and emails a day, to learn how the bank was handling a flood of PPP applications.
B2 crafted “source pitches” offering Valley leaders to major news outlets in Florida and Alabama, while also finding companies that had received PPP funds through the bank, so their stories could also be told.
B2 set up interviews with key Tampa Bay, Birmingham and South Florida publications about a range of PPP topics, from the types of questions that the bank had gotten from customers to the pressure on banks to act quickly. B2 helped Valley continually tell its story through media relations as the CARES Act passed, as PPP was being implemented and as the program’s funds were distributed.
In the Tampa Bay area, bank leaders Chris Kneer, Joe Chillura, and Jeff Armstrong talked with such outlets as the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Business Journal, St. Pete Catalyst, and Business Observer. In South Florida, Jeff Klink talked to reporters with the Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and South Florida Business Journal. And in Alabama, Caryn Hughes talked with the Birmingham Business Journal.
The result: media relations positioned Valley as a thought leader and expert resource on SBA loans in key markets where it operates. In its four states of operation (which also include New York and New Jersey), Valley had processed more than 4,500 PPP loans totaling close to $1.5 billion as of mid-April.