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MADISON, Wis. – So often the CUNA Mutual “spokesperson” quoted during the company’s labor dispute with its union was CUNA Mutual Assistant Vice President of Public Relations Sydney Lindner. As Lindner knows, that’s sometimes the job of the PR professional, to be the conduit between the press and the company’s higher-ups during sensitive issues. Some would say this strategy is flawed because people want to hear from the top execs, but PR doesn’t always give the press what it wants. Linder, after six years with the company, announced recently she is leaving CUNA Mutual effective August 5 to join Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer unit as Associate Director of Corporate Affairs in its Madison, Wisconsin office. Kraft is the nation’s largest food company and second in the world only to Nestle. “It’s bitter sweet for me. I absolutely love CUNA Mutual or I couldn’t have played the role in this company that I did. What this company did for policyholders after 9/11 showed it was a real quality organization,” said Lindner. Lindner is going back to the type of PR she loves – the consumer side. “I think the consumer PR is really fun. Right now Oscar Mayer has a promotion going on called the `ride of your life’ open to individuals to write in on how they would use the Wiener mobile for the ride of their life,” said Linder. She said fun things like that just get her going. Lindner knows the consumer side. Her first job out of the University of Houston, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism with a focus on PR, was with Edelman Public Relations in San Francisco, one of the country’s largest PR agencies. “My career objective out of college was to land a job with one of top 10 PR firms in the country. You’re exposed to a lot of big PR budgets from large companies. It’s a wonderful place to start your career,” said Lindner. At Edelman she focused on consumer goods and travel and tourism. Some highlights include PR for the first off-site Disney store, Golden California Cheese and American Express. She’s also done PR in the medical field. She worked for a PR agency in Madison, where one of her biggest roles was doing PR for Genzyme, a large pharmaceutical firm based in Massachusetts. “I was the lead on a PR team for renagel, a drug that blocks phosphorous for kidney patients. It was a lot of fun to see it go from FDA approval to packaging to product launch,” said Lindner. Then Lindner’s career turned toward the credit union industry. “I was a member of CUNA Credit Union for many years. CUNA Mutual was known as a leading employer in the area. I thought it was a really good company to work for,” said Lindner. Of course Lindner knew more about CUNA Mutual than most outsiders as her husband Bob Lindner already worked there. He currently is VP of Solutions Development in the company’s Financial Solutions Division. He’s been with the company for 15 years, and they’ve been married for 20. She said the couple believe it or not doesn’t talk much about CUNA Mutual at home. “We didn’t want our relationship to be about CUNA Mutual Group, it’s about family, our home life, with work just one part of it.” The couple didn’t even commute together. She said with PR, she could get called into the office at any time. Looking back on her CUNA Mutual career, Lindner learned to expect the unexpected, especially with the labor dispute. “That was a situation where you can’t just predict what the next element will be, so it’s a form of PR where you have to prepare for all contingencies,” she said. It’s also a form of PR that can provide terrific experience. “Not that I would ever want difficulties to befall the company, but situations like the labor dispute provide an opportunity in PR to really show what the competency can do from a strategic perspective,” she said. Lindner’s departure is the second major change to CUNA Mutual’s PR staff this year. Tom Kobinsky, manager of media relations, was terminated on April 18 after he was convicted on a count related to identity theft. Kobinsky was replaced by Jack Eich. According to CUNA Mutual, PR will now be reporting up to Jim Buchheim, assistant vice president of communications. [email protected]

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