How can small credit unions stand out in a crowded community?
By partnering with local organizations for the good of the community and working with media contacts to help spread the word, according to a panel of credit union marketers who discussed “community awareness” Thursday during the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in San Antonio.
Chesterfield (Va.) Federal Credit Union, for instance, employs an interesting twist when it donates money to a local school district: It creates Facebook campaigns where local high schools compete against each other for $2,500 donations for prom.
Students vote for their schools, share their posts with others—and provide their names and email addresses for follow-up marketing. “This gets our name out there in a more organic way,” says Chris Miller, the credit union’s vice president of communications and branding. “It makes people talk about the program. Now I have 2,000 email addresses we can market to and create goodwill in the community.”
Chesterfield Federal also places high school logos on its debit cards. “Parents and students are invested in the card,” Miller says.
The biggest community awareness effort cPort Credit Union undertakes is its college scholarship program, says Laura Miller, vice president of marketing for the Portland, Maine-based credit union.
“We work with a nonprofit organization that helps students find the right college,” she says. “We get that awareness started early. This really resonates with parents and the schools. The program is now in nine schools in four towns.”
The credit union also engages staff in its community service initiatives by asking what causes they’re passionate about. “Then there’s a kernel of interest, which makes participation more meaningful.”
Providing economic value and helping members is the crux of ANECA Credit Union’s existence, says Stephanie Sievers, CEO of the Shreveport, La.-based credit union. But it also participates in many off-the-wall events, such as pet parades and National Lemonade Day.
ANECA taps local students to staff many of the events. In return, the students receive credit for community service, which is required for them to graduate.
“Students wear our shirts and are guaranteed cheerleaders,” Sievers says. “They post pictures of themselves in our shirts on Facebook. It’s not just about being out there—we don’t just cut a check and walk away—but being out there.”
The credit union’s unique efforts often garner media attention, which greatly boosts awareness.
Chesterfield Federal also works with local media outlets to share its efforts. “We let them know what’s going on,” Chris Miller says. “We have open dialogue with the local newspaper; providing quotes or story ideas when they ask. Because we’re there for them, they come to us first.”
cPort turns to the Maine Credit Union League for help with media relations. “It’s hard to develop media relations,” says Laura Miller. “The league helps us tell our story when we have a story to tell.”
Chesterfield Federal turns to the Virginia Credit Union League’s foundation to help local schools obtain grants.
“We help the school system fill out the grant application via the league,” says Chris Miller. “We get the recognition without spending any money.”
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.