If you were headed into a meeting in which you knew three attendees spoke only their native tongues (let’s say French, German and Russian), would you walk in expecting English to do the trick? Of course not. You’d look for ways to bridge the language barrier; means to make yourself heard and understood for your benefit and theirs.
Many credit union communication professionals face a similar dilemma with three distinct target audiences who speak their own languages: the media, the membership and the community. While we may use English to address all three, the ways and manners in which we employ language are different for each. Learning how to address each group separately, as its own entity with its own information needs, makes a great difference in the effectiveness of your communications.
The media. Here we are talking about the press, whether it’s the established fields like radio, newspaper and television, or relative newcomers such as Internet writers, bloggers and podcasters. All are deadline-driven, and all are already mentally on to the next story while you’re still talking. With that in mind, boil your message down into three to five talking points that they can take away. Get to the point, respect their time and leave them with chewable bites of pertinent information. Also, make sure they have good contact information at your credit union should they have any follow-up questions or desire an interview.
The members. We may think talking to members is the easiest part of our job, almost a “gimme.” It’s not. While talking to members is a top priority, it’s also a challenging one. The key is ensuring they know you truly care about them and their problems. Maintain eye contact with them and actively listen. Show empathy when they have a complaint or problem, and know every credit union product and service, inside and out. You want to come across as an expert in your field, not a green amateur. Instill confidence in your members by knowing your stuff.
The community. Talking to the larger community means talking to thousands of potential members at a time, so getting it right is critical. Parts we can learn from the above examples. You need to distill the essence of what your credit union is into short, manageable chunks of data for the general consumer. You also want to look like an absolute pro at all things credit union. On top of that, it’s important to ensure your message is one of inclusion for all potential members. Many credit unions are plagued with outdated images that only certain people (i.e., teachers, police and firemen, etc.) can join due to their field of membership. If your credit union has an expended field of membership, use every opportunity when addressing the community to let them know.
For credit union communications professionals, talking to diverse audiences like the media, the members and the community can seem a daunting task. However, remembering the key communications needs of each group can help you more effectively reach them and spread the word about your credit union.