• Get CU Communicator Delivered by E-Mail

  • Add to Technorati Favorites

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!        

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. 

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.

Keep Touting Credit Unions in the Credit Crisis – And Do It on Your Web Sites!

Ah, the wonders of technology. As I write this at 3:00 pm on Friday, I know that 10 people have landed on this site since early this morning by doing a web search using terms such as “credit unions in credit crisis,” “credit unions safe and sound” and “credit unions and the credit crisis.” These kinds of search terms have been getting people here for months now – and the frequency is picking up lately.    

While your humble author is excited to be able to (hopefully) share helpful information with people who are rightly concerned about the financial headlines … I’m wondering what credit unions are putting out on their web sites to inform and educate members about the safety and soundness of credit union member deposits (not to mention the fact that NC credit unions are kicking some serious tail these days)?

I’m no search engine optimization expert at all, and if you happen to be, I invite you to share tips for credit unions from those who can help.

I suspect that a lot of the hits from people coming here are either concerned consumers who are curious about credit unions as an option … or they’re credit union members doing a generic search on the industry (feel free to comment if you like and tell us what you’re thinking right about now!).   

But the bottom line for CU folks is that your web site is the easiest way to communicate information to reassure your members and *not* putting out a reassuring message on the web has a definite downside.

Because if someone “Googles” your credit union’s name and the credit crisis, you want to make sure you are a relevant part of the search results — especially these days.

Crisis in the Markets: Why ‘Safe & Sound’ Is No Longer Good Enough

Back in July, the League, many credit unions and credit union organizations put the word out to the media and members that member accounts were safe and sound under the NCUSIF umbrella. At the time, the markets had tumbled and folks were nervous.

Looking back, it seems like those were the good old days.

The credit markets are seizing, and there’s pure panic on Wall Street this week. And people on Main Street are really, really worried.

So the League is speaking up again, but this time “safe and sound” is an afterthought in our message approach.

Why pull that punch with people so nervous? It’s simple really – nobody believes it anymore.

Here’s a few notable “reassuring” messages as of late:

  • “The strategic initiatives we have announced today reflect our determination to fundamentally reposition Lehman Brothers by dramatically reducing balance sheet risk, reinforcing our focus on our client-facing businesses and returning the Firm to profitability.” — Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, five days before the firm went bankrupt.
  • Bruce W. Harting, an analyst at Lehman Brothers, said that Fannie’s “capital appears much stronger than widely perceived“ and that neither Fannie nor Freddie “has an immediate need for capital.“ — As reported by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times, three days before the US Government you and I took control of Fannie and Freddie.
  • In an effort to squelch investor anxiety, WaMu insisted Thursday that it has sufficient capital to fund its operations … — As reported by Sarah Repro in the Seattle Times two days ago. As I write this, WaMu is up for auction in order to stave off bankruptcy.

Messages like that have been foisted on the public for weeks now, but like a weatherman forecasting snow in Miami every day, it doesn’t take long for them to be disbelieved (or worse yet, actually raise fear about the folks who are saying them). It’s also worth mentioning that a few of the above statements were factual!

So how do we cut through the perception problem and connect with people about the reality that credit unions are in much, much better shape? My take is you avoid talking about stuff people don’t understand and may not believe, and start talking about things people can hear that tell them you’re doing fine. And be sure to let your members know you’re there for them and you want to help.

A press release follows below that we’ll be sending out Thursday. And if you click here, you’ll see some of the wonderful messages some of our credit unions in NC are developing and sharing in an effort to reassure their members. These will be shared with the media, and as you’ll see if you click the link, those messages from our credit unions about the specific things they are doing to help people are the real difference-makers in this message outreach.)

NC Credit Unions Shine As Credit Crisis Roils Banks, Wall Street

As other financial institutions curtail lending in order to deal with the unfolding credit crisis, NC credit unions continue to help their members weather the economic storm, the NC Credit Union League (NCCUL) said today. The announcement came as many consumers worried about the state of the economy and the banking system.

“It’s natural for people to see the headlines and wonder if their money is safe,” said NCCUL President/CEO John Radebaugh. “Not only are credit unions safe, they’re a safe haven in this economic storm.”

Radebaugh noted that credit unions are fundamentally strong and a number of credit unions are reporting strong loan growth in 2008. “Credit unions made prudent lending decisions when other lenders didn’t, and so there’s no need for them to cut back on lending now.” He added that as cooperatives, credit unions do not rely on the stock market for funding.

As credit unions continue to stand out, NC consumers are taking note. The League offers a credit union locator service, called Find a Credit Union, on its web site. This site allows NC consumers to search for credit unions in their community that they may be eligible to join. “Over the past few months, we’re seeing a lot more searches on the site,” Radebaugh said. In fact, Find a Credit Union searches surged 62% in April – June over the first three months of the year. (To search for a credit union, you may go to http://www.findacreditunion.com/.)

Radebaugh also noted that deposits at all NC credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). NCUSIF, which is funded by credit unions and not taxpayers, provides up to $100,000 for individual accounts, and $250,000 for retirement accounts.

Truliant FCU Shines in Media Outreach in Credit Crisis

This is a bit of an update to the July 16th post about the credit crisis, and the insurance protection credit union members enjoy through NCUSIF. Credit unions across the state and nation have been busy sharing  important information with members during these uncertain times.

Truliant FCU has really done a masterful job of getting this information in front of the media through timely press releases. Last week, the credit union sent out a press release showing their mortgage closings shot up in the first six months of the year, even as the real estate market in Forsyth County and the Piedmont Triad struggled.   

A key quote from this press release:

“Our mortgage department stays extremely busy,” said Marc Schaefer, President/CEO of Truliant Federal Credit Union. “We take the necessary steps and time to analyze each member’s needs to ensure they understand all of their options and the costs associated with each. By placing this information within the context of all their financial needs we help them purchase a home that they can both enjoy and afford. As a credit union, we are member-owned and pride ourselves on doing what is best for our members.”

This quote really pushes out some clear points of differentiation for Truliant and just about every other credit union in America!

Of course, the IndyMac bank failure a couple of weeks ago also generated a lot of concern, and Truliant is taking the exceptionally wonderful step of scheduling seminars to help members understand and maximize share insurance protections. This info was also sent out to the media.

This information may or may not end up in newspapers or other forms of media – a lot of times, good news gets ignored at the expense of the sensational. And that’s too bad.

But at a clear inflection point in the economy and the financial services sector, these press releases do help Truliant differentiate itself in the eyes of reporters and editors. And in a movement that outsiders don’t understand very well, and the media sometimes forgets about, that can’t help but be positive. Keep it up!

Credit Unions Step in, Thaw Frozen NC Student Loan Program

(Edit 7/11 to clarify and correct: State Employees’ is the sole investor in the loan program. As part of the agreement, SECU and LGFCU members will get a reduced interest rate on NC EXTRA Education Loans. I regret the error.)

Over the last year, news about the credit crunch has largely revolved around subprime mortgages. But as banks and other institutions tighten their lending standards in order to repair their balance sheets, other facets of consumer lending have been impacted as well.

Here in NC, the loan money to help college students finance their education was threatened when the Auction Rate Securities market failed earlier this year. Since the agency that oversees many of these loans in NC uses the ARS market to access capital, students needing education loans were facing a lot of uncertainty in the upcoming school year.

Today, that uncertainty is gone thanks to State Employees’ Credit Union & Local Government Federal Credit Union. The credit unions invested $1.1 billion in the NC State Education Assistance Authority so that North Carolina students will be able to get loans at low rates.

Of course both these credit unions have been leading the pack on the credit crisis, helping thousands of NC families refinance out of abusive and potentially lethal mortgages. Even as the financial headlines darken, these credit unions are proving how powerful, positive and relevant a force the cooperative charter is.

The Raleigh News and Observer ran an article today detailing the credit union response to the loan program dilemma. You can read it by clicking here.

Truliant FCU Ads Score Points by Pointing out Differences

True confession time from the FWIW (for what it’s worth) department – most of the bank and credit union television ads I’ve seen over the years stink. Replete with airbrushed models, canned music and formulaic jargon, the end message I get is: “We’re unique – just like everyone else.”

It was refreshing then to get a look at Truliant Federal Credit Union’s new flight of fun television ads, which are currently appearing in the Charlotte and Piedmont Triad markets. These ads use real members of the credit union with real stories about how Truliant is different.

Truliant’s Marketing/Communications Supervisor, Ryan Shell, noted that the members in the ads were pulled from success stories that the Truliant staff received. He said all of them were enthusiastic about volunteering their time to participate in the commercials.

The central message is also key here, because it relates the value of membership – but from the member’s perspective, not the credit union’s. We can get on the “member-owner-cooperative-not-for-profit-people-helping-people” soapbox every day of the week and twice on Sunday – but the truth of the matter is: it’s what credit union members understand on a personal level about those differences that matter.

In other words, it’s all just pretty rhetoric until someone discovers that these words actually mean something that is very relevant to their lives.   

On that topic of relevance – I can relate to the people I see in these ads. When I lived in Reno several years ago, I always laughed at the casino commercials that came on TV. Everybody looked like they were straight out of central casting: J-Lo and Ryan Phillippe knockoffs throwing the dice and pulling the slots. Then when you actually went to the casinos, you’d see a bunch of chain-smoking grandmas trying to score the big payoff.

While the folks in the Truliant spots don’t look like chain-smoking grandmas, they do look like people I see and interact with every day. That’s refreshing, and a wise choice.    

These TV spots are part of a broader campaign that includes print & billboard ads, as well as a micro-site called trudifferences.org. (Complete details are summarized in the press release here.)   

If I could make one suggestion, it would be that Truliant use this as a springboard to start a two-way conversation by hosting a blog tied to the campaign. I mean, they’re already asking people about their member experience on a regular basis. Why not throw it open to a wider (and less filtered) discussion?
At any rate, check out the ads and feel free to share your opinion.