Old School PR Beats Tweets for Creating Context

Social media and strong press releases earn media and build lasting brand awareness.


If you’re worried your credit union’s story is falling on deaf ears, you’re not alone.

According to an April survey from Credit Union 24, public misunderstanding of how credit unions differ from banks is still the primary concern for 77% of polled credit union leaders, followed closely by the misconception that credit union service offerings are less substantial than those of banks.

Even as industry exposure increases nationally, solidifying a real understanding of credit unions’ services and values among potential membership still presents a challenge.

The rise of social media makes information about credit unions easier to spread than ever before. Yet as a March PC World article points out, social media marketing alone results in a blitz of attention but can be lacking in the context necessary to generate business, or in the case of credit unions, member relationships.

Traditional earned media such as web or television news coverage presents an advantage over social media outlets in that they not only give credit unions the chance to share messages and develop brands, but they also validate these messages through a believable, outside source.

In terms of creditability and believability earned media exposure is 2.5 times more valuable to an organization than other forms of advertising, says John Boit, chief executive officer of communications firm Melwood Global.

“There are very few times when someone will open up a newspaper and turn to the person next to them and say ‘look at this incredible ad,’” Boit says. “It’s much more often that someone will read a quote aloud or will read a headline.” Social media is a building block to reach the level of awareness credit unions want, but without outside validation it is not a complete strategy. Local print, web, and news media outlets frequently features FAA Credit Union ($425M, Oklahoma City, OK) not only because of its social media outreach and community involvement, but also because of its solid press release strategy.

Press releases, if crafted effectively, remain a primary element for triggering earned media responses, which clarify and validate the credit union in local communities in a way social media cannot.

“Credit Unions often wonder why their stuff doesn’t get picked up,” says Alison Wolf, chief marketing officer for FAA says of press releases. “You may think a message is more or less valuable while the media may perceive it differently.”

Emphasizing quality over quantity with press releases is crucial to catching media interest, she says, rather than sending out mass releases with generalized content.

In a PR-focused webinar, Boit says modern media personnel are often under increased pressure to produce interesting, timely, relevant stories with little time to wade through endless press releases for leads.

“Make it easy for news sources” says Wolf. FAA’s press releases, which go out approximately once a month, are in-depth enough to be transferred among media personnel with minimal effort. Many have been posted verbatim in news sources.

Keeping the punch in your press releases is a tactic credit unions must continue to utilize in conjunction with other PR methods to reach the local and national awareness levels the industry deserves.

Social media does represent a valuable and affordable tool, presenting credit unions effective ways to inject credit union information into new and hard-to-reach demographics. “We love Facebook,” Wolf says. “It really helps us reach members on a more personal level.”

Yet new social technology does not eliminate the need for high grade, earned media exposure with the context, validation, and substance needed to carry the industry’s most important messages.

“All of these mediums have a place,” says Wolf. “It's just a matter of finding the right mix.”

Here are 6 takeaways from Lisa Mallow, vice president of client communications for MJB Public Relations Group on how to increase press release effectiveness.

  1. “Write the press release as news (not as a feature article) – keep it timely, make it relevant to the publication, and avoid opinionated content or promotional copy.” 
  2. “Use member success stories or client case studies to help tell the story – they add credibility to the message.”
  3. “Consider a publication’s editorial focus and tie press releases to these themes when possible.”
  4. “Keep the release brief – two pages maximum, one page is best.”
  5. “Know a reporter’s publication schedule and deadlines … and work to accommodate them.”
  6. “Avoid sending releases on the day of publication. If the news is breaking, call the reporter to alert him/her you are sending the release.”






April 26, 2010


  • Solid article. As a public relations firm that specializes in credit unions, LT Public Relations wholeheartedly agrees with this assessment of traditional PR.

    There's certainly a valuable place for social media (e.g. tweets), but most credit unions are seeking positive credibility with their PR efforts.
    LT Public Relations