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Piedmont Aviation CU Honors Past, Embraces Future with New Name, Brand

Some 60 years ago, the Piedmont Triad region looked a lot different than it does today. Back then, the region was a manufacturing powerhouse, and Winston-Salem was one of the richest and most important cities in the Southeastern US — if not the entire country.

In 1948, Tom Davis founded Piedmont Airlines in Winston-Salem. According to the web site Jet Piedmont.com, the first flight of the airline was from Wilmington, NC to Cincinnati, with Davis the only paying passenger. Out of these modest beginnings, Piedmont grew to be an outstanding regional carrier and one of the strongest airline brands in US aviation history. People loved them because the airline was so committed to customer service.

Soon after the airline took flight, Piedmont Aviation Credit Union got off the ground. The credit union, which began in 1949 with a mere $1,000 in assets, is today a $216 million full-service financial institution serving communities located throughout various locations in NC. Like the airline that gave it life, the credit union also has a commitment to customer service — or in the familiar credit union parlance, people helping people.

Today, the credit union remains a vital part of Winston-Salem, and committed to the members it serves nationwide. But like so many other companies in the Triad region, Piedmont Airlines has long been consigned to the history books.

The airline merged with US Airways in 1989 and Winston-Salem lost its hometown air carrier in the process. It was a heartbreaking loss for this proud city – one of many economic blows it would take in the years to follow before new industries and a new economic direction emerged in the last few years.

Despite this loss, Piedmont Aviation Credit Union enjoyed steady growth in the years following the merger. But as Piedmont Airlines receded further into the history books and out of the minds of the general public, what was a proud & central part of the credit union’s legacy, expressed in its very name, started to become a hindrance to recruiting potential members to the cooperative.

So Piedmont Aviation changed its name on March 2nd to reflect the changes happening on the ground. The new name, Piedmont Advantage CU, is designed to both honor the men and women in the airline industry who helped make the credit union what it is today, while attracting new members who are not involved with the aviation industry.

As PACU President/CEO Judy Tharp put it on Tuesday in unveiling the new name and brand, “Piedmont was an airline that cared about people, and this credit union cares about people.”

When the past is filled with such an enduring legacy, it’s hard to embrace change. Kudos to the credit union then for gracefully honoring this wonderful 60-year aviation heritage, even as it boldly aims for higher altitudes in the years to come.


Our Voices: Local Government FCU Helping Small Fire Departments Access Credit

Like more and more credit unions, Local Government FCU has entered the business lending arena over the past couple of years. But perhaps no other credit union has done as a great job of providing needed capital, promoting good will and improving the quality of life in small town NC as has LGFCU.

Local Government’s emphasis in business lending focuses on small fire departments across the State. These departments, which are often staffed through the generosity of volunteers, can sometimes encounter difficulty getting access to affordable capital. And since many of them operate in rural or unincorporated areas of the State where public resources are scarce to begin with, these departments may sometimes fall behind in providing modern & safe gear to the men and women who serve on these departments.

The Swannanoa VFD benefited from this lending program earlier this year, when it was able to get a loan to purchase a ladder truck. While Swannanoa has not encountered the same difficulties in accessing credit that other departments have, the loan still had a big impact. Thanks to a streamlined loan process and rock-bottom rates, the fire department was able to purchase its first ladder truck. The department has long needed a ladder truck, but it could never afford one until LGFCU stepped in with its new loan program.

Chief Anthony Penland of the Swannanoa VFD took time to chat with me late last week about the impact of both the ladder truck and the credit union on his department and the community. Kudos to LGFCU for providing communities like Swannanoa with the tools needed to keep firefighters — and the communities they serve — safe.

Charlotte Credit Unions Launch NCUSIF Awareness Campaign

Eleven Charlotte-area credit unions are rolling out a month-long awareness campaign touting the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). The campaign, which kicks off in the Charlotte Observer on Sunday, will educate credit unions members and consumers on the federal deposit insurance coverage provided credit unions through NCUSIF.

The ad designs follow the Triad NCUSIF Awareness Campaign that launched earlier this month. The Charlotte campaign also has a web site (www.greatercharlottecreditunions.com) that relays information about credit unions and NCUSIF.

Kudos to the Piedmont Chapter for quickly coming together to make this happen!

Members Credit Union Launches Blog to Answer Member Questions About Credit Crisis

A quick nod to the folks at Members Credit Union for launching the Ask Jack blog this week (jackbraswell.com). The primary purpose of the blog is to answer member questions about the credit crisis and its impact on their personal finances.

It’s also a brilliant way for the credit union to communicate clearly with members at a time when, frankly, people are making a lot of false assumptions based on what they are seeing, hearing and reading.

The blog features President/CEO Jack Braswell answering member questions on video. At a time of great uncertainty & fear, Members is once again showing us the way to get the job done – be open, honest and upfront.

It’s important to be bold right now, but in the right way. Because when you get down to it, members really don’t care too much about “capital ratios” and whether or not you “did it better” than someone else three years ago. Because when they call, email or drop by and ask, “How is the credit union doing … are you going to be OK?” … what they’re really asking you is, “Am I going to be OK?”

Kudos to Members Credit Union for understanding this simple, powerful principle and providing a forum for people to ask some important questions.

Using Newspaper Ads & Web Site, Triad-Area Credit Unions Educate Public About Deposit Insurance

Daily stock market moves are becoming the stuff of Disney E-Ticket rides, and economic concerns continue to grow across the country. These key facts ensure that the financial crisis is with us for the foreseeable future.

In order to inform and educate credit union members and consumers about share insurance, 18 credit unions in the  the Northwest and North Piedmont Chapters (which covers the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point areas) have joined forces to advertise in seven local newspapers over the next month. The half-page ads will underscore the safety of credit union deposits, and direct consumers to a web site (www.triadcreditunions.com) where they can learn more about the NCUSIF and credit unions.

This is a remarkable campaign on many fronts. The first conference call to put the effort together happened exactly two weeks ago today. The 18 credit unions on the initial call represent a lot of different types of organizations, from large to small, and community charter to single sponsor. But they all saw the need to come together to put out this vital message, and in the end all 18 committed dollars to purchase the ad space.

This outreach comes in addition to their own aggressive efforts to educate and inform their members about share insurance.

The ads roll out in most of the major newspapers of the region beginning this Sunday. The ad series was designed by Todd Lewis in the NCCUL Marketing Department.

Kudos to all these credit unions for working together not only in the good times – but especially now when times are tough!        

Congresswoman Foxx Praises Allegacy Federal Credit Union’s Student-Run Branch on US House Floor

As you may know, Allegacy FCU recently opened a student-run branch of the credit union at Reagan High School. One of the guest speakers at the dedication of the branch last month was Fifth District Congresswoman Virginia Foxx.

The branch, and the enthusiasm of the faculty & students at Reagan, impressed Foxx so much that she delivered a speech about it on the floor of the US House of Representatives on September 22nd.

With young people likely to encounter more-and-more financial challenges as the credit crisis moves into the economy, it’s great that credit unions such as Allegacy are providing young people with some great and practical learning.

Allegacy opened their branch in late August, shortly before American Partners FCU opened a branch of the credit union at Reidsville High School. And Winston-Salem City Employees’ Credit Union has a branch located at Union Cross Traditional Academy (Elementary) that is now entering its third year. Kudos to all of these credit unions for your work in the lives of young people!

Guest Post: Tips on Boosting your Credit Union’s Safety & Soundness Message in Search Engine Results

(Christopher Morris is Web Manager of CUNA Councils in Madison, WI. He also blogs at YES CU Blog: Serving 18-to-30s. In addition to knowing his stuff when it comes to SEO, Christopher also has a really cool Batman Tattoo.)

In a previous and important post, CU Communicator rightly pointed out the importance of communicating information to your members on your credit union’s safety and soundness on your website. However, did you know that titling your webpage “A Message from CEO John Smith” is not doing anything to boost your results in Google? Your members are very likelyto visit search engines to find information on the safety of their funds with your organization. The following are a few tips on helping your message get closer to the top of those search results (it’s called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for those in the know).

Keywords are Key. What words/phrases are members using to look for information? Are your members searching “Message John Smith Money?” Probably not, this is why my example above is a wasting valuable web space.

Sit down and come up with a list of keywords and share with others for feedback. Hint: your credit union name is definitely the major keyword (also, don’t use “CU” unless it is how your members regularly address your credit union)! Most likely, members will be searching in terms such as:

  • ABC Credit Union money safe
  • ABC Credit Union money insured
  • ABC Credit Union member money insurance
  • And so on…

Thus your resulting keyword list would start out looking like:

  • ABC Credit Union
  • Money
  • Safe
  • Insurance
  • Member
  • Insured
  • And so on….

If you have access to good website statistics for your site, you can usually get a listing of keywords that visitors use to get to your site via search engines. There might be some good information in there to add to your listing.

2. Use Your Keywords Wisely. Back to my example above – Your title (what you see in the top bar of your browser) is the most important use of your keywords to the search engines. Do a Google search yourself – see that underlined blue bar for each result over the two-line description? That’s your title. Therefore, a title for your posted information should be something such as “Member Money is Safe & Insured by the Federal Government at ABC Credit Union.” Sounds bland and generic, but it is Google gold.

Next, continue to use the keywords throughout your posted message, using them in headings, bold, italics, bulleted lists and as much as possible towards the beginning. Also, do not bury them in images or videos (if you do post a video, accompany it with keyword-rich text – images, use the “alt” HTML tag). For bonus points, if you or someone else has access to the HTML code for the page, use the keywords in the <meta description> & <meta keywords> tags in the <head> section.

Note: don’t overdo it – if one word takes up more than 8 to 10 percent of the page content, it is considered spam by the search engines.

 This is enough to get you started. For advanced tips, I recommend doing a Google search for “SEO Tips” or “SEO Basics.” There is also many good books on search engine optimization – make it part of your overall credit union marketing strategy for your entire website.

Bonus tip – send your relevant webpage link (the one with your credit union’s posted message) with any PR you send out to the media and others. Having “trusted” sites link to your pages also give it a boost in search engine rankings. 

A Very Well Deserved Friday Funny

The headlines are pretty bleak these days and we’ve been pretty busy at the League fielding questions from a lot of folks. From what I hear, it’s the same at credit unions as members check in and ask a lot of questions about deposit insurance (it’s a lot of work to be sure, but what a great moment for credit unions to reassure & educate members about their safety and soundness!).

So let’s take a moment on Friday and enjoy one of the funniest ads I’ve ever seen a credit union produce. The “Fee Pig” ad from Charlotte Metro Credit Union brought me a few belly laughs — and these days, that’s a very good thing.

Enjoy your weekend folks, and keep on doing great things on behalf of your members!

NCUA Vice Chairman Rodney Hood on Credit Union Strength in These Turbulent Times

National Credit Union Administration Vice Chairman Rodney Hood spoke to 75 people at the NW Chapter of Credit Unions meeting in Winston-Salem today. Hood praised the credit unions for their smart lending decisions in the past, and encouraged them to keep doing great things for their member-owners now that economy is threatened by the financial crisis. “Credit unions were not part of the market debacle,” Hood told the audience, “but I want to encourage you to be part of the solution.”

The always-gracious Hood took time to speak on-camera about the strength, safety and soundness of the credit union system.

Credit Unions Tout Their Strengths with NC Media

A quick note before dashing to hear NCUA Vice Chairman Rodney Hood address the NW Chapter of Credit Unions at a luncheon in Winston-Salem — two more credit unions touted the strength of the credit union system in the past couple of days.

Summit Credit Union in Greensboro spelled out the differences between credit unions and other institutions during the unfolding credit crisis. Summit’s profile on WFMY-News2 in Greensboro provides a lot of great information for consumers and members. To see it, click here (there’s a video clip on the upper-right hand side of the page).

Coastal Federal Credit Union in Raleigh also touted its growth and the advantages of doing business with a CU with Raleigh News & Observer Reporter Vickie Lee Parker. To read the story, please click here.

Nice going folks – keep doing the wonderful things you’re doing on behalf of your members and the credit union system!

Vice Chairman Hood will be speaking on the mortgage and credit crisis, and I’ll try to get more information to you about that a little later.