Media Mogul: How 1 CU Spreads The Word

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The best way to get in the newspaper and on the radio station? Own them.

Chocolate Bayou Community CU doesn't exactly own a newspaper or radio station, but a special edition newsletter and a low-frequency broadcast emanating from its headquarters sure makes it seem like it.

"We took our quarterly newsletter, 'Community Cents' and expanded it into a newspaper for a special edition this fall," explained Lynette Webb Rambo. "We had several things going on that we wanted to highlight: the home equity reform vote here in Texas, a local school bond issue, our annual car show and a membership awareness campaign."Printed on newspaper stock, the special edition newsletter was mailed to 20,000 households, including some non-member households. "It costs us about $5,500 for our regular quarterly newsletter, which is four pages and in full color," Rambo offered. "The special edition, once you include the additional postage and other costs was about $7,500, so it wasn't a major hardship on the budget."CBCCU invited state Sen. Mike Jackson to write a guest commentary about his support for a couple of credit union issues, including the home equity loan constitutional amendment.A full inside page was dedicated to profiles of members explaining why they joined the credit union. The page also included a promo for Chocolate Bayou's yard sign contest in which members are encouraged to post "Ask Me Why I'm a Member" signs in their yards.

Stopping by the CU to pick up a yard sign between Sept., 1 and Oct. 31 enters members to win weekly credit union prizes. "CBCFCU staff and board members will be conducting random checks of members who have picked up signs, and members 'caught' with it displayed in their yards are eligible for on-the-spot cash prizes."

One of the characteristics that adds to the newspaper feel of the newsletter is the fact that it even has advertisements in them-ads that helped defray the cost of the special edition. Several area auto dealerships that team up with the credit union for its annual auto show have display ads in the newsletter. "Every year the dealers cut us a check to help us market the show," Rambo commented. "We wouldn't actually sell advertising to people. This is a little different. We have to be careful that the credit union doesn't become a promoter of certain businesses, and to advertise you have to be aligned with the credit union."

But that doesn't mean businesses weren't interested. "For now, this special edition is a one-time thing, an experiment," she related. "But we have gotten calls from businesses wanting to advertise in the next one."

The special edition newspaper was also used to introduce the credit union's own radio station...of sorts. Chocolate Bayou partnered with AdTrax to become what is believed to be the first credit union to have a low-frequency radio broadcast emanating from its headquarters.

"They installed a special unit and antenna that allows us to broadcast music mixed with our own credit union messages," Rambo explained. "It can only be heard up to about a half-mile radius as per FCC regulations."

The CU is able to offer In-Tunes Radio at 87.9 FM because of a new law allowing nonprofits and not-for-profits to have low frequency radio stations for the purpose of educating their members.

"We use it as a reinforcement and educational tool," she suggested. "It will pay for itself once we sell advertising. We have sold some ad time, and we're trying to get one of the car dealers on as a major sponsor."

With more than 1,000 songs available for its play list, CBCFCU had a time getting the right mix of music for its broadcast.

"We went through some fine tuning on it, you could say," Rambo laughed. "There were a few songs that shouldn't have been in the mix, like 'My Dingaling,' a few rap songs and some screaming-guitar rock songs. But once we got that ironed out, we've had people ask if we sell CDs or if there's anyway for them tune into the station elsewhere."

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