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EDINA, Minn. – Credit unions should never underestimate the power of their newsletters. According to Jim Larranaga, president of custom publisher Priority Publications, rather than going the way of the dinosaur-the newsletter has adapted, is thriving and can be one of the most effective communication tools in the credit union’s arsenal. “They’ve actually evolved quite a bit,” said Larranaga. “What some of the credit unions are doing is telling their story in a format that is more of a coffee table piece that members will hold onto longer.” Larranaga adds that on the print side more space is needed to tell these stories so quarterly publications have grown to eight to 12 pages, which is a departure from the typical four-page newsletters of five years ago. With his father founding the company in 1973 with a single direct mail flyer, Larranaga says he caught the custom publishing fever early and has been at it for over 20 years. His staff of 40 helps its almost 200 credit union clients deliver their message while getting measurable results. Services range from completely custom and semi-custom print and e-newsletters, to Web content, inserts, brochures, market research and white papers on current marketing trends and emerging issues. According to Larranaga, newsletters can help maximize the impact of credit union communications from motivating readers to open new accounts and generating referrals from existing clients to winning member loyalty and improving the effectiveness of front-line staff. It boils down to good content. Some popular newsletter categories include youth content, general personal finance and money management, small business issues, retirement planning, housing, identity theft, and even health savings accounts. To ensure effectiveness he suggests that more thought be put into strategically planning the newsletter’s purpose around the target audience. “What used to be one-size-fits all is now more customized offering a greater variety of content. For some credit unions a basic educational newsletter is what their members want-others are making the most of their newsletters to play to target niches or SEGs,” said Larranaga. “Too many credit unions have a tendency to just place a bunch of ads pushing products and services and mistakenly call it a newsletter-not only will that just get thrown away but more importantly you’ve missed an opportunity to connect and motivate members to use your services.” He adds that providing provocative, interesting content is a true value-add and not only encourages members to hold onto the publication and share with friends or family, but can also generate interest and excitement about upcoming issues. The credit union is viewed as a resource and a partner, which builds a foundation of trust and loyalty. Larranaga also advises credit unions to think beyond exclusively printing newsletters. “Sometimes it’s the vehicle that needs to be rethought. Most credit unions have very few e-mail addresses so some don’t see the need for an online newsletter. Even if out of say 30,000 members you only have 3,000 e-mail addresses when possible offer the newsletter both online and in print,” said Larranaga. “E-mail newsletters can be the best blend of both educational content and product/service promotion. As members click on an article through their interaction they can learn more about the credit union’s offerings. For credit unions, every click provides insight into just what topics members are most interested in and can help in tracking promotions.” The best content can be missed if the graphics fall flat. Even if credit unions are unable to outsource or hire an outside expert firm they should do their best to make it as visually appealing as possible- that means move away from the clip art and standard headshots and pull in local flavor through the color palette and incorporate action or lifestyle images or even original art-anything to attract attention. [email protected]

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