CU On The Blog

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Pioneering credit unions are meeting online daily to strategize and socialize, all in the comfort of the web's quirky and expanding blogosphere.

However, few credit unions are blogging directly with their members.

At blogs, or web log sites, people post and discuss on countless topics. A handful of credit unions have joined the approximately 5,000 blogs devoted to personal finance, blogging to encourage employee camaraderie, share business tactics or show off to their communities.

"People from all over the world, including bankers, regulators, friends and relatives and First Entertainment Credit Union employees read my blog," said Chuck Bruen, CEO of $570-million First Entertainment CU in Hollywood.

Bruen, in 2003, was apparently the first credit union executive to host his own CU-related blog, which features "good credit union stories and a perspective of how banks differ from credit unions," Bruen said.

"I also poke fun at bankers whenever I can," he added.

Whereas Bruen's banking-strategy blog isn't sponsored or advertised by First Entertainment, in Seattle, Verity Credit Union's employee-driven blog is linked directly from the CU's "About" webpage.

Verity CU's nine employees gather to "share with our community how interesting and dynamic they are, and to try to breed a sense of familiarity between members and employees or even the community and employees," explained Shari Storm, vice president of marketing at the $330-million credit union.

Readers can catch Verity's CFO, for example, wondering how much he is like Seinfeld's TV character, George Costanza. Others might be interested to know that the CU's radio advertising features it own employees' voiceovers.

Storm said she was surprised to discover that the blog's principal audience consists of potential Verity employees. "I think it gives them a sense of what is like to work here."

There are notable marketing benefits as well, Storm added. "We've created a buzz in our industry and a positive image in our community. And it's hard to get that image across in a flyer or a newsletter."

The Verity post that has received the most comments decried a marketing scam that advertised free pantyhose, she said.

Other CU voices surface intermittently from the blogosphere. The $2-billion Mission FCU in San Diego is blogging strictly within its Human Resources department about Steven Covey's leadership book, The 8th Habit.

In addition, $10-million New Orleans Clerks and Checkers FCU did business from a blog after evacuating its Metairie, La. headquarters due to Hurricane Katrina.

Next month, however, POWERCO CU of Columbus, Ohio, may be the first credit union to blog directly with members.

The $34-million credit union hopes its forthcoming blog will talk to members and potential members alike, encouraging repeat visits to the CU website, according to Michael Shafer, POWERCO's CEO.

"This might be an effective way to introduce services to a demographic that does not typically respond to traditional marketing," Shafer said.

POWERCO CU's blog may address topics from financial health, new services, home and auto purchasing tips and member success stories, he added.

First Entertainment CU's CEO is skeptical. "I think e-mail or online live chat is a more effective channel for communicating with members," Bruen explained. "Members often aren't interested in the community of a credit union; more often they have personal complaints or compliments that we don't want to advertise publicly. For our credit union, a blog with members would be a lot of risk with very little associated benefit."

POWERCO is ready to address that risk, Shafer said: "Although we do not want to damage the credibility of the blog by censoring postings, we will not hesitate to remove postings that are inappropriate."

Meanwhile, Verity doesn't allow members to post, but does accept-and edit, if necessary-comments from members, Storm said.

WHERE TO FIND CU BLOGS & OTHER INFORMATION

* Chuck Bruen (First Entertainment CEO) http://cbruen.com/blog

* POWERONE CU at www.powercocu.org

* Trabian Technology at www.trabian.com

* Verity CU at www.veritycu.com

* CUES' Skybox at www.cuesskybox.typepad.com/skybox

* Employees at Verity CU www.veritycu.blogspot.com

* Fort Worth Chapter of CUs at www.fwcuc.org

* Luke Labbe (St. Joseph's CU) at www.cufinance.blogspot.com

* Open Source CU at www.opensourcecu.com

* Woodstock Institute's Building Community Assets at www.woodstockinst. org/blog

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