Radio Program-In Spanish-Becomes Hit For One CU

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Seeking a broad method to educate Spanish-speaking members of the community, Merrimack Valley CU suddenly has a hit radio show on its hands.

The new radio show debuted in early March in conjunction with the relocation of Merrimack's headquarters to a restored mill in Lawrence, Mass., an area known for its blight and chronically underserved community, according to John MacDonald, AVP of business development and political affairs. Both the new headquarters and radio show underscore Merrimack's commitment to serving the underserved, he said.

"It's a statement to the community," MacDonald said.

For the last year, MacDonald said Merrimack CU has had an English language radio show that was successful, but has not grown as quickly or dramatically as the new Spanish version. MacDonald hired local newspaper publisher and radio personality Dalia Diaz to host the show in conjunction with the MVCU's move into the Lawrence area and to teach basic financial education. The half-hour show is broadcast every Monday from 9:30 to 10 a.m. on WCCM 1490 AM radio.

"It has developed in a way no one imagined," Diaz said. "We are surprised at the success the radio show has had."

Learning, Not Selling

Diaz said she thinks the main reason for the show's quick popularity is that listeners are actually learning about financial education and how to implement it in their daily lives instead of being sold a product or service offered by Merrimack CU. "People are hearing something they haven't heard before," she said. "I think people are sick and tired of hearing 'Our Rates Are ...!' People are tired of being sold to."

Instead of pitching products, Diaz brings in various experts from the local community to discuss issues with her and audience members who call in with questions. Recent topics have included checking and savings accounts, credit, scams targeted at the elderly and one expert discussing mortgage foreclosures in the Lawrence area. "It was a great show," she said.

Diaz said the credit union's bilingual call-in center employees have been helping other departments handle telephone inquiries due to the increase in inquiries. MacDonald said Merrimack CU staff has seen an immediate jump in calls and new members that he directly attributed to the radio show. The radio show has caused 25 calls per day since it first aired, he said

"I'm quite astonished with the results," he said. "We're opening accounts left and right."

MacDonald said another result has been translating all Merrimack CU service brochures into Spanish. Most Merrimack staff didn't think the brochures would have a large impact, but much to their surprise, MacDonald said, "They're just flying off the shelves."

MacDonald said the initial radio run of the show is for four weeks with a cost of $325 per show, but added that MCU has an existing relationship with WCCM due to its other broadcast.

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