Inside Marketing: What the Recent Bank Crisis Could Teach Credit Unions

marketing PR megaphone icon over collage image of collapsing banks and crumpled dollars with down arrows and the Statue of Liberty
By Katie Bartlett

4 minutes

3 important lessons to apply to your marketing strategy

Between inflation, steadily rising interest rates and a looming recession, the current economic environment has exerted significant pressure on U.S. consumers and financial institutions alike. In addition to this uncertainty, federal regulators seized Silicon Valley Bank early in March in the swiftest and largest banking failure since 2008, amplifying stress among consumers.

Blanket news coverage only exacerbated the situation, with numerous so-called “industry experts” flooding Twitter with misinformation and spurring further panic. Spooked by the fallout, Signature Bank customers withdrew billions of dollars in assets, resulting in another banking catastrophe just two days after SVB. This chain of events was a result of fearmongering and mis- and poor communication.

Despite the noise on social media, economists, regulators and financial analysts are urging financial institutions to remain composed, cautious and communicative. Taking this approach, credit unions have a unique opportunity to learn from the recent bank crisis and leverage effective marketing tactics to inform and connect with their valuable membership bases.

The following tips can help credit unions successfully navigate a difficult economic climate with confidence.

1. Educate Members About Credit Union Values

All credit unions are guided by the eight cooperative principles, with CUNA most recently adding “diversity, equity and inclusion” to the list. These principles outline the fundamental functions and values that credit unions adhere to, including voluntary membership, democratic member control, members’ economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, cooperation among cooperatives and concern for community. It is crucial that credit unions implement and fulfill these values; it’s also crucial to actively ensure that members benefit from these principles through effective engagements and individualized products and services.

For example, updating the “About” section of your website to include your organization’s specific foundational principles, explaining their importance and how your credit union exhibits and implements these guiding truths can distinguish credit unions from other regional and community financial institutions. Demonstrating how the principles are integrated into both the credit union's culture and operations reinforces the “member-first” mindset that helps differentiate credit unions while communicating to your members that they are recognized as real people and not just accounts.

2. Communicate Proactively

Timely and proactive communication is a crucial marketing tactic credit unions must utilize to maintain strong member relationships, especially in times of financial uncertainty. Rather than going silent to see how a crisis plays out and addressing it after the incident, credit unions can stay ahead of any potential issues by engaging with members to understand their concerns and provide solutions. A quick tweet detailing how your organization is monitoring the situation shows active concern for members and their uneasiness. Meanwhile, establishing an open forum on your credit union's blog, Facebook or LinkedIn page, allowing members to informally ask questions and voice concerns, is another way to communicate proactively while fostering confidence through a crisis.

Credit unions can also convey their stability through direct communication via emails, newsletters or social media posts to emphasize their financial strength, reliability and commitment to their members. Releasing a statement that directly addresses recent economic fears demonstrates transparency and reinforces trust, while serving as a clear indication that your organization has nothing to hide. By regularly providing clear insight and digestible information into your organization’s financial health, members are more likely to remain coolheaded and trusting of their credit union during turbulent times.

3. Transparency Equals Trust

Proactive and transparent communication has taken the lead as the most important and effective marketing strategies for the modern world, and for this reason, they are closely intertwined and often dependent of one another. Trust is established through honest, open and consistent rapport with your members. If issues arise, it is imperative to inform members in a composed, concise manner that explicitly outlines the actions your organization is taking to keep members safe and apprised of the economic factors that may affect them.

Taking advantage of open forms of communication, like a blog or social media channel, is not only an effective way to engage members, but it also serves as an avenue for members to voice their apprehensions and an opportunity to reiterate your commitment to their financial needs. By maintaining a proactive and candid dialogue that communicates your member-first mission, credit unions can position themselves as trustworthy partners who can guide potential and existing members through economic challenges.

Katie Bartlett is an account services intern 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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