As we begin to unwind from the initial wave of COVID-19 in the U.S., most of us will be tempted to seek some sense of normalcy and move on. While understandable, it’s important that credit unions pause and reflect on some of the good things that have transpired over the past 6-8 weeks. This is a great opportunity to highlight those wins for your members, many of whom are eager to hear some good news.
After more than 20 years of working in the credit union industry, I know what many of you are thinking. “Won’t that sound self-serving, as if we’re patting ourselves on the back?” Some caution is warranted, but the fact that you’re questioning it means you’re likely not in danger of crossing the line between humility and arrogance. Here are some general guidelines to follow as you begin to shape your post-lockdown messaging.
- Be upfront about your motives.
Believe it or not, your message will sound more like bragging if you apologize for it. Be proud of the ways you’ve helped your members! You did it with their best interests in mind, right? There’s no shame in announcing your excitement to share the good things that have happened at XYZ Credit Union over the past few months.
- Focus on your members’ wins rather than your good deeds.
Instead of trumpeting the number of low-rate emergency loans you granted or how many loan payments you allowed members to skip, focus on the member-oriented results. Talk about members who were thankful they didn’t have to worry about defaulting on their loan payments, or those who had extra cash when it was sorely needed. Consider sharing some of the ways members used emergency loan funds.
Member testimonials are a great way to communicate this message, and they’re easier to gather than you might think. You know a good story when you hear it – simply ask the member if you can share their story with the rest of the membership. In my experience, they’ll say “yes” four times out of five! Write up their story (keep it short – no more than 50 words), get their approval, and then ask if you can snap a quick photo or snag a profile picture from their Facebook account. It doesn’t have to be a slick-and-glossy photo. In fact, genuine authenticity adds to the impact of your message.
- Encourage good choices.
We all know it’s easier to help members if they contact you before their financial situation gets out of hand. Give your members props for their quick action and the vulnerability it may have taken to reach out in a time of need. Give them credit for their hard work and tenacity, then let the reader interpret the untold message. I assure you that they’ll see your credit union as a rock star, too!
- Don’t disparage others.
While I believe it’s often unintentional, it’s easy to slip into the trap of making others look bad so you look better. Phrases such as, “we’re the only credit union in town who…” or “so-and-so came to us when no one else would help them” will turn people off. Yes, we’ve all heard the statement, “it’s not bragging if it’s true.” In this case, though . . . it’s bragging. Going negative after a widely-felt negative event like a pandemic is too risky.
- Express Gratitude.
Your credit union exists for one reason, and one reason only – to serve your members. Remind them of that, then thank them for the opportunity to go home every night knowing you are changing lives!
Think that’s too corny? I’m going to suggest that you’re taking your good deeds for granted. My advice – order a magic fairy wand and put it in your desk drawer as a reminder (or on your desk as a conversation starter). Every time you give someone a chance based on their character rather than a credit score, create a plan to get a member out of debt, or refinance a loan because you knew you could save them a bunch of money – pull out that wand and give it a wave to remind yourself that you’re making a difference. Every time I spend a day at one of my clients’ offices, I hear about lives being changed. Every. Time.
Don’t be sheepish about seeking out and sharing positive member experiences. Just be mindful of the message you’re sending and remember its purpose. If you’re just spreading good news to get a pat on the back or hoping you’ll elevate your credit union in the eyes of your peers, that may be all you’ll get out of it. However, if you’re inviting members into the story of your credit union so you can offer help and hope to others, the response will extend far beyond quarterly loan statistics.