Lauren Williams

Telling the credit union story

'Media relations is a two-way street,' says Lauren Williams, CUNA’s media relations manager.

August 9, 2019

The secret to working effectively with the media is a two-part recipe based on strong relationships with journalists and sharing quality, relevant stories reporters need, says Lauren Williams, CUNA’s media relations manager.

Williams, who addressed the 2019 African-American Credit Union Coalition Conference Thursday in Charlotte, N.C., says credit unions should share with local and national media how they put their cooperative principles to work through their voluntary and open membership, education and training, and concern for the community.

Effective public relations is personal and precise, she says, and it builds credibility for organizations and industries by developing productive relationships with the media.

“Media relations is a two-way street; a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and the reporter,” Williams says. “At CUNA, our communications efforts are rooted in thoughtful strategy. This is especially important when it comes to effective public relations.”

Media databases, email blasts, and press releases are temporary fixes that can’t replace crafted pitches that “get inside reporters heads,” she says.

Williams said newsworthy pitches:

  • Share how a critical problem has been solved.
  • Explain inspiration for being in business.
  • Show how the credit union is different.
  • Celebrate a credit union member story.

Credit unions can also be thought leaders, providing news outlets with opinion editorial letters, letters to the editor, and guest columns.

“Every credit union executive has the ability to be an influencer because they have a digital presence,” Williams says. “It’s important to lean into your social media channels to elevate your professional, personal, or credit union brand. Building up your expertise through earned media placements will give you a presence in the industry and position you as a thought leader.”

She says all media interviews should have a purpose and a target. Preparation is critical.

Credit union media specialists should always be ready with an “elevator speech” that is concise, consistent, and compelling. This speech should identify three critical messaging points, along with a call to action.

Every interview should include a call to action, and the underlying message should be supported with facts and figures.

Williams notes that credit unions have CUNA as resource, both for information and to share their stories to a wider national audience.