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PR Insight: 3 Budget-Friendly Tools Credit Unions Can Use in 2020

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By Gracie Shefelton

5 minutes

Amplify your message this year using social media, member testimonials and more.

As 2019 comes to an end, savvy organizations will be spending time reflecting on what did and did not work while they make plans for the year ahead. Credit unions will be setting goals on how to grow membership, better serve their current members, positively impact their communities and build strong employee teams. A credit union’s marketing and communications team is often tasked with communicating to these different audiences, but too often, tight marketing budgets present a challenge in implementing every strategy.

However, just as financial technology continues to become more affordable, innovations in social media and PR technology tools can provide cost-effective, powerful ways to communicate their message.

Here are just a few strategies credit union marketing and PR teams can tap into when planning their strategies and tactics for 2020.

Low-Cost Social Media Tools to Boost Efficiency

Social media is no longer the “nice to have” communications tool it was several years ago. Now, every member and prospective member engages with these channels in some way, whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram. While using social media is free, the challenge comes in deciding which channels to support (there are so many now!), crafting messages that are compliant and engaging members in a way that builds loyalty.

To better manage the social media beast, take advantage of these free and low-cost tools to help create a polished social media presence:

Scheduling: Creating a strong presence on social requires managing many channels. Depending on the member base, a credit union may be managing content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram all at once. Outside of the content creation, even just the simple task of posting throughout the week can take up many hours if done manually on each platform.

Tools like Hootsuite and Later help cut down this time, enabling users to bring all of their feeds together in one dashboard where they can schedule posts and track analytics. Not only can credit unions save time as they can schedule posts in advance, they can also use the tools to serve as a single dashboard to monitoring content and trends online.

Graphics: One of the best ways to capture attention on social media is using eye-catching graphics and video. The challenge is creating those graphics without breaking the bank. Video production and custom art can be expensive. While that cost can be worthwhile for large projects, it is harder to justify the cost for more narrowly targeted social content.

One tool credit unions can leverage are easy-to-use graphic design apps like Canva or Adobe Spark. These online tools allow users to easily create professional looking graphics for free. These tools do not require any professional knowledge to use and provide templates that can help save time and effort when making a post.

Content curation: Another great social strategy is content curation. There are free tools like Feedspot, Flipboard and Feedly that help gather relevant news and thought leadership to share. These tools let users decide which topics and which news outlets they want to monitor and bring relevant content together on one platform. This makes it easier to position the credit union as a source of expertise and guidance and to share important financial information with your member base.

Highlight Great Work With Awards

One commonly overlooked PR strategy is competing for awards. Awards can be a powerful third-party validation to a credit union’s work and result in additional media coverage. Common award categories include recognition for member service, technology, innovation, workplace diversity, charitable giving, best places to work and corporate culture.

To best leverage awards, identify which key accomplishments or goals your credit union wants to highlight. If the organization is trying to enhance hiring, look for “Best Places to Work” or “Workplace Diversity” awards accepting entries or nominations. Looking to gain members? Search for awards that highlight community involvement or demonstrate how to help members meet their financial needs.

Do be aware, however, that there are some awards which are not worth the time or money involved. Credit unions should stick to awards that are given by well-known, trusted organizations. Many credit union associations and trade publications do awards throughout the year, and many high-quality media publications do as well.

The Strongest Referrals Are Member Testimonials

Even with the growth of new marketing and communication channels, the most powerful PR tool is still a genuine testimonial. The power of hearing a member’s real experience with the credit union cannot be matched by any other PR tactic out there.

If your credit union has happy members, let your community know. A member’s personal experience being helped by the credit union to meet his or her financial goals is an incredibly powerful message.

How to capture those stories? Going back to social media, credit unions can seek out or solicit stories via social channels. Identify top members or find members who have gone out of their way to praise the credit union and build content around their story. Tactics include blogs or short videos of the members sharing their experience. Leveraging happy members can bring priceless results for any credit union.

As with any strategy that involves the public, do be alert for potential negative comments and have support staff ready to engage if necessary.

Please share your ideas for other useful low-cost PR strategies for 2020 in the comments!

Gracie Shefelton is an account coordinator 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 @wmagency, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.

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