7 Savvy Steps to Safeguarding Your Credit Union’s Reputation

August's best article features quick tips to deal with the current environment. If you perform the public relations function for your credit union, this is not the summer to coast on auto-pilot.


Who's safeguarding your credit union's reputation?

If you perform the public relations function for your credit union, this is not the summer to coast on auto-pilot. Unfortunately, the grim fallout from negative national financial news is leaving credit unions needlessly open to unfounded concerns regarding their own safety and soundness.

With staff and budget constraints a given nowadays, you have to work smart to effectively position your credit union's continued good financial health with your members and community. And that means avoiding “one-off” communications in favor of a well-built and orchestrated communications plan.

In fact, a thoughtful, well-targeted communications plan addressing the issues of summer 2008 can serve as a case study for you to put on the shelf and tap into for guidance when similar public relations challenges arise in the future. No need to "reinvent the wheel" when you have effective and efficient processes in place that you know have worked well.

Here are seven savvy steps to safeguarding your credit union’s reputation, as you turn the spillover from negative national news into positive positioning for your credit union:

1) When crafting your press release and supporting member communications, time really is of the essence. Fannie’s and Freddie’s woes may seem geographically remote from you, but in this cyber age, your local community and members are absorbing those TV sound bites and drawing their own, often erroneous, conclusions. To get in front of that situation, you need to get out the good news about your credit union’s fiscal health sooner rather than later.

2) As you prepare to move your message out the door, always double-check your local media contact list for accuracy. You don’t want your message to arrive in the wrong contact’s mailbox, where it may not be promptly forwarded to the correct recipient. If possible, give your key contacts a head's up that a timely release is soon to follow.

3) When briefing your customer contact personnel on your messaging, plan to give them brief Question & Answer takeaways as an overview of the key points of the message. If, for example, you are addressing member concerns over the federal insurance coverage for their accounts, a printed recap of NCUA’s insurance coverage could come in handy at teller windows or other areas of customer interaction.

4) And do pay equal attention to your webpage. Be sure your messaging on your home page is robust and front-and-center, for those members whose preferred point of contact with their credit union is electronic.

5) Following the rollout of your initial communications, develop follow-up messages to drive the message home a second time. A statement stuffer or lobby placards, for example, could reiterate for members the NCUA insurance coverage.

6) Integrate safety and soundness into your marketing to new members. A brief feature piece on your website could spotlight new members who have sought out the safety and soundness of your credit union, as they turn away from more volatile financial markets.

7) When you feel you have now made your best effort, debrief yourself while your work is fresh in your mind. Review your communications plan and make notes. What worked really well? What could you refine for more effective implementation next time?

The sometimes unsettling events of this spring and summer bring to mind that old familiar saying, "when given lemons, make lemonade." Because the saturation media coverage of the sour financial situation nationally is, oddly enough, a great opportunity to get the good word out that credit unions, built on solid financial ground, continue to thrive and serve their members well.




Sept. 1, 2008


  • The PR advice provided by Hunter Moss in this article is extremely valuable. It has been years since news about troubled financial institutions has so dominated the mainstream media. Significant attention from the financial and business media is expected, but when cable news reporters are interviewing customers standing in line to pull their money out of the former Pasadena, CA-based, $32 billion asset IndyMac Bank, then we know something serious is going on. Perhaps the tension will rapidly fade, but regardless, credit unions and credit union regulators should go on alert and gear up their crisis management teams and media handlers. When the public gets nervous about the safety of their money, it doesn’t matter much whether the FDIC, NCUA, or ASI provides the deposit insurance. Questions are sure to come. A reassuring message, a proactive sharing of facts, and a trustworthy delivery style can go a long way toward mitigating consumer concerns and confusion. Elected officials, regulators, reporters, industry analysts, and anyone whose words will be taken seriously, should be very careful what they say and how they say it. However, as Moss suggests, saying nothing is not a responsible option.
    Marvin Umholtz
  • Very useful info!
  • Wonderful advice.
    Kathy Farrand