Help Journalists Cover Cooperatives

The credit union industry often gets left out of in-depth coverage in the media, but there are ways to improve that.


“With banks doing away with free checking and tacking on more fees, you may be able to get more bang for your buck with a credit union.”

That’s the lede sentence in an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. Credit Unions: A Cheaper Banking Option goes on to break down some of the benefits of credit union membership. It’s no surprise the article highlights better rates and fees, the variety of products and services, and increasing convenience as just a few of the reasons American consumers should consider joining a credit union.

Indeed, credit unions have improved the financial standing of members across the country. They’ve refinanced thousands of mortgages at historically low rates, reduced members’ debt loads, and contributed to the revival of local economies. The media is picking up the credit union story – according to CUNA, the Wall Street Journal's Sunday edition appears in at least 75 regional and local newspapers – but how else are credit unions and their supporters promoting credit union successes?

On Tuesday, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, an information and educational resource for business journalists, posted a video and article package submitted by Callahan & Associates writer Rebecca McClay and video producer Brianne Aiken. The evolving banking scene: A guide to covering credit unions covers the credit union basics – they are member-owned cooperatives, they are not driven by profit, they offer many of the same products and services as banks. It also breaks down why journalists should be following and covering credit unions – industry growth, competitive interest rates, lower costs, exploding technology, innovative products, ties to local governments and businesses – as well as which beats – banking, personal finance, technology, community – have stories within the credit union community.

So what can you do? First read the Reynold’s article to gain some insight on the media’s perspective. Second, establish yourself as an expert in your community. Get to know your area reporters who cover the beats above and let them know you are an available source for stories. Even if an article is not directly related to your credit union, you’ll reap the benefits of being seen as a trusted source of financial knowledge. Third, talk about your successes. If you have a program that is going gangbusters, talk about it. Tell your local media about the program and make it relevant to media consumers by adding member stories and testimonials. In this way, you are demonstrating the credit union’s commitment to the financial well-being of its members and the community. Yes, this means giving some love to the dreaded press release. For all you financially minded I’m-not-a-writer types, check out Press Release 2.0 and Press Release Dos and Don’ts, which feature tried-and-true tips from CUES.