HSBC looks towards ‘banking 2.0′ with social media newsrooms

hsbcnewsroomHSBC, one of the UK’s biggest banks, launched two online newsrooms yesterday that are refreshing in their engagement potential when compared to the usually restrictive-access online media centres typical of banks (and other large organizations).

In its announcement, HSBC says the site has been designed to be a ‘go to’ site for all comment and information on the UK bank’s position on key issues and latest announcements.

[...] Betony Taylor, PR Manager said, “More and more news agencies and journalists are depending on the immediacy of online content. This is a great opportunity to get closer to the people making the news, from the traditional media to freelance bloggers, and to make our content more shareable and relevant to our UK audience. The HSBC social media newsroom is designed to be a central hub for all bank announcements, staff activity and community events.

That’s not all, though, according to Taylor. HSBC now offers a presence on the web firmly aimed at “journalists, bloggers and online commentators,” to quote the bank, but also has plans to enable the sites to potentially become “centres for engagement” (my description) with bank employees publishing content.

[...] but this is just the start. We will also be inviting staff to blog on the site, giving a view into the inner workings of the bank and telling the stories that can get hidden in the modern media melee. It’s exciting to be able extend our traditional media relations in a more interactive and engaging way.”

The newsrooms don’t look especially pretty (my subjective view, and a design and branding issue). Neither might they be at the bleeding edge of “banking 2.0″ yet, according to Brett King, author of Bank 2.0. But I’d look beyond the current appearance and see what the new newsrooms actually offer right now (and keep in mind what HSBC says is coming).

Personal finance newsroom:

hsbcpersonalnewsroom

Business banking newsroom:

hsbcbusinessnewsroom

While both look similar, the content available is quite different, reflecting the different constituencies both are focused on, as the screenshots above of the press releases sections on both sites suggest. Switching between the two is a breeze – just click the tab you want.

I like the How to use the Newsroom page that gives the visitor a clear idea of what to expect and how to use the content along with guidance on using HSBC’s photos at Flickr and video at YouTube. It also includes the bank’s Twitter policy. All content on the site is offered under a Creative Commons copyright license, giving you confidence that you won’t be treading on any copyright toes as long as you abide by the terms of the license.

HSBC is by no means first in the area of a company “socializing” its media presence on the web. Early social media pioneer General Motors immediately springs to mind with its social media newsrooms and other open presences online. The Scania Group Social Media Newsroom is another good example; they’ve taken it to another level already with their whole site based on the WordPress content management system.

They’re not banks, though.

First Direct was the first UK bank to take this route with media-facing content, although with a significant difference to HSBC – the former’s site clearly says it’s intended for journalists: no mention of “bloggers and online commentators.” (A little history: First Direct is a subsidiary of HSBC. It was formed by Midland Bank in 1989, itself acquired by HSBC in 1992.)

Elsewhere in Europe, SEB bank in Sweden has embraced the social approach to open engagement. Citi is doing a lot of interesting things with social media in Europe. Undoubtedly there are others too, especially in the USA – Wells Fargo blogs, for instance.

What also strikes me about such departures from the traditional media centre – look at Lloyds TSB’s for an example – is that this is a regulated industry with rigid parameters on the why, what, how, etc, of communicating publicly.

HSBC in particular shows what you can do if you understand the regulatory landscape and look at what you can do rather than what you can’t.

Can’t wait to see how their planned next steps take form.

[Update] I subsequently interviewed Betony Taylor together with Aden Davies, Innovation Technician, about the newsroom, its development, its structure and content, and how regulatory issues were addressed. The conversation includes perspectives on the bank’s stated goal of enabling employees to blog on the website – planned to start in September – as part of story-telling to hear the “human voice” of the bank, and some outline thinking on what the future for such open and transparent communication might look like.