<p>WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Everyone talks about reaching the youth market but are newsletters still an effective communication tool to do so? "Definitely," said Fairwinds Credit Union Advertising/Public Relations Coordinator Marcie Hill. "Especially since we are dealing with finances and education that many don't get at home or school, so the newsletter is a great way to get our information out to them and really touch them and make a difference in their lives." Fairwinds CU surveys its teen members at seminars about what they think of the newsletter. Hill says though they love the visually stimulating graphics and interesting/fun articles, what they say they appreciate most is that they feel like they are a "real" part of the credit union-not just a child of mom and dad who are members but a member in their own right. According to Hill, the credit union has only recently in the past two years started to focus on the kids and teen outreach program, and now it has become so well accepted that over 3,500 newsletters are mailed out four times a year. "There is a big difference in younger kids and teens, and they love that this is specifically for them," said Hill. "With the younger kids our subjects are more educational, and for the teens it is more about how can I use this money or what can I do with my money." According to California-based marketing firm Redbeard Communications President Greg Hoffman articles in newsletters for kids up to age 12 should be short, have a fun financially related theme, be educational and one article should be geared toward the credit union product. "If the kids have fun with the newsletter and there is a financial tie-in then they not only read it and look forward to receiving it. But they look to the credit union as an expert or advisor," said Hoffman. "It has to be easy to digest and in kids speak." With the newsletters Redbeard Communications created for Vista Federal Credit Union, which has a partnership with Disney, the bright graphics and content of both the kids and teen version focus on information on finance in general such as stock market basics or what is a loan to build a rapport. FORUM Credit Union's online newsletter is reviewed by the AWARE advisory board, which consists of teen members ranging from 13-17 years old. "We started this advisory committee last August and it has been so great," said FORUM CU Marketing Assistant Jacki Teachnor. "We hold meetings once a month, and they have not only come up with and launched their own marketing promotion called Funny Money but they let us know what we need to add to our online newsletter." A direct mail was sent to all teen members at a local high school soliciting board members. Teachnor says discussions are very lively with board members who are very blunt about what a 17 year old or 13 year old would be interested in and what would make younger people want to join the credit union. Meetings are usually adjourned with a pizza party. Some ideas that are currently being tossed around as a result of these meetings include developing a scholarship program, putting opinion polls, more pictures and more stimulating colors and flash graphics in the online newsletter. "It is so funny. We all think `oh I remember what it is like to be young,' but then you walk into a classroom and immediately you see just how outdated you are," said Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union Marketing Assistant Marnie Perfetti. MMFCU produces the only credit union publication written and produced by its teen audience. Having a great relationship with local Brainerd High School, MMFCU has set up the writing program through study hall and students earn one school credit for participating. The team of writers, which changes quarterly, consists of a group of eight to 10 students between the ages of 15 and 18. Writers are assigned a total of four articles per quarter. Although two must be on any credit union topic they choose, the remaining two can be about anything. "Because it is written by them it keeps the newsletter exciting, full of energy and relevant because it is in their verbiage and of course they are involved with cover ideas and themes," said Perfetti. Teen Trax mails three times a year to approximately 1,800 MMFCU members age 13-18. MMFCU also supplies Brainerd High School with an additional 1,600 newsletters for classroom distribution. The credit union does get the final say in what is approved and Perfetti is the chief organizer/editor for any articles used. In addition to the teen newsletter, MMFCU also has a Dimes to Dollars newsletter authored by Marty Kelly, MMFCU vice president of marketing, that is sent quarterly to approximately 2,000 MMFCU members age 0-12. For those credit unions thinking about starting their own newsletter Hoffman advises that they define the market in terms of how many members, how will it be distributed and make an effort to really understand who is the younger demographic. "Individuality is key," said Hoffman. "Once you segment your market accordingly be sure each group has its own logo, which should be carried over on all materials and make it fun and distinct from any other group." According to Harris Interactive, a youth marketing research firm, younger consumers should be respected for their savvy, size and power. In addition, contrary to popular stereotypes, the youth market can usually be counted on to behave more rationally than adult consumers. [email protected]</p>

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