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As a past chairman of the California Credit Union League and a co-chairman of the League’s 2004 Public Advocacy Task Force, I’d like to expand on Mike Welch’s Dec. 15 column, “California/Nevada Does Advertising Campaigns Right.” Credit unions and leagues nationwide are recognizing that public advocacy must be an essential part of a fully integrated credit union advocacy program if we are to build support among consumers and opinion leaders for credit union issues. In California and Nevada credit unions have taken a bold step forward in voting their solid approval to fund a public advocacy program as a requirement of league membership. We have done our homework well in preparing to launch a comprehensive radio, print and grassroots campaign next month. Our efforts have been guided by input gained from more than a dozen town hall meetings with credit union leaders throughout both states, thorough research of consumer and opinion leader perceptions about credit unions, and expert counsel from reputed firms. The prospective advertisements were tested again and again with focus groups of consumers to ensure the messages were on target with program objectives. We’ve also learned from other states – Utah, Iowa and Florida in particular – about the advantages of initiating a strong public advocacy program before you become entrenched in a heated battle with the banking industry. Continued collaboration among leagues and CUNA will serve to strengthen credit union advocacy efforts nationwide, as battlegrounds loom in every state. We have much work yet to do, and a responsibility to demonstrate to our member credit unions that they made the right decision in voting to support this important activity. We’re confident that this program is in everyone’s best interests. Patsy Van Ouwerkerk CEO Travis Credit Union Vacaville, Calif.

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