Keeping PR, Marketing Depts. Separate is Valuable
As a public relations practitioner within a credit union, I am writing to praise Mike Welch's June 25 column entitled "CUs Need to Hire Full-Time PR Professionals." That a major credit union trade publication - PR skills dictate I can't ignore the others - values my profession and distinguishes it from the marketing function is reassuring. I was not a marketing major in college, I was a public relations major. And today, I am a public relations practitioner, not a marketing professional, for a credit union. With the "pitching" of stories conducted in my capacity, it is a relief to read that Credit Union Times does not refer to PR people as "pests". Other publications have occasionally "slammed" the few of us who are not tactful in their approaches with the media. As Welch touched on in his column, the dissemination of our credit union's newsworthy activities via a press release in an inverted pyramid style using journalistic style guidelines is a specific skill of the public relations practitioner, which differs from the style of a marketing writer. As are some additional media relations skills we employ, including: identifying emerging trends within our credit union and matching them with your upcoming editorial calendars, and knowing how to deliver the right story to the right reporter-to name a few. There is a clear distinction between Wescom's marketing and public relations functions. Our individual-yet overall combined-efforts contribute to the bottom line by creating favorable exposure of the Wescom brand to millions, which equates to loan, deposit and membership growth. Wescom's public relations team is well established within the business and government affairs department. In addition to myself, who devotes a great deal of time telling the Wescom story to our public through the media, our community relations officer cultivates relationships by putting a personality and face to the Wescom brand. Our business development officers perform the public relations function with current and potential members and SEGs by portraying the Wescom image. Like a former boss said, "everything we do is public relations." Our efforts are managed by our vice president of business and government affairs, a seasoned public relations expert who, amongst other things, is currently working on our public relations with emerging ethnic markets. With the ongoing attacks on our movement by the banks, the need for public relations practitioners to carry out and communicate our philanthropic efforts in the community is imperative. As our function continues to grow in sophistication and size, our effectiveness to an organization is one of increasing debate. One thing is clear though: a solid public relations program needs key messages, target audiences and communication vehicles that are defined in advance of embarking on a program. Generating goodwill through responsible action, plus ensuring timely and accurate dissemination of information about my organization is my credo as my organization's PR person. It is reassuring that Credit Union Times recognizes the public relations profession as a separate and necessary management function with its own skill set. Now, if you have a moment, did you get that press release I sent you.? Max Sucee Public Relations Specialist Wescom CU Pasadena, Calif.