‘Think’ About Generating Greater Awareness

Takeaways from CO-OP Financial Services' THINK 14 Conference.

July 16, 2014

Gigi Hyland CO-OP THINK

Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National CU Foundation, says CUs can improve their recognition nationally by trumpeting the good work they do daily.

Credit unions can’t allow themselves to remain “the best-kept secret” in the financial services industry, Gigi Hyland says.

When the executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation explains to people what she does for a living, she draws blank looks far too often.

A lot of heads nodded along with that comment during Hyland’s presentation at CO-OP Financial Services’ THINK 14 Conference in New Orleans, where a survey of attendees revealed most believe credit unions need greater awareness.

Credit unions are good at “walking the walk,” but they need to do a better job of “talking the talk,” according to Hyland.

“The challenge is explaining ourselves in a way that really resonates with members and consumers,” Hyland says.

By fostering relationships with other entities in the community, such as fellow cooperatives and nonprofits, Hyland says credit unions can raise awareness of who they are and better communicate the powerful message that they’re there to “help people afford life.”

Other takeaways from THINK 14:

  • Vow to excel at social media. Simply creating a Facebook page or a Pinterest board isn’t enough, says Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media and sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “Social media is a commitment for life.” She suggests making your mark with unique initiatives, such as a Pinterest board from Firefighters Community Credit Union in Cleveland that displays thank-you notes from members.
  • Use “the Force” of public opinion. When planning for the future, credit unions must forge stronger connections with members, says Ivan Askwith, a producer and consultant who was head of digital for Lucasfilm. Drawing parallels to the world of entertainment and brands such as “Star Wars,” Askwith says members will use your services but fans “will evangelize for you.”
  • Reach millennials by giving back. About 90% of consumers want companies to talk about the causes they support, says Philips McCarty, founder of Good Scout Group. That goes especially for millennials, who as a group give 6% of their monthly income to charities, says Caroline Willard, vice president of markets and strategy for CO-OP Financial Services.
  • Aging isn't graceful. The fact that the average credit union member is getting older is a “heavy vulnerability,” according to social media brand guru Gary Vaynerchuk. Credit unions can’t let concerns about alienating current members stop them from innovating because the culture is getting younger. “Do not be romantic about how you make your money,” Vaynerchuk says.