A Big Reminder: 'You Can Join'

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.-Consumers are disillusioned with banks, yet many don't believe there is an alternative or that they are eligible to join a credit union. CO-OP Financial Services is seeking to bridge that divide.

Samantha Paxson, VP-marketing with CO-OP noted many consumers continue to assume there is a "special path" to membership. "So we are doing what we can to help raise awareness, and we are reaching out to general interest media and help them understand all the services credit unions can provide," Paxson said. "One of the main reasons why a consumer picks a primary FI is convenience-they want to know if there are branches or ATMs nearby. Through shared branching, credit unions are more convenient and technically savvy than banks, and we are telling this to the media."

Among recent efforts was a press release alerting recent graduates that CUs are among the smart financial choices one should make. The release was picked up "almost word-for-word" by 503 online publications plus 10 print placements, Paxson reported. For print the total circulation was 1.5 million; for the online audience the release had nearly 12 million views. A separate release touted the benefits and uniqueness of shared branching. "We push the convenience factor and also the character of a credit union, because that is so different from a bank," she said.

CO-OP is also making efforts to push further into social media, to help tell the CU story, and has a how-to course for CUs on social media, including connecting their traditional marketing efforts to Twitter and Facebook. There also is a more advanced course for credit unions that are past dipping their toes in and are really taking advantage of social media. "We want to help them maximize their efforts. Blogs are a really good way to get the word out about credit unions. Credit unions have 7% of the financial services marketplace, but they tend to fight each other for that market share when there is 93% share out there that is looking for an alternative."

Meanwhile, on its website at co-opfs.org is an "Ad Lab," which offers credit unions full, campaignable tools including poster creatives, teller window flyers and even full-page ads that credit unions can run.

"Every month there will be new creative available, and it reinforces what we are doing on the PR side to tell the credit union story," she said. "We want to give them the tools to make it really easy to tell all of their members about all of their existing products, so they can increase the number of products per member."

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