Inside Experian’s bid to help consumers boost their credit scores

The rating company reshaped the industry by enabling folks with ‘thin’ payment histories to include phone and utility bills to show they are reliable customers. Here’s the backstory.

“This is the biggest product launch in Experian’s history.”

Those were the words used again and again leading up to the launch of Experian Boost.

Exaggerated? Maybe, maybe not. But this was an unprecedented, industry-first product that would enable U.S. consumers to voluntarily add payment histories for things like their mobile phone and utility bills to their credit profile. This is particularly relevant to consumers with “thin” credit files.

Over 100 million people in the U.S. have low credit scores, which can limit their access to doing things like purchasing a new car or leasing an apartment. But these scores sometimes don’t paint a full picture of an individual’s creditworthiness.

Consistently making mobile phone or utility payments has never been a factor in determining a credit score, let alone a consumer’s being able to control the addition of that information. This was a first in every sense of the word. It was more than a product launch; the new offering was awakening a new way of thinking about who Experian is as a company and what our role in society should be.

Consumer needs are at the forefront of our vision for a world where our innovations can improve the lives of millions of people—enabling and encouraging them to be active participants in the global economy.

Creating a new platform to empower consumers to potentially change their credit scores instantly wasn’t going to be easy. Knowing we wanted to kick open the doors of financial inclusion for millions, we reached out to key influencers, including advocates who champion communities that are challenged to participate in the financial system. We knew we needed their input to fully understand how these communities might respond to the opportunities our new platform would provide.

Once we incorporated the feedback of all parties involved and knew our expectations were validated, it was time to tell our story and build anticipation for what was the most significant change to the credit report since the credit report was first developed. We were confident the media would see and appreciate the revolutionary storyline. We also executed a fully integrated social media campaign, engaging consumers directly to help demonstrate the product and its benefits. After all, we can only help those consumers who choose to sign up and try this free product.

Within a 48-hour span, we landed a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal, full features in USA Today and The New York Times, as well as in-depth coverage on Bloomberg, CNBC and NPR. Over the last six months, we’ve secured 600 print, online and broadcast media placements.

Most important, since our launch we have seen more than 10 million points added to credit scores and 61% of Experian Boost users have raised their FICO score—and those who have increased their scores see an average 13-point bump.

A product launch has refocused our sense of purpose. And while we have helped millions instantly improve their credit scores and access to credit, there are tens of millions more who can benefit. We are just getting started.

Gerry Tschopp is Experian’s global head of external communications and a trustee of the Institute for Public Relations. Find him on LinkedIn.




One Response to “Inside Experian’s bid to help consumers boost their credit scores”

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    This is superb PR! Tschopp is saving Experian from injury the way great PR firms and law firms sometimes succeed in doing it—not by winning after a bloody communications war with all kinds of accusations and witnesses and reputation trashing, but winning by being conciliatory, helpful nice guys.

    THE EXPERIAN PERIL is that Experian could take a savage legislative and economic beating from congress and juries.

    THE CHARGE could be that “those heartless bastards” who run Experian have “put profits ahead of morality” by unfairly causing thousands of trustworthy Americans to be denied credit that they “certainly deserve.” We could see on TV helpless weeping women clutching rosary beads and crying that “I just want to make a decent home for my children!”

    THE PR BLUNDER could be Experian trying to argue that lousy credit histories beget lousy credit reports “and there’s nothing we can do about that.” But if PR shows a shiny Experian headquarters building–and then a rat-infested sum room where the woman lives with her children, which side will get the most public sympathy?

    BUT WHAT TSCHOPP’S people did with this project was to show:
    “We’re on the public’s side! We don’t jut RATE people but we HELP people get the best possible ratings!”

    CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS ATTACK BAD GUYS who hurt the public, not good guys seen in the media helping the public to qualify for what people want to have. Lawyers who sue on a contingency—no fee except a percentage like 33% of whatever a jury will award—want to sue horrible landlords and employers, not a company that helps the public!

    It works again and again. One of my account people dated a corporate lawyer at the mighty Fried Frank law firm and he said they “always” tried to win for a client without a fight. Washington political leaders may be able to sharply increase the votes for impeachment in a nice way by saying not that the president is horrible or a crook but that “he may be losing it” or “showing serious signs of stress” because the job is such a mental strain, and congress should vote so he “gets the rest he needs.” This could bring in votes!

    “Nice guys don’t win” said Dodgers manager Leo Durocher. But that was long ago, Durocher is gone, but Tschopp and Fried Frank are still with us—and they are winning.

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