Day in the Life of a Credit Union’s PR Professional

By Chuck Meyers

Maintaining relationships, a talent for planning and an eye for details are important skills for every PR pro.

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

On a day-to-day basis, a credit union’s PR professional works to communicate with key target audiences. This is done by:

1. managing relationships with key audiences;
2. focusing on relevant strategic issues as defined by the public relations plan; and
3. working on the most current tactical activities.

A typical day might look like this:

8:30 a.m.: Check email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, all the places on the Web! Respond to
reporters’ requests, forward service requests from members on social media outlets to someone at the credit union who can help.
A primary task of the public relations professional is to maintain the credit union’s relationships with key target audiences. In most cases, these relationships have already been established so the PR professional is focused on maintaining them. These audiences usually include:

  • Credit union’s staff – This includes everyone in a branch, such as loan officers, tellers, financial advisors and leaders with whom the PR professional has to coordinate.
  • Members – This audience is primarily reached through the tactical tools listed below by the PR team, such as articles generated in the media, direct mail brochures/newsletters, or even special training for key staff who regularly interact with members.
  • Media – The PR professional is specifically trained to manage these relationships via phone, email and face-to-face meetings.

9:30-11:30 a.m.: Focus on strategic activities.

Daily strategic activities for a PR professional include:

  • Working with other credit union leaders –To get the maximum value from public relations, the PR professional regularly works with other leaders within the credit union to keep public relations fully integrated within the organization and to make sure everyone is working toward the same objectives. This type of coordination often involves staff meetings, briefings or simply copying other teams on what the PR team is working on.
  • Reviewing public relations plan –The PR professional checks the number of ongoing activities against the plan. This may require that changes be made, especially when it comes to the timing of key activities or modifying the plan to accommodate changes that have occurred in other unrelated departments currently working in conjunction with the PR team. Although not always a daily activity, it is done on an ongoing basis.
  • Identifying the next tactical activities to conduct –These activities are listed in the public relations plan and are often time sensitive. Frequently, tactical items are scheduled in such a way so as to support initiatives being conducted by other departments within the credit union. These public relations tools are listed below.

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Try to eat lunch while once again checking all the places on the Web.

The afternoon is spent working on tactical activities, such as press releases, setting up interviews and updating the website, all in accordance with the public relations strategic plan.

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Work on setting up interviews –Interviews are valuable because they can reach virtually every target audience a credit union wants to reach. Most interviews are generated through “pitching,” which involves developing a news story in which the credit union can be a primary source of information and contacting a reporter to see if he or she is interested in writing such a story.

Pitching can be very time consuming. It can take a while for some reporters to accept or reject a particular pitch. Even a good pitch sometimes involves protracted negotiations to confirm the reporter’s interest, set the scope of the interview and lock down a time for the interview to take place.

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Work on news releases. The PR professional checks on the pipeline of scheduled releases and prepares the next release to be distributed. This usually requires gathering relevant information from others who have more knowledge about the announcement. Once the research is done and the release is written, it is sent to the leaders of the credit union for final approval. After approval has been obtained, a release is sent to the media by email or through a news wire service.

2:30 p.m.: Check status of releases that have already been distributed to media. This can be done in several ways:

  • Manually looking for the releases’ information in media outlets;
  • Checking the websites of target media; and
  • Using an online tracking service.

3:00 p.m.: Email higher-ups with a summary and links to any media coverage. You want to keep them informed about how the public relations effort is going.

3:15 p.m.: Run into a co-worker in the hallway and ask about the status of new
account/product/event/branch/etc. Make mental note to start a new press release.

3:30 p.m.: Attend meeting about a different new account/product/event/branch/etc., take notes for another new press release and set reminder to call local reporter to invite her to the launch or event or promise to send the press release and set up an interview so she can meet her deadline.

4:30 p.m.: Media training for executives: Prior to meeting with the reporter, the PR professional provides media training to the spokesperson. In most cases, the spokesperson is selected from a group of people who have been designated for the purpose of doing interviews on behalf of the credit union. Ideally, they have already received media training and have done interviews previously. However, even a veteran spokesperson needs an orientation to go over likely questions that will be asked and what key message points need to be brought up during the interview.

During the interview, which can be conducted face to face or by phone, the PR professional introduces the spokesperson to the reporter but does not play an active role. After the interview completed, the PR professional offers a quick analysis of the strong points and any areas o improvement the spokesperson should focus on before the next one.

5:30 p.m. (wait, isn’t it time to go home?) Work on the website. A credit union’s website is a major tool for communicating with members and staff but requires regular updates from the PR professional. These updates include:

  • Making sure an archive of news releases is updated. (If you sent out a press release last week, it should be on your website somewhere, preferably in a “news” or “press release” section. Reporters will be looking, even if they got an email; they might have deleted it or can’t find it. So make it simple and put all releases online right away.);
  • Offering information about key initiatives or events the credit union is conducting; and
  • Listing the business hours of the credit union holidays in which the credit union is closed.

6 p.m.: Work on the newsletter. Some credit unions distribute a newsletter to members and staff. The value of a newsletter is that it helps build a more solid relationship with these important target audiences and provides an additional tool for sharing information. Newsletters are usually digital and vary in length. The PR professional usually provides content and works with either in-house staff or an outside vendor to design the newsletter’s layout.

6:30 p.m.: Check all the places on the Web one more time. Then go home! Although there are many additional duties a PR professional may work on, the ones discussed here are the most common daily tasks. When done properly, the PR professional is able to implement a well-balanced plan that achieves the maximum impact for the credit union.

Chuck Meyers is a vice president at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries.

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