Results Of Cal./Nev. Campaign Are Released; 2nd Year Now Up For Vote

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When California and Nevada's credit unions hold their annual meeting here next week they will again be asked to pick up the tab for the comprehensive Public Advocacy Campaign that has run in the two states this year, primarily on radio but also in some newspapers.

Ten months after launch, the California/Nevada league said research shows the campaign to increase awareness and build support for credit union issues among consumers and policy makers has achieved measurable results in "convincing voters to back credit unions."

"As measured by ongoing surveys of registered voters in both states throughout the year, nearly one million voters who were aware of the program's radio or newspaper advertisements were swayed to support credit unions if a battle with the banking industry should take place at state or federal levels," the league said.

Approved by the states' credit unions at the 2004 annual meeting in Las Vegas, it was a significant and, for some credit unions, expensive undertaking, with their assessments exceeding annual league dues.

The program began in January 2005 with a series of radio advertisements in 28 markets throughout both states that emphasize the benefits of credit unions for all consumers by providing competition, returning earnings to consumers within local communities and offering a choice for financial services. Newspaper advertisements explaining how credit unions "Recycle" earnings within local communities were used in state capitals and in key legislative districts. The ads will run through December.

"It is very satisfying to see that our member credit unions' foresight in approving this critical program designed to build widespread support in the face of continued attacks from the banking industry has now been validated through research," said Richard Ghysels, Chairman of the League's Public Advocacy Committee and CEO of First Financial Credit Union, West Covina, Calif.

Other media support has included member education materials including posters, statement stuffers and other printed materials that reflect the program messages, along with use of the radio ads as credit union "on-hold" messages. A grassroots component of the program is also under way to recruit and train an expanded base of advocates from credit unions in California and Nevada, the league said.

"Ongoing research has been essential in guiding the development of messages and demonstrating the effectiveness of the program" said Henry Kertman, League director of public relations. "We promised member credit unions to provide measurable results, and the positive research findings indicate significant progress in moving forward."

Strata Research, an independent research firm based in San Diego, conducted a benchmark survey in November, 2004 of registered voters in California and Nevada who are financial decision makers in their household, the league said. Those findings were measured against ongoing monthly polling throughout 2005 and a concluding report in September.

"Of 17.6 million voters surveyed, 32% (5.6 million) were aware of the messages. That's a strong reach for such a broad-based, multi-state program" Kertman said. "More importantly, of those consumers aware of the messages, nearly one million (901,000 or 16%) indicated the ads had swayed them to side with credit unions. This is the type of solid result we were determined to achieve."

Research also indicated significant increases in favorable impressions of credit unions from both members and non-members, a significant decline in the number of consumers who are not aware of credit unions, and increased consumer disapproval of attacks on credit unions from the banking industry.

The league said that when credit unions meet for the annual meeting at Disneyland next week they will be provided with a proposed schedule for 2006 that reflects about a 10% reduction in many credit union assessments.

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