In his Jan. 26 column, "Despite Growing Need, PR Expertise in Short Supply," Mike Welch argues that credit unions are missing a golden opportunity to tell their story to the public. While I agree with Mike that PR needs to be elevated to a higher level at many organizations, I would suggest that credit unions are actually some of the more savvy practitioners of media relations in the financial services arena. I have talked to many credit union CEOs who have effectively used "earned media" to counter the huge advertising and marketing budgets the giants in the financial marketplace use to create brand identity with their customers. On shoe-string budgets, these credit unions manage to get out the word in their communities about the benefits of belonging to their institution in creative and innovative ways. Mike is correct in saying that credit unions need to also go after the mainstream press to leverage the "good news" about these financial cooperatives. But he is incorrect to imply that this important spadework is not being done. NAFCU has reached out to the consumer press in many ways in the past several years, especially as the bankers' attacks have been stepped up both at the state and national level. Mike also suggests that credit unions need to proactively establish relationships with the press before a crisis materializes. NAFCU did just that last year when it arranged to meet with the editors of Money magazine in New York to talk about the good things credit unions do for consumers. NAFCU also conducted two national radio tours to tout the benefits of belonging to a credit union. In March, we discussed the pitfalls of zero-zero financing and the advantages of financing a car through a credit union; in December, we noted that in a rising interest-rate environment, credit unions are a good place for consumers to turn to for their borrowing needs. These interviews aired on hundreds of stations and were heard by millions of radio listeners. We continue to get mileage out of a series of consumer columns we've released over the past two years through the North American Precis Syndicate. These short, positive columns have now run in thousands of local newspapers across the country and are also available for downloading from our Web site. More needs to be done, I believe, to educate and mobilize our members. We've been doing that through columns in our magazine and in media workshops we've put on at our conferences. The message that we've delivered in our media relations sessions is that credit unions need to better manage the news process, educate the public about credit unions and be an advocate for the unique role they play in the financial services industry. Although we still have much work to do, I come away from these meetings heartened by the progress that we've made in many areas of the country. Often someone will tell me about a program they've initiated or a reporter they've talked to. Clearly, some credit unions are starting to "get it" when it comes to doing public relations. Jay Morris Vice President/Communications NAFCU Arlington, Va.

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