Pelican State Credit Union launched its blog, Pelican State of Mind, in 2016 to help brand itself as more than a financial institution.
The blog has taken off — to the tune of 6,000 returning visitors each month — and helps Pelican State connect with its communities.
CU QUICK FACTS
Pelican State Credit Union
HQ: Baton Rouge, LA
Data as of 09.30.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 14.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.4%
There’s more to running a successful blog than having a URL and keyboard.
Frank Kerner, marketing supervisor at Pelican State Credit Union ($397.6M, Baton Rouge, LA), knows this well. Since mid-2016, his credit union has run Pelican State of Mind, a website that’s packed with information about family, fun, and, of course, finance. Its content runs the gamut from thoughtful to irreverent — posts have included “How To Save Money On College Text Books” as well as “History Of The Rougarou: Louisiana’s Werewolf" — and that variety has helped the $400 million shop develop a statewide readership.
Since the blog’s inception, the credit union has maintained a strict weekly update schedule. Readers know when to expect new content, and credit union contributors know to stay on deadline.
In this Q&A, Kerner discusses the beginnings of the blog, the content that does well on the site, how the credit union tracks success, and best practices it’s learned along the way.
When and why did the credit union launch Pelican State of Mind?
Frank Kerner, Marketing Supervisor, Pelican State Credit Union
Frank Kerner: When I started here in January 2016, the credit union wanted to create a blog and write posts now and then. We quickly realized it was important to think bigger and longer term. What is this blog going to look like in five years? How do we structure things to get there?
We wanted the credit union to be more than a financial services company. And, we wanted the blog to offer readers more than finance — we wanted to offer a lifestyle focus, too.
We launched Pelican State of Mind on July 1, 2016, with a homepage and an offer to sign up for the site and receive a free e-book: “40 Ways To Save Money When You Are Terrible At Saving.” That helped us get a few thousand page views and build an audience before the official launch.
Why did you want to include a strong lifestyle focus?
FK: When people think of Pelican State, we want them to see us as more than a place to store their money or take out a loan. We’re more than a financial partner; we’re just as interested in the communities in which they live and work as they are.
The blog has also helped us see ourselves as more than a credit union — we’re a publisher. We’re writing about places that others in our area aren’t writing about, or, if they are, the article is behind a paywall and hard to access. We spotlight local businesses that aren’t our partners. For example, we have a team member who eats at a certain restaurant and wants to write about it. We’re able to tell a story about that business and show our communities that we care about the same things they do.
So, it was important for you to make the site something that non-members would read?
FK: It is for our members, of course. But the site is better when we think bigger. We have branches across the state, so if we operate with the notion that we’re writing for all the communities where we have a presence — even statewide — it opens the door to many types of content. From the best place to get king cake in Shreveport to our annual free kids bike race in Monroe.
It might seem weird for a credit union to post about the unfound treasure of the pirate Jean Lafitte, but people enjoy learning about the history of the state, and it brings them in. Once they’re here, they visit other pages, including our main website.
How does the blog’s focus influence its name? Why call it Pelican State of Mind?
FK: We wanted the blog to relate to the credit union while keeping readers in a different mindset. It’s a lifestyle choice: You can be in a “pelican state of mind.”
The blog lives on a different domain from our credit union website. From a look and feel standpoint, it makes sense for it to live somewhere else.
The credit union considers itself a publisher. What is the frequency of your posts? Who writes? Do you have an editorial calendar?
FK: Cole Kinchen, our marketing representative, runs the editorial calendar and manages the back end. It’s helpful to maintain publishing consistency, so we post new content every Tuesday. We’re pretty good about that. Once per week is manageable, and we can maintain a higher quality.
Anything we write has to be 10x better than anything else you can find online on the same topic. We want to create something of value for our readers.
As for our writers, pretty much anyone within the credit union can write one. We’ve had 70 team members contribute over the years, and we’ve even had posts from our SEG and vendor partners. The architect who designed our corporate campus and our insurance provider have written for us. It can be good for relationship development that way.
Is it easy to find willing contributors?
FK: You know, when we started the blog, I thought one or two people from marketing would write for it, but we’ve had writers from across the credit union. They are willing to write, and it helps when we show them our clicks, shares, and total impact they’re having on readers.
They are always excited when the post goes live. Sometimes they’ll share it before we officially do. Their name is on it, and they’re excited to send it into their social circles, which I think speaks to employee alignment to and engagement with our brand.
How do you decide what topics will make for a good post? Why do you write what you do?
FK: We try to write evergreen content, something that will be relevant to readers whenever they come across it. We break our content strategy into three buckets — family, fun, and finance — and look for ideas that fit into one of those segments. But, if someone wants to write about something that isn’t obviously related to these, we can make it work. You can tell when someone truly cares about a topic. That comes through in the writing, and it makes for a better reading experience.
How do you measure success?
FK: The first thing we look at is page views. Our first year, we averaged 200 monthly returning visitors. Now that’s up to approximately 6,000. We also look at time on site, likes, shares, and other engagement metrics. We run regular Google Analytics reports to ensure posts perform like we expect and that they continue to find readers overtime. In three months, we want to see an increase in organic search.
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It can be hard at first to see past profitability. That can be a struggle. We are not seeing a consistent number of conversions per blog, nor should we be tracking that. This is someone’s first time hearing about us. Pelican State of Mind is an entryway to who we are as a credit union. It’s a way to create a memorable brand — it’s not just conversions and click-through rates.
What best practices do have for a credit union looking to launch a blog?
FK: Put strategy first. There are so many credit unions and companies I’ve heard from who say they are going to launch a blog by writing a few posts and updating it every now and then. That’s not going to set you up for success. If anything, it’s going to solidify a potential failure down the road. You need certain things documented, such as success metrics, topics, and an editorial calendar that allows your writers to plan ahead.
We also follow the “10x” rule for our content. That means, anything we write has to be 10x better than anything else you can find online on the same topic. We want to create something of value for our readers.
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