ARLINGTON, Va.-NAFCU is investigating new avenues to spread the word about credit unions' good deeds, according to NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker, and is working to get its members to follow suit. NAFCU recently began using the North American Precis Service, which helps them get items placed in local news outlets nationwide. NAFCU spent $10,000 to have NAPS distribute three columns-on the value of federal insurance, service to the underserved, and bank vs. credit union fees-and two radio public service announcements. NAPS tracks placement of items, provides NAFCU with maps showing where they are getting published, and statistics. NAFCU's first two columns were successful in reaching over 26 million readers. One on family finances generated 160 articles across 21 states with a readership or nearly 10 million, while another on managing you finances was printed in 260 papers in 27 states, NAFCU Vice President of Communications Jay Morris said. In addition, NAFCU has gotten Economist Jeff Taylor in the Dallas Morning News earlier this year and had a letter to the editor published in USA Today on Sept. 11 stating that Treasury should maintain paper savings bonds. Becker pointed out that credit unions are supporting the paper bonds, even though they compete with credit unions, because they are in the credit union members' best interest. He also noted that he emphasizes to credit union audiences to share their accomplishments during the numerous speeches he gives. Credit unions need to do more to let people know what they are, that they cannot raise capital stock, that they have member owners, and really differentiate themselves from banks, Becker emphasized. "It is more important that credit unions talk about what they are doing and give specifics rather than make a pledge," he said of CUNA's Project Differentiation. For example, Coastal Federal Credit Union CEO Larry Wilson, a NAFCU Board member, published story in his credit union's bulletin about helping a poor immigrant family become highly successful restaurateurs. Becker added that even his luggage tag, which advertises his credit union ties, caught the attention of a woman in the airport who told him how much she loved her credit union. "Credit unions have become consumers' best friend and banks' worst nightmare," he said, between their deceptive practices by hiding fees and poor service. Credit unions may also capture more media attention when the member business lending rule becomes final. The matter has already caught the eye of the bankers. Becker said that credit unions have become banks' "cause celeb" and that the statistics do not warrant the attention paid by the bankers. In 25 years, according to Becker, credit unions' market share of household assets has only grown from 1.4% to 1.72%. In addition to the bankers, Treasury also raised some concerns about the rule during the comment period. If those are not resolved, Treasury could raise the issue again. "There is a market to be served by credit unions," Becker said. "In addition, that is what some of their members want." He added that Small Business Administration-backed loans are a good fit for credit unions. Another event that may draw media is the release of the General Accounting Office study of NCUA due out this month. The results may not be all positive, Becker predicted. That is partially because credit unions vary so much, from volunteer-run Shiloh of Alexandria Federal Credit Union to $19 billion Navy Federal Credit Union, that comparable data collection is very difficult. While Navy Federal probably has it all electronically and can call it up with a few keystrokes, Shiloh of Alexandria would not have such an easy time, if they even have the information. Getting the word out on all the positive credit unions do is more important now than ever, Becker stressed because banks are going to continue to strike at what they perceive as an enemy. "If you take the position that you're just going to work and do your job and don't tell anyone what you do, you won't get noticed," he said. [email protected]

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