I Want Media Attention!!! (So Now What?!)

Yesterday, I got a chance to see the folks in Hickory at the Foothills Chapter meeting. The chapter is composed of many credit unions that started up in the area’s manufacturing heyday. (The Hickory area is widely known for its furniture manufacturing, although a lot of those jobs have gone overseas the past ten years.)

With so many changes in the economy and the world, it’s more important than ever for credit unions to “get in the game” when it comes to public relations. Consumers are bombarded with ads from banks in a variety of ways. We cannot as a movement afford to remain silent any longer – we’ve got to get the word out about who we are, what we do and how we do it!

The folks at these credit unions wanted a short primer on how to get their news items placed in the media. So we took a few moments to discuss the pluses and minuses of different media channels (television versus print versus radio), and identified opportunities for them to get their news out into the public square.

In comparing some of the different media in the Hickory area, quite a few opportunities emerged. While every city is different, there are a few guidelines that are pretty much universal:

Local newspapers offer the best opportunity to get news items placed. Generally speaking, they contain many different sections where news from the credit union would be appropriate (more on what to send later). In addition, newspaper advertising is generally fairly cost-effective when compared to television.

Radio can be a good fit on three different levels. First, for those radio stations with a local news reporter, some news items will occasionally be appropriate to send. Second, radio stations do community announcements, which are perfect, free opportunities for credit unions. Third, radio stations with locally-produced shows (especially in the morning) can be good spots for you to talk about what your event (especially if you’re doing a community fundraiser or creative event). Radio advertising is usually fairly cost effective.

Television is tough! Not only are the advertising costs fairly high, TV news looks for visual types of stories with lots of movement. Credit unions and banks usually do not generate that kind of news (and when they do, bad things are usually happening!). A couple of exceptions include morning television shows, which can offer opportunities to appear and talk about your credit union’s activities. Also, cable companies are increasingly hopping into the TV news business and these operations produce news 24/7. These cable-based news channels can also be good outlets for credit unions.
Overall, I wouldn’t ignore the TV medium entirely but I would also be very selective about what types of information you send, and to whom you send it.

— Finally there are alternative channels. Look around for “low hanging fruit” in your community – free opportunities to communicate your events and news. Examples might be alternative newspapers or the community announcements channel on cable. (If you’re really brave, go on public access TV!) Another can be bulletin boards at the local grocery or book store that allow people to post fliers (heck, they even supply the thumbtacks!!!).

So now that we’ve identified some of the media message channels to consider, let’s take a look at a few opportunities through the year where you can send out a press release and hopefully get some attention. Granted, it takes a little time to get this information together, but the payoff of a third party communicating your messages for free is well worth the time investment. So consider sending these announcements to the media as a minimum through the year:

Annual meeting announcements – send information out beforehand to let people know the meeting is coming up, and then after-the-fact (with a good photo) to summarize what happened.

Board election results – give your volunteers a little free publicity! Send out a press release (and photo) for each board member to the newspapers in your area. Your board will love you for it, and the newspaper’s readers will be happy to see their friends and neighbors spotlighted!

Staff promotions, hires and other news – showcase people who work at your credit union, and celebrate your employees’ success when they advance in their careers.

Charitable and community events – helping out your neighbors? Tell folks about it! It’s a good way to get your news out there, and it also allows the non-profit community agency you are supporting to get some positive promotion.

Now that we’ve summarized a few of the different message channels and opportunities to spread the word, the question becomes how to actually share your information in a way that will ensure success. We’ll tackle the issues of how to write a good press release and how to send it to the right people in part two, next week!

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