Belarusian banks' communications activity: a study

The objective of this study is to analyze how Belarusian banks communicate with their audience through their official websites. We did not include the publications placed on third-party websites, which are largely dependent on the size of each bank's marketing budget. 

How often do banks publish news and other communications? What do their news articles talk about? What is the focus of this activity? Which Belarusian bank is the most – or the least – active in terms of producing news content?

To answer all these and other questions, we have gathered all the news published by 24 Belarusian banks between January and December 2019. We collected all the news articles, but since we were interested in the marketing and PR activities, we decided to exclude non-relevant content like maintenance announcements, HR articles, political news etc. The share of this non-relevant content didn't exceed 7% of the total.

The present report looks at 22 banks out of the 24. The remaining two, AbsolutBank and Trade Capital Bank, did not qualify for the study due to the virtual absence of news articles in our chosen categories. 

We focused our research on the news sections of the banks' official websites. We divided all the relevant content by subject: promos and special offers, promotional games and contests, product news, awards, and corporate social responsibility (CSR). 

1) Special offers:

  1. End of a promotion;

  2. Prolongation of a promotion;

  3. Partner offers – promotions organized by the bank together with its partners;

  4. Bank offers – promotions organized by the bank itself;

  5. PSP offers – promotions organized by the bank together with a payment system.

2) Games & contests:

  1. PSP games – games organized by a payment system together with the bank;

  2. Bank games – those held on the terms determined by the bank;

  3. Game winners – awards handed to the winning contestants;

  4. Prolongation of a game;

  5. Contests – all sorts of contests with prizes from the bank or its partners.

3) Product news:

  1. Partner products – those products (services, web portals, deposit accounts, loans etc.) that the bank develops in collaboration with a partner;

  2. Bank's new products – those developed and introduced by the bank;

  3. Improved products – all sorts of enhancements and updates of the bank's existing products.

4) Awards:

  1. Product awards – those given to the bank's products; 

  2. CSR awards – those given to the bank's social or environmental initiatives;

  3. Employee awards – those given personally to the bank's employees at various state and international competitions and fairs;

  4. Bank awards – given to the bank itself (such as Bank of the Year);

  5. Ratings – top positions in ratings drawn up by state or international news portals.

5) CSR:

  • Events for customers: business forums, workshops, conferences, seminars, festivities, intellectual games, business breakfasts, master classes, educational projects, meetups, networking sessions etc.;

  • Culture – organizing, holding or financing cultural events, such as exhibits, festivals, concerts, creative initiatives, art events etc.;

  • Sports – sponsoring or organizing regional or state-level athletic events;

  • Charity – funding and participating in socially valuable initiatives;

  • Events for youth – organizing, hosting or supporting contests and field trips for students and teenagers, collaborating with universities;

  • Partnerships – the bank acts as a partner for forums, conferences and projects, benefiting from them;

  • Sponsorship – promoting the bank through support of social initiatives;

  • Agreements – signing an agreement with a third party;

  • Conferences – news of participation in forums, seminars, fairs, business breakfasts etc.;

  • Initiatives and events – the bank or its employees participating in events, actions and promos.

Product news lead among banks' publications

The news sections of banking websites are dominated by news of new products, promos by banks and their partners, and awards. These are the three largest categories for the banks under study. The largest number of the news pieces posted in 2019 belong to the Product category (229 or 17.5% of the total). This probably indicates the banks' desire to inform their customers of the new offers and distinguish themselves from the competition. 

Below you'll find a matrix illustrating the distribution of the news in each category relative to each bank's total news content. The matrix shows (spoiler alert!) that product news alone isn't enough to stand out from among the rivals. 

Most news content falls on April and December

In total, we gathered 1312 news pieces. The highest number (146) were published in December 2019; somewhat fewer (134) appeared in April. Throughout the rest of the year, the number of news articles posted each month remained roughly the same. However, it's hard to say if this distribution represents a stable trend, since we've only analyzed data for one year. 

Marked seasonality in both abundance and subject of the news

News publishing activity clearly peaked in certain months of 2019: mid-spring – in preparation for the May holidays; mid-summer – before the main vacation season; and the end of the year, before the Christmas and New Year holidays. To better understand this seasonality it's useful to study the month-by-month distribution of the news in each category.

The diagram shows the share of each of the 5 large news categories for each month. 

Note that product news accounted for roughly one-third of all the news in any given month, with the activity in this category being highest early in the year. The corporate and social responsibility news peaked in spring and early summer, as well as in early fall. For promos and offers, the activity was higher during the vacation season: in July, August and December. 

If you plan to become a client of a certain bank, it's better to do so in those months when it publishes most news of special offers . This will maximize your chances to get the best available offer. In spring, banks launch promos related to the start of the warm season, such as discounts on sports goods, fitness classes, and flights. In summer, there are many promos offering discounted flight tickets, trips, and dining out (for instance, Idea Bank held a promo called 'Eat out on Zybitskaya Street'). Fall promos often include discounts on consumer durables and electronics. In winter, the key theme is Christmas and the New Year. The same kind of seasonal trend is likely to continue in the future. 

State-owned banks lead by the amount of news content

Belinvestbank leads in terms of the total number of news pieces published in 2019. Overall, three banks have generated most news – and they also happen to be the only state-owned banks in our study. One might even think that these banks' PR departments have a special KPI for the number of news publications each month. We can't know if this is true, but in any case their level of news activity is impressive.

It's also worth noting that these 3 state banks together account for 1/3 of all the news in our study and tend to publish 3.6 times more news articles than privately owned banks. This came as a surprise to our research team: one would expect commercial banks to be more active than state-owned ones in terms of their communications, including on the official websites. 

Some banks prefer to cover products, others promos or awards

In order to analyze the frequency of publication for different newsworthy subjects, we grouped all the articles by category and analyzed the results for each bank. First we compared the number of news pieces relative to the total number and then for each bank separately. This allowed us to identify the key focus of each bank's communications strategy. 

Here is the news distribution by category:

The state-owned Belarusbank leads in the Products category. Remember that this is also the most popular news category overall.

Belinvestbank heads the list in the Special Offers and CSR. In Special Offers, it is closely followed by Fransabank, which has only 2 fewer publications. 

Belagroprombank accounts for the largest number of news about games and contests, followed by Belarusbank and Belinvest, which, by the way, lead in the Awards category with 21 and 17 publications, respectively. 

Now let's examine the same picture under a different angle. The diagram shows the number of news pieces in each category as a share in each bank's total news output for the period.

The chart shows the share of the news in each category in the total number of news articles posted by each bank. You can see that, for instance, Fransabank and Priorbank clearly focus on special offer news: their share exceeds 50% of the total output for the year.

By contrast, Belinvest and Alfabank's news strategy is skewed towards corporate and social responsibility. Games and contests account for 50% of Statusbank's publications, but in this case it's hard to draw conclusions, since the bank occupies the very bottom spot on the list in terms of the number of news articles it published. 

The higher the position on the National Bank's rating, the higher the news activity

We decided to compare banks' success and their news output. To do this, we used the Belarus National Bank's rating, assigned to every bank in the country, with the no.1 bank on the rating being the best according to the National Bank. The chart shows that most banks lie close to the trendline. 

One can identify a correlation between a bank's size and the amount of news pieces it geneartes. The more successful the bank, the more content it produces. 

Conclusions:

  • The banks in our study published a wide variety of news. It should be noted that Belarusian banks' communication strategies tend to focus on informing customers rather than creating opinions.

  • Banks' news activity is markedly seasonal, the peak times being April, June, July and December. As pointed out before, it's linked to the vacation season and holidays. It should be stressed that most promotions, including partner and PSP promos, are launched in December. Banks actively offer special terms for holiday shopping.

  • Product news form the most popular category, leading by a wide margin. To an unprepared user, this amount of news can even seem excessive.

  • The three state-owned banks were the most active – not only by the number of news articles but also by the variety of subjects. Circa 1/3 of all the publications in our study came from the state-owned banks.

  • There's a clear positive correlation between a bank's size, its position on the rating, and the amount of news it generates. However, the leaders differ: the National Bank rating is headed by Belarusbank, while Belinvestbank was the most active.

Our researchers