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Credit union marketing has really come into its own since the days when “marketing” was a dirty word in CU land and “member education” was the preferred terminology. But in many credit unions, it still has a long ways to go. Today, virtually every credit union of any size has at least one person on staff with the word marketing in their title. They are called coordinators, specialists, supervisors, managers, directors, assistant vice presidents, vice presidents, and in at least one case, executive vice president. What a CU marketer is called says a lot about how they and the marketing function are regarded in their credit union. But titles often mislead. Many marketer titles have no relationship to the assets of the credit union, size of the marketing budget, the person in the job, what they do on a daily basis, their paycheck, or to whom they report. Today’s credit union marketers, even among similar type and size CUs, have widely different ideas on what it is that they are supposed to do. Some see themselves as promotional copywriters, or photographers, or graphic artists, or audio-visual creators, or webmasters, or speech writers. Others see themselves as coordinators of open houses and annual meetings, or of anniversary and milestone celebrations, or organizers of board retreats and planning sessions. Some also order plaques, write board reports, produce annual reports, and conduct tours. Still others are mainly the liaison with outside marketing agencies, printers, and broadcast outlets. Some of these marketers have been in the same job for a long time and have substantial marketing budgets and full-time assistants. Yet, their credit unions have seen little growth. They often are left to decide what to market and when and how with little communication with other credit union departments or the CU CEO. In some cases, their efforts actually do little for the credit union. But they do know how to win trophies based on good graphics rather than results. Don’t blame marketers for this all-over-the-map approach to credit union marketing. Many CU CEOs are really at fault. They have never taken the time to define their marketing function and looked to see if their perception was in tune with their peer group. Like their marketer, they aren’t really sure what a credit union marketing director is supposed to do. The position just evolved. Many CEOs provide little guidance to their marketer either because they don’t want to show their own ignorance, or they simply don’t want to be bothered. In their mind, they have more important things to worry about. That’s unfortunate. It would be productive if credit union CEOs would occasionally come together to exchange information on their respective marketing functions. But they never do. CU CEOs never seem to take the time to talk about marketing as important as it has become to credit unions. Another problem area involving credit union marketers evolves from the fact that so few credit unions understand the big difference between marketing and public relations. The majority of CEOs and their marketers think they are one and the same. They are not. Yet marketers are routinely asked to handle PR assignments even if they have no experience or training in this area. Most marketers can’t write a simple news release and have almost no news judgment. A shocking number, veterans included, haven’t a clue about how to work with the news media. And they keep proving it. For example, they mail releases rather than fax or e-mail them. And they routinely send no-news releases to the wrong person. I get dozens. As publisher, I should get none. They write pages on minor personnel changes for publications that only devote a couple of lines to them. They tie up editorial computers by sending photos without checking first to see if there is any interest in them. It is clear to editors from these examples that these marketers/PR staffers don’t even look at the publications that they expect to publish whatever they submit. Other examples: they send clips of articles that have already appeared in another publication and expect them to be used. They make unprofessional requests such as, “let me know when my story is going to run.” And “send me some extra copies of it.” And my personal favorite: “Did you get my release?” They assume that having more than one paid subscription to a publication automatically guarantees that their submissions will be used and used in a prominent position. Wrong. And these examples: they think a release about a credit union Christmas holiday activity is newsworthy in February. It’s not. They don’t bother to learn a publication’s deadlines, or production requirements such as only color photos will be used. Worse, they send in releases addressed to a competing publication, or to an editorial staff person who has been gone for years. They send them to several people. Or they send in releases that don’t cover such basics as who, what, when, where, how, and why. Am I being too hard on marketers and those who direct them? Maybe, especially since there are many outstanding credit union marketing directors doing excellent work. These are the pros who are playing a key role in the success and growth of their credit unions, who never stop trying to improve their marketing skills, and who are regarded by themselves and the senior management staff and board as an important member of the CU’s management team. But then there are all those others who have yet to get a handle on what a credit union marketing job should entail. And there are those who refuse to learn the public relations function even though it has become their responsibility by default. Credit union marketing is now firmly established. But as it has matured, perhaps it is time to step back and refocus on exactly what it is that marketing is supposed to do for individual credit unions? Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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