PR Insight: Creating a Conversation

The text What’s Your Story typed on paper above a typewriter
By Erin Schwartz

3 minutes

How to develop and share your credit union’s best stories with the community

Credit unions have a lot on their plates, from helping members succeed financially to managing branches and introducing new technologies. However, the frequent emergence of shiny new tools doesn’t mean your CU’s marketing team should ignore the important art of storytelling. As community organizations with the philosophy of people helping people, it’s important for credit unions to connect with those people. Sharing authentic stories in meaningful ways can help strengthen member relationships, collaborate with other organizations and grow. 

Credit unions have many stories to tell, which presents a significant opportunity as well as a challenge. Endless options and angles can make deciding which story to share difficult. People typically enjoy feel-good stories with thought-provoking takeaways—and luckily, the credit union industry is filled with them. 

Taking a step back from daily operations and looking at the credit union from a high-level perspective can help identify the stories most worth telling. I’ve had conversations with CU employees and executives who overlook unique situations, news or offerings, because to them, these things are just business as usual. For instance, a credit union that operates a student-run branch at the local high school to promote financial education for younger generations; or the institution that has several strong female executives driving digital strategy; or the credit union that provides tech-forward solutions for a specific demographic in a rural or underbanked area are all examples of stories that could be valuable to share with members and the community. 

When putting together stories, it can be tempting to use credit union or marketing jargon; however, this should be avoided. Members and potential members aren’t immersed in the credit union industry, so they likely won’t understand complex financial terms and won’t care to read marketing or buzz language. Instead, people want to know the basic facts and the “so what,” the “how” and “why” of the credit union’s activities. Member success stories, milestones and community involvement are good starting points to consider. 

With this in mind, here are four questions credit unions should ask themselves when deciding if a story is worth sharing. 

  1. Does the takeaway support your larger organizational goals? Does it serve a greater purpose? 
  2. Is it something you’re proud of? Would someone from the credit union be able to share this story with confidence and pride? 
  3. Is the story, news or situation unique? Is anyone else doing something similar in the community?
  4. How does it make a difference within the community? Does it support, help or empower potential or existing members?

If the responses are overwhelmingly positive, then it’s time to share. However, identifying the right story is only half the battle. Credit unions must also determine the best way to disseminate this content. Publishing the story via digital channels can be a strong way to amplify reach and generate excitement. Digital channels also tend to provide an easy and immediate way for the community to engage with your story, whether by comments, retweets and shares or likes. But everyone receives and consumes news differently, so sharing information through a combination of digital and social channels is often the best way to maximize exposure, especially locally. Credit unions have the flexibility to be creative about which format to use based on the content, whether that means opting for a 200-character tweet or a live video interview.

Credit unions should also house these stories in a dedicated section on their website that is easy for members to locate. This material can also be leveraged for blogs, YouTube videos, newsletters or social media posts across the credit union’s channels, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Tagging any involved staff member, community event or organization, along with using a dedicated hashtag, can increase visibility of social posts and videos.

Sharing stories, big and small, is a valuable way to facilitate conversations and strengthen relationships with potential and existing members. Credit unions that highlight their best stories and share meaningful content across a variety of channels will be well positioned to connect with their communities. cues icon

Erin Schwartz is an account associate at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.

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