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NWCUA CUs should track MBL stories online
BEAVERTON, Ore. (4/10/12)--Credit unions are working to educate the media and public about their efforts to get Congress to raise the member business lending (MBL) cap. And some credit unions are succeeding. But what happens after their articles are published or aired?

Once the first media hits are registered, credit unions should track those stories online and consistently post on the story's comment section, said David Bennett, Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) director of public relations.

Bennett called this "camping a site" to make sure accurate information and positive comments appear near the top of the comments section.

"Sharing those stories on Facebook, Twitter, on credit union websites--even in branch lobbies--is another important aspect of moving this to social media and spreading the word," Bennett said.

Every social media message on this topic should have an action item, said NWCUA Anthem April 5). In the case of MBL, the action item is asking consumers to call or write their legislators.

Credit unions in the Northwest are among those selling positions on MBL in the local media. Mid-Oregon CU, Bend, Ore., was recently featured in the Central Oregonian touting the benefits of increasing the MBL cap for credit unions.

On March 29, Mid-Oregon placed a story in the Bend Bulletin that said increasing the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25% would add 2,700 more jobs in Oregon and 140,000 nationwide, according to the NWCUA.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are in the midst of a national effort to get the MBL legislation passed through in Congress. By increasing the MBL cap, credit unions can help the country inject $13 billion available for small business lending.

North Coast CU in Bellingham, Wash., is engaging members directly on its website with a pop-up box that asks members for their help. The box explains why their help is needed, and provides a link to contact their legislators. Developed as a reaction to help alert credit unions to phone scams, the pop-up box has become part of the credit union's repertoire of tactics when engaging members.

Spokane-area credit unions held a conference call recently to unify their message. Working in solidarity, local leaders outlined a strategy that includes petitions and a letter drive.

"It would be counter-productive for every credit union to work individually on this effort, because it will surprise journalists who think of us as competitors," Dan Hanson, Spokane Teachers CU senior writer and public relations expert, told NWCUA. "And because a good idea coming from any credit union should be shared with all the others."

Many Northwest credit unions are also engaging editorial page editors and editorial boards to offer information about elected officials and their constituents.

"Pitching to the editorial page comes with some risks, depending on what is being pitched and the general leanings of the outlet, but the rewards can be tremendous," said Bennett. "Because most (traditional newspapers) are pro-business, editorial board meetings can be effective as long as arguments are well prepared and practiced. Those being interviewed should also be ready to be filmed, as many newspapers use these to fill their social media requirements."

Opinion editorials and letters to the editor come with far less risk, but carry less weight to readers, generally, because they are not third-party endorsements and present one side of an issue, Bennett said.


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