4 Steps for Generating Consistent Publicity for Credit Unions

Develop a plan, research your targets, write good pitches and work your relationships

by Ron Anderson

CUES’ Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

Most credit union executives know how beneficial publicity can be for their organizations but do not have a plan for generating consistent media coverage. Credit unions can generate more regular coverage by executing their own mini PR program based on the steps below:

Step 1: Develop a Plan

Developing a plan enables you to focus specifically on generating coverage in the media outlets that are most important and also prevents you from moving in too many uncoordinated directions. Your publicity plan should include the following:

  • Designate a spokesperson. Choosing a spokesperson to represent your credit union helps the public and media easily identify your organization. This person should be a C-level executive who knows the credit union and can clearly communicate key messages to the media.
  • Prioritize media outlets according to your credit union’s goals. For example, if you are trying to gain new members, targeting local, consumer-focused media outlets will be more important than going after business or trade publications.
  • Set realistic goals for the program. This will prevent you from pursuing unrealistic goals. For example, it is unlikely a media outlet will cover your credit union every month. Depending on the media outlet, two or three times a year is generally considered very good.
  • Develop key messages. Key messages enable your members and potential members to easily understand how your credit union is unique or better than the competition. These messages are typically short and fact-based and should be used consistently in every media interview and included in any press releases and articles.

Step 2: Research the Media Outlet

Doing research on the media outlet will enable you to deliver content the outlet considers newsworthy. Nothing irritates the media more than being pitched by someone who has not taken the time to learn what type of news they cover.

  • Identify key decision makers. Doing your due diligence on the front end will help you win over key decision makers within that outlet and separate you from others who did not take the time to do their homework.
  • Understand the audience. Although every media outlet is different, they all have one thing in common and that is delivering value to their audiences. The audience of a media outlet is its lifeblood, similar to how important members are to a credit union, and every decision made is based on growing the number of audience members or retaining them. Identify news in your credit union that will deliver the greatest value to the media’s audience, and you will enhance your ability to secure media coverage consistently.

Step 3: Create a Compelling Pitch

Utilize what you learn during your research phase to craft a pitch the media outlet will consider relevant and newsworthy. Below are a few guidelines for developing a good pitch.

  • Keep it short. Pitches should be no longer than three or four sentences.
  • Create a newsworthy subject line for your email pitch. Reporters receive hundreds of email pitches every week and don’t have time to read each one, so create a subject line that will help your email standout.
  • Make your news timely. The timelier your news, the more interested the media is likely to be. Sending the media a press release announcing a new branch opening, for example, is likely to generate interest.

Step 4: Build Lasting Relationships With the Media

Building long-term relationships with key decision makers in the media will result in consistent coverage for your credit union. Employ the following tips to build a long-term relationship with any member of the media:

  • Always do what you say. Nothing sours a relationship with the media faster than not delivering on something you have promised.
  • Maintain contact even if you do not have a pitch. Pick a recent article a reporter has written and send a note with some positive feedback. Reporters are overworked and often feel underappreciated, so hearing positive feedback for the work they do is going to be a plus.
  • Make the media’s job easier. Journalists are extremely busy so be as helpful as you can to make their job easier, and they will want to work with you more often.

While there is no magic bullet for generating media coverage, following the above steps will increase your chances of securing consistent media coverage in key media outlets.

Ron Anderson is an account associate at the William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. He can be reached at ronald@williammills.com.