PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- Is it time to get your board blogging?
For UFirst Federal Credit Union Vice Chair Virginia Brady the answer was "why not" when she started the Boardcast (www.theboardcast.net) a little over a year ago.
"I had enjoyed reading blogs for about five years, had my favorites and had been interested in doing one but wasn't sure what the subject matter would be," said Brady. "Then with all the interesting changes at the credit union, I started thinking maybe we could benefit by creating a direct channel that encourages members to engage in an open dialogue and interaction with our board of directors."
Prior to the launch, the credit union had made a few major moves, including converting to a community charter as well as a name change. Additionally, the credit union built its own operations center while still maintaining a presence on campus.
Brady introduced the idea to both the management team and the board in the fall of 2006, and when research revealed the costs involved in starting a blog were minimal, the Boardcast was up and running on Jan. 1, 2007.
"I've been maintaining it ever since, and it has really been an exciting venture for me especially since I didn't know we were the first to do a CU board blog," said Brady. "Not only have I learned more about the credit union movement in looking for material to post to the blog, but what is great is that this is a natural fit for us as far as showing our members that their board is here for them and is easily accessible."
She added that the commitment and creativity to maintain the blog is worth the effort and the member response has been good but is a work in progress.
"Ask any blogger and they'll tell you that their objective is to encourage comments," said Brady. "We've got a new logo and look and are doing different things to really engage our members to participate in the blog because we want their comments."
Brady does her best to post at least twice a week because without regular postings, people are likely to lose interest. For blog topics she pulls from everywhere including board activities, meeting agendas, local issues and board profiles to covering league and national conferences such as CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. The blog also includes director profiles and video segments from the Boardcast roaming camera, which recently showcased fun local summer activities that are easy on the wallet.
"The big topics here are gas and food prices, so I did one feature on what discounts and coupons grocery stores in our area are promoting online and that seemed to be pretty popular," said Brady. "I like to mix text with audio and video using all kinds of media in the post especially with the board member profiles. It's about finding ways to give members more insight into the individual board members."
She added that as the blog has gained recognition from the national credit union movement, the board has become more involved and excited about it. She said the potential for Boardcast is great not only in getting members more involved with the credit union but even stepping up as board members.
"I would love to see more credit union boards across the country start their own blogs and tear down those perceived barriers between the board and members by creating a real dialogue and connection," said Brady.
Lawrence, Mass.-based Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union Board Director Luis M. Barros has taken a different approach to blogging.
He recently launched an independent blog (creditunion2zero.wordpress.com) with an eye on bringing next generation Internet to the credit union industry.
Since 1996 Barros has spent most of his career and education in the high-tech sector including an MBA from MIT-Sloan, serving as an adjunct professor of Internet and eBusiness, and in roles with companies that pioneered search, visualization and business intelligence analytics, virtualization, e-health, peer-to-peer education, open source innovation and health 2.0.
"Most of this I have applied to the health care technology and entertainment sector," said Barros. "As I became more familiar with the business of credit unions and the industry--I am believer that Web 2.0 can have a profound effect on the sector's future. Thus, my efforts are designed to encourage the credit union industry to begin adopting some of these solutions and principles."
Barros served in the associate board program in 2002 and within a few months a vacancy occurred and he was voted in as a board director.
"It's been very educational for me and I have learned a lot through the more seasoned board members, our executive team and many of the great educational offerings provided by our league, CUNA, et cetera. Credit unions have a great story to tell and it's great to be part of an industry and an institution that does well by doing good."
He stated that the goal is for the blog to be a resource of NGI Commentary that enhances knowledge and helps with decision-making, implementation and resource allocation related to NGI strategy, marketing and solutions. His blog also comments on business-related items related to the growth, differentiation and competitiveness of the CU industry.
With the educational blog, when it comes to posting, Barros focuses more on quality than quantity, so he posts when he has something substantive to say. He also hopes to attract additional co-authors and contributors. Like Brady, Barros said the blog posts should be interesting enough to solicit comments that he generally responds to quickly.
"With a lack of comments it may be that what's being posted is not relevant or perhaps people are not comfortable expressing their viewpoint. It takes time," said Barros. "Take a strategic approach to blogging like you would for ATM placement, don't launch a blog as part of an isolated experiment because experimenting on the Web is permanent. This is a two-way communication tool and you don't want to be caught off guard, so tie it into your strategy."
The Merrimack Valley FCU Board and senior management have been highly supportive, and Barros' slide presentation on Credit Union 2.0 to both groups resulted in the addition of Web 2.0 to Merrimack Valley FCU's information and technology committee initiatives.
"While those efforts are nascent, we are using an internal blog as an experiment, and have made some strides in areas such as knowledge management and member relationship management," said Barros. "It is good to have an independent voice and internal corporate voice behind the firewall. Credit Union 2.0 is more designed to be a voice to the industry about my views and to give coauthors a shared voice. My hope is to be a moderator of a community of contributors and it become an educational resource. There is a lot of information out there no one organization can implement all those things but we can have the discussion and research ready, filed away for the right time."