Over and over at THINK 12, we heard the same comment: The best part of THINK is the conversation. And indeed four days of nonstop brainstorming, collaborating and questioning is good for the collective soul. But in order for the conversation to have wider meaning, it’s clear that we as a movement need to speak up – about our ideas for change, our wins and losses, our place in the world of financial services and our role as success agents in our members’ lives. We aren’t talking about a whisper campaign. It’s time for a breadth of ideas:

  • Social media. Don’t use it to sell; use it to participate in the conversations that are already happening about your credit union. Tell your own story by highlighting community involvement, interesting employees, memorable members. Also consider advertising on Facebook or other relevant sites.
  • Advertising. Yes, it’s expensive and yes, it raises visibility. Even if you can’t afford a massive campaign, it might be time to think about some modest ones.
  • Cooperative marketing. Have you checked out “I am a credit union” at Mitchell, Stankovic and Associates? It’s cooperative social marketing at its best.
  • Earned media. Tell your story to the press. It’s not spin; it’s information. “You have to do it in a way that honors the trust we’ve built with the media and bloggers. We also have to accept that if we’re going to be more visible, we’re going to be targets of scrutiny,” said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney.
  • National signage. We learned from focus groups that consumers don’t differentiate between branches, ATMs and other points of contact (it’s all “locations” to them). We also learned that consumers don’t “see” credit union locations around town. Maybe it’s time for unified branding that tells the public they can “C U Here.”
  • Engagement. Think promotions are just talk, talk, talk? Host a free dog wash during the dog days of summer like Debbie Larson at Dakota Plains FCU did.
  • Support CUNA’s online credit union finder because if consumers can’t find you, they can’t join you.

Do we really have to talk about it? Well, yes. Because most people still don’t know if they’re eligible to join a credit union. And those who know can’t figure out how to find the right credit union for them. And even some credit union members don’t realize they can use any of 28,000 ATMs without incurring a fee. The good news is, talk is cheap. In fact, it’s free. And when we talk freely, something interesting happens. We find we have ideas. We can envision change. We can voice our concerns, push past failure, refine, innovate, evangelize, dream. At CO-OP, our dream is for the movement we serve to realize its true potential. Collectively, we have everything we need – from core products and services that create strength in numbers to new ideas and technologies that will serve our industry well into the future. As a movement, we have the vision, skills, chutzpah and charisma to change the world of financial services. We think, and everything is possible.