CUs Share Best Practices In Reaching Out To Communities

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What makes for a "best practice" when it comes to public and community relations?

Three credit unions identified as being among the best shared their strategies during the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council conference here.

The Council named two winners in the public/community relations category: Chocolate Bayou Community Federal Credit Union in Alvin, Texas, and PSECU in Harrisburg, Penn. In addition, Beaverton, Ore.-based Rivermark Community Credit Union won in the business development category.

Lynette Rambo, vice president of marketing and business development for Chocolate Bayou Community FCU, said the $60-million, 15,000-member credit union is heavily invested in its Hispanic outreach initiative.

While the city of Alvin has a population of just 21,000, Brazoria County has 250,000 people, many of those immigrants from Mexico. Membership in the credit union is open to anyone who lives, works or worships in Brazoria County.

To reach the large Spanish-speaking population-many of whom not only are unbanked but also do not trust financial institutions-CBCFCU provides translation services, bilingual brochures and advertising, low-cost wire transfers through the IRnet system, and it sponsors education initiatives.

"We also participate in a cross-border partnership with Caja Popular Mexicana, the largest credit union in Mexico with more than 700,000 members," said Rambo.

Chocolate Bayou's "pride and joy" is its sponsorship of the countywide Cinco de Mayo festival, which it founded in 2002, Rambo said. The festival is held each year on the Sunday closest to the fifth of May. The CU created a website at www.weekendinalvin.com to promote the festival and the city.

PR Focus

According to Margaret Delmonico, vice president of marketing for PSECU, the credit union's board of directors wanted a separate public relations focus.

As a result, it split the business development and public relations department into two groups.

"We became a participating sponsor in events with non-profit organizations, both local and national," said Delmonico. "We also play matchmaker, putting non-profit organizations together."

Recent partners include the American Heart Association and PA CASA, which stands for Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocates. PSECU produced a customized "The More You Know" public service announcement to promote the American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk.

"Our strategy is to offer financial support, employee and board involvement, and committee involvement. In return, we get opportunities for name recognition, and we are very happy to be out in the community," said Delmonico.

Lunch & Learn

Lesley Carrell, Rivermark Community CU's vice president of marketing, said the credit union began offering "lunch and learn" seminars a few years ago. She said the seminars quickly became an "integral part of the business development program."

"They add value to employees of SEGs, and we have attracted new SEGs as a result of offering seminars," she said.

Topics for the seminars vary widely, but most are issues credit unions deal with every day, Carrell explained. Some of the more popular discussions have been about fraud, mortgages, identity theft, retirement planning and understanding one's credit report.

"Ask the SEG to suggest a topic to get people involved," she said.

Once the topic is decided, Carrell suggests gathering information from government and/or vendor Websites. She also counsels practicing and refining the presentations before giving them to the lunch groups. "Any credit union can do these seminars, from largest to the smallest."

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