Communicating Your Credit Union’s Core Values Using Earned Media

In a roundabout way, this post updates the subprime lending issue first raised on this Internet outpost back in March. The folks at State Employees’ Credit Union have rolled out two new products specifically designed to assist members who may be trapped in subprime mortgage products from other, less consumer-friendly (to say the least) lenders. (Edited June 21st to add … Local Government Federal Credit Union has also announced an effort to help its members who may be trapped in subprime mortgages.)

As I read the details of these new products and their impact on the credit union’s members, it occurred to me that SECU does an outstanding job of communicating its core values in its media outreach. If you look at the vast majority of the press releases they send out, most of them involve either a product or service that is meeting a need in the membership, or the activities of the SECU Foundation.

The Foundation seems to have given the credit union a real focus for doing good works across NC – and on a large scale. The credit union has provided millions of dollars in scholarship money, one of many educational investments the Foundation has made in the State.

On the product/service front, the subprime mortgage solution is but the latest example of the credit union meeting a consumer finance need on issues that have generated headlines and controversy. A few years ago, the payday/predatory lending issue was hot in the State. SECU rolled out a product to help people break the cycle of payday lending. This product won the credit union the national Louise Herring Award and the solution SECU offered generated a lot of earned media last year when USA Today spotlighted the issue.

(Edited June 21st to add … the SECU mortgage products are just hitting the market, but they’ve already gotten coverage in the Winston-Salem Journal.)

Of course, grabbing attention is not why SECU designs and rolls out these products … but by doing so and telling folks about it, the credit union reinforces its brand — on the media’s dime. And because they come up with some truly innovative solutions that meet needs – they make the entire movement look better.

Coastal Federal Credit Union is another example of a credit union that does a great job of communicating its core values using the PR process. Coastal sponsors “Food for Thought” seminars where people can drop in, grab a free lunch and learn basic financial skills. The credit union is also bringing national talk show host Clark Howard to Raleigh over the summer.

Coastal has done a great job of highlighting the ways it tries to make its members smarter when it comes to money. Like SECU, they have tailored programs and product lines that meet specific needs … and then they tell the world about it.

These are two examples of credit unions in NC that get it when it comes to PR. If you’re trying to figure out a more strategic approach to your communications efforts using the media and other tools, you would do well to ask yourself a simple question up front … “Of all the things we do, what is it we want to be known for?”

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