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WASHINGTON-Industry advocacy experts advised credit unions to do as much as possible with their limited resources during a break out session at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference. California Credit Union League Director of Public Relations Henry Kertman said the league’s latest advocacy efforts are an “ongoing, forever-we hope-change in the way we do things.” The California and Nevada leagues recently initiated mandatory dues reserved solely for advocacy advertising. “We know low awareness of credit unions weakens our advocacy position,” he explained. According to Kertman, focus groups have taught them that consumers who are not credit union members are most likely going to side with banks in a battle. Two-thirds of California and Nevada residents are not credit union members. However, when nonmembers are informed of credit unions’ work for the underserved, that number starts to shift. Also, credit unions should inform nonmembers of what they do for them, like providing competition for banks to keep pricing of financial services down. The effort is pricey and needs to be life-long, Kertman admitted, but when credit unions are faced, in one instance, with an assessment of $250,000 for advocacy advertising or $34 million in taxes, the decision does not take long. To be effective, the advertising needs to target key markets, such as lawmakers or nonmembers, at specific times, like during the legislative session and avoiding `sweeps’ or rating weeks that can be distracting in radio or television advertising. Minnesota Credit Union Network President and CEO Kevin Chandler emphasized that creativity is key on a small budget. One thing the Minnesota league has done is have playing cards made with the state legislators’ photos on them, which the lawmakers have really responded to, he said. Chandler also said that national campaigns might not work as well in dealing with certain issues because “all politics are local.” Utah League of Credit Unions President and CEO Scott Simpson said he chose to “steal from the very best.” He noted the cotton advertising campaign that began in the 1970s when polyester was becoming extremely popular. They had a simple slogan-the look and feel of cotton-and a simple logo-the stylized cotton bud. “We wanted to capture the essence of what we were in a few words, attach a mark to it, and build our brand,” Simpson explained. So, the league started the difference is `you’ campaign, highlighting that credit unions work for their members and not profits, with the plain blue dot symbol. This is used on billboards, stickers, lollipops, and bus tails and has been incorporated into the `Bob the Credit Union Guy’ television advertisements. The advertisements were “not focused on the fight, but.justifies the tax exemption,” according to Simpson. The league knew Utahans were sick of hearing about the banker versus credit union battles in the state legislature. However, the Utah league launched a simultaneous attack with different advertisements to try to get ahead of the bankers and set the tone for the debate. It initiated defendmycreditunion.org, where people could opt in to be a credit union advocate or tell their credit union story in another section.


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