Its no secret that credit unions aren't often in the media spotlight. So, like most other credit union folks out there, I've been really excited to see so much positive press coming out about credit unions.
I recently attended the 2008 Partnership Symposium in Fishers, Indiana. During the Idea eXchange section of the conference we discussed pretty heavily what credit unions should be doing during this financial crisis.
What should credit unions be saying to take advantage of the situation, and take advantage of all the positive press that has been given to credit unions.
My suggestion? Say nothing.
I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
You can say whatever you want. That doesn't mean its true.
Even the giant banks that are seeing most of this financial mess are saying "hey we're cool, everything's cool, we're safe and sound! Seriously, trust us."
Every single bank out there, including those that have recently failed, have touted the security and financial soundness of their institution. Many of those claims have been proven false.
Add this to an existing lack of trust in financial institutions...
and you get a large population of America who just had their skepticism proven. People are tuning out the feel-good, "don't worry, we're safe, trust us!" messages more than ever.
It doesn't matter what you say as a financial institution right now, it will be met with a large dose of skepticism.
It doesn't matter that you are a credit union putting out reassurances and not a bank because...
People don't see a difference between banks and credit unions.
As a certain CUSkeptic pointed out at the Partnership Symposium a couple weeks ago, to most people there is no difference.
I see the difference, and the fact that you are even reading this blog probably means you see the difference, but to your average Joe Sixpack its all the same thing.
So we're just supposed to sit here and wait?
In a way, yes. There isn't much we, as credit unions, can do by pumping out advertising to emphasize our security. Between consumer unease, distrust, and fear it probably isn't going to be heard or trusted if its coming from your marketing department.
Say nothing, but do everything.
The real opportunity here is not the chance to spout marketing that touts your security, but the opportunity to prove it.
Pay attention to all this positive press.
This may be the closest thing we get to a national brand. We have nationally trusted press selling the virtues of the credit union movement for us. They are telling the people that read their papers, blogs, and articles what they see as the unifying benefits of belonging to a credit union.
I don't think anyone would argue that this press is reaching, and being trusted by, far more people than an ad on local cable or a page on your credit union's website.
What we need to do now is...
Make sure we live up to the hype.
Take this positive press for credit unions and use it as a litmus test for how you are meeting expectations. Are you living up to the credit union "brand" that is being presented in these articles?
The best thing we can do to take advantage of the current financial situation and the positive press it's brought credit unions is to live up to what the people who people trust are praising about the credit union movement.