For credit unions, good communication means connecting

Let me tell you what I think the problem with traditional communication is.

We are all suffering from communication overload right now. Just look at your inbox, your mailbox, your bulletin board at work, your texts, your voicemail: there is a ton of people fighting for your attention every day. Your credit unions’ members are feeling the same way. Some experts estimate that more than 10,000 corporate-sponsored messages cross our paths every day.

All of this “communicating” can cause big problems for businesses. We have grown so accustomed to this barrage of communication that we’ve learned to ignore it. I always say that nobody believes what we say about ourselves – but everybody believes what people tell them about us.

If you really want people to hear and take in what you’re saying, you might want to first think about the human trait that most often draws you in. For me, someone who exhibits passion about what they’re talking about is the person who gets my attention. If we look like we absolutely love what we’re doing, it pulls people toward us. If we look bored, uninterested or like we’re going through the motions, people don’t want to spend any time with us. Look at your tellers and front office personnel! Are they warm and open or are they putting up a shield that says: “Next! Keep it moving, people.”

To me, the best way to reach people is to forget about communicating “at” members and put the emphasis on connecting “with” them. You have multiple opportunities, every time you speak with a member or potential member, to tell them what you want them to know. The beauty of a member-driven organization is that members expect you to ask them questions. “What would you like to see us do differently?” or “How can we make this easier for you?” And people love to talk about themselves – it’s their favorite topic of discussion.

You can also connect with people by thinking about where you can be seen where members don’t necessarily expect you. Community and charity events can give credit unions an opportunity to be seen by community members and local media. I saw a local real estate firm sponsor a bouncy castle at a community event recently. Every traditional booth was empty, but the castle was completely surrounded by parents and their kids, who were having a blast. Meanwhile, representatives were introducing themselves to potential clients and chatting up existing ones. Simple. Where do you want to spend your time and money?

I also urge you to resist jargon and conventional wisdom about “brand-building” or “rebranding.” Instead of saying “Let’s build a strong brand,” I encourage businesses to ask themselves three questions:

1) What are people saying about us?

2) What do we want them to say about us?

3) What are we going to do to make that happen?

This forces you to be very specific with your positioning goals and the language needed to communicate them.

Consumers already know about financial services. You are not entirely novel to them. But if you focus on those three questions, you can start to see beyond the clutter of over-communication and over-hyping.

At the end of the day, regardless of the size or scope of a business, we as consumers always prefer – and make it a priority to choose – people that we like. Member experience is the number one thing your members associate with you. Remember that as you approach your communication strategy.

Ken Schmidt

Ken Schmidt

As the former director of communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Ken Schmidt played an active role in one of the most celebrated turnarounds in corporate history – and got paid to ... Web: Details