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Community involvement gets equal billing in marketing
MEDFORD, Ore. (8/7/12)--Rogue FCU, based in Medford, Ore., has mastered a marketing strategy of community event ownership and low-cost media coverage to the point that it has radio stations vying competitively for coverage rights to its community events, according to the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA).

The secret? The event--not the promotion--is the major focus, the credit union told NWCUA (Anthem Aug. 2). The credit union is still setting membership growth records nine months after Bank Transfer Day.

For example, it is gearing up for its "Cash or Gas" day, where consumers get gas for 50 cents per gallon below the listed price. Thirteen radio stations want coverage rights.  It is so popular that Rogue's executive vice president rolls up his sleeves to direct traffic until police arrive to assist.

Although its website touts its programs--investment planning, online banking, competitive loan rates, youth accounts and other products--equal billing goes to Rogue FCU's community involvement, with more than 20 high profile events such as "Medford Movies in the Park," "a Pear Blossom Festival," cruise events that attract automobile enthusiasts and youth baseball.

"There's no 'one thing.' It's just 'everything,'" Rogue President/CEO Gene Pelham told NWCUA when asked about resources the $542 million asset credit union commits to events. While some events tie to credit union promotions, such as a special vehicle purchase program during the Medford Cruise, the event, not the promotion, is the major focus. "And you can't just put your name on an event," Pelham said. "You really have to do it."

Its "Living Local" branding resonates because much of its community involvement is not a disguised marketing of the credit union.  Giving the community a positive event or activity without marketing hype helps to build trust, he said.

The same approach is used for its "Local Money Matters" radio show, which airs live on  Tuesday mornings and repeats on Thursday and Saturday nights. The broadcasts are videotaped and archived on its website. Rogue Federal broadcasts from high-traffic spots, such as branch parking lots and lobbies. It maintains control of the content but doesn't turn the broadcast into the "Rogue Federal hour." It focuses on creating content consumers can learn from, with experts featured.

The program's quality is appreciated by broadcasters with lean staffing and has earned consumers' trust, the credit union told NWCUA. As a result, when it suggests stories about initiatives such as raising credit unions' member business lending cap, the local media listen.

The credit union also partners with for-profit businesses to raise funds for community causes. Commercial inventory in the radio program is traded with for-profit partners for contributions. Rogue also charges auto and boat dealerships for display rights in lobbies and parking lots. The earnings go to local nonprofits through high-visibility check presentations. The businesses see the value; they keep participating month after month, the credit union said.


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