Bankers in Pittsburgh are finding out they can get along just fine without a major daily newspaper in town.
For nearly five months, drivers at the city's daily newspapers - The Pittsburgh Press and the Post-gazette - have been on strike.
But banks in town haven't missed a beat advertising their products and getting out announcements. They've shifted dollars to radio, national newspapers, and several rapidly growing suburban papers.
"The communications void seems to be filling," said Susan B. McIntosh, vice president and director of retail bank advertising and promotion for $30 billion-asset Mellon Bank Corp.
In May, for example, Mellon began relying more heavily on telemarketers to promote its checking account.
"We didn't have the Press and Post-gazette," Ms. McIntosh said. "And we did not see a decrease in the growth of accounts during that time."
Last Sunday, Mellon launched a major advertising campaign promoting its Smart Account, which gives several free products as well as lower fees on services to customers holding loan and deposit balances of at least $5,000.
Hitting the Airwaves
Although bank officials initially planned to use television and the two dailies, they didn't sweat out the logistics when the papers remained locked in negotiations. They added radio to the mix to reach customers who would have been targeted through the newspapers.
"We are certainly going to track our results very carefully," said Ms. McIntosh. "We feel we should just be fine."
Mellon and the other banks in town have not only tuned into radio, but are also advertising in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and a handful of suburban newspapers.
Since the strike, Integra Bank/Pittsburgh, a $5.5 billion-asset institution, has increased spending with community papers by about 30%, said Jeffrey Walker, the bank's marketing director.
"We've found that we can make fairly good use of the community papers. They give us pretty good reach," he said.
Mr. Walker said the bank is using more radio and is looking at using outdoor billboards, too.
Community newspapers are becoming an attractive alternative because they are growing, and they could receive more ad revenue from banks, which have not reduced their advertising budgets because of the strike.
The North Hills News Record, a paper that was published twice a week before the strike, converted to a daily. And circulation at the Tribune-review in Greensburg, Pa., has soared to 81,000 from 56,000 a day since the strike started.
Tom Butch, director of corporate communications at Mellon, said he has had no problems getting out bank announcements.
He uses national news wires and public relations wires, and remains in contact with reporters from the Post-gazette who are putting out a business news fax, and reporters from the Press, who are writing for a biweekly paper called the Allegheny Bulletin.
"To the extent we have any announcements or major press releases, it is business as usual," he said.
The strike, however, hasn't meant that radio stations and community newspapers are flooded with bank advertising.
Alan Robertson, publisher o the Pittsburgh Business Times, said the weekly is landing more trust ads from banks and personal banking ads, but he attributed that to improved performance and not the strike.
Chris Corson, general sales manager of KQV, an all-news radio station in Pittsburgh, said he has seen a slight advertising boost with Mellon's latest campaign.
"The impact of the newspaper strike has been an eye opener," he said. "We thought the flood-gates were going to open. They [banks] are just extremely conservative."