Many of you may have read articles in trade publications or local newspapers recently about one of your neighboring credit unions and thought, "How did that credit union get an article in the paper? How can my credit union receive this kind of attention?"
The reason you see some credit unions consistently featured in news articles is because those institutions are practicing effective public relations. Public relations is relations with the general public through publicity; specifically, those functions of a corporation or organization concerned with attempting to create favorable public opinion. How can your credit union develop an effective pubic relations program?
Now odds are that your credit union will host an event, unveil a new product, participate in community events, hire new employees or join a shared branch network in 2003 that a local newspaper or trade publication will deem newsworthy. Whether it's unveiling an innovative product or participating in community activities, you need to ensure your credit union is getting the recognition it deserves.
Because of extensive media relationships, public relations (PR) practitioners can help credit unions obtain news coverage to generate awareness about the organization. The majority of articles you see in newspapers involved some level of input from a PR firm, and in many cases the original idea came from a press release or telephone call to an editor or reporter.
As the information superhighway moves forward, consumers are flooded with information from a broad range of media, including industry trade publications, the Internet and state newsletters. PR has become a higher priority and plays a more important role in many credit unions nationwide. PR can be an important component to a credit union's continued success. The more a credit union's name appears in the media in a positive manner, the more well-known it becomes in the community. In turn, community awareness can lead to an increase in membership or instill loyalty from existing members.
Often, too many credit unions fail to establish relationships with the press. By neglecting these vital individuals, credit unions have difficulties generating news coverage. Some credit unions might assign PR responsibilities to a marketing director, who has very little experience in the PR field, in the hope of getting pertinent information or activities in print. Other credit unions may ignore PR altogether. Today, credit unions that do not have a focused PR program are hurting themselves, as the media-savvy credit unions that are taking it seriously will get ahead by attracting more members simply through generating more awareness.
To create an effective PR initiative, credit unions should consider the following methods.
First, observe the local and trade media outlets and look at how other financial institutions make news. It may be as simple as submitting a new hire announcement to the business editor of the local paper or national trade publication, such as The Credit Union Journal. Often new-hire information is printed with photographs also included. Look for a community section in the local paper in which your credit union can contribute. It is important to find out what the local and trade publications' editors consider newsworthy and will cover.
Second, identify the correct media contacts. If you want a local newspaper or national trade publication to cover an event, find out who your credit union should contact to share ideas with at the newspaper or publication. Contacting the wrong people at a publication will only annoy them.
Third, contact your peers. Many credit unions have individuals who are media-savvy. If you notice a credit union that seems to be making the headlines, ask for their advice and guidance on generating news that journalists will print.
Finally, consider hiring a PR firm or assigning a dedicated person within the credit union to manage your PR. Keep in mind that giving the responsibility to a marketing person who is already busy with marketing to members is not giving PR the attention that is needed and possibly will not yield an effective PR program.
Once your credit union has completed these steps, your PR program should be well underway.
Gregg Hoffman is president of Redbeard Communications. For info: www.redbeard.com.