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ST. LOUIS – The communications tools have been distributed to Missouri credit unions for the Missouri Credit Union Association’s statewide public awareness campaign, and now it’s time for the CUs to hit the streets with the CU message. The campaign is an MCUA initiative to strengthen the association’s brand and increase public awareness and understanding of the role and contributions Missouri’s credit unions make. It’s being implemented through MCUA’s alliance with global communications expert Fleishman-Hillard, which MCUA partnered with last October. For the first three months of the partnership, MCUA briefed the firm on the challenges credit unions are facing, their needs and what they want to accomplish. Since January, MCUA has been meeting with credit unions around the state and dispersing information to them. “Credit unions do really great things in their communities, from providing financial education to serving people who can’t get assistance anywhere else, but credit unions too often don’t have the time or the connections to toot their own horn or get media attention to get the word out about these things. That takes a tremendous amount of outreach,” said Missouri Credit Union Association President/CEO Rosie Holub. That’s where Fleishman-Hillard comes in. The firm is working with MCUA to help credit unions get their message to the public and policymakers, said Holub. Components of the public relations campaign include generating publicity around MCUA’s charitable giving, efforts to increase awareness of local educational and outreach services offered by credit unions, and overall awareness of what defines a CU. “Banks are very good at crafting their messages consistently and repetitively using all avenues to reach policymakers or the press. Credit unions need to do the same thing,” said Holub Since last November, Fleishman-Hillard has been assembling credit union representatives who are willing to act as liaisons with the press and talk with the media. Holub stressed this is a voluntary effort at no cost to the credit unions. The representatives, she said, are intended to act as contact points for associations and media to call on for interviews. Last month, Fleishman-Hillard and MCUA held a regional planning meeting with CUs in Jefferson City and Kansas City. In February they meet in Springfield, and the month before that in St. Louis. So far 48 credit unions have signed on to participate in the effort, and Fleishman-Hillard is already working with 23 of those. “In the past, credit unions haven’t been exposed to the media like they are today because of the court cases and banker challenges. To many CUs the media is intimidating, they’re fearful of making a mistake. They need to feel comfortable mingling and talking with the media so they can be a source for information. If they don’t feel relaxed in that environment, it’s difficult to effectively communicate the credit union message,” said the MCUA leader. Holub said it will be an ongoing “constant process to educate credit unions and their employees on effectively communicating the credit union difference to members. If we want to communicate why we deserve our tax-exemption we have got to work on this education process. There’s enormous benefit to be derived from effectively communicating the message about the credit union difference.” -

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