Making Sure That You Read More Than Just This Headline

If you're the CEO or manager of a credit union, then you are likely also a published author. Whether you're a best seller or not may seem to be determined by the size of the credit union's membership, but lots of books that get big advance print runs end up heading to the discount table or being boxed up and returned to the publisher for a credit.

If your credit union publishes a newsletter then it's likely there is a "Letter from the President" or "From the desk of the CEO" or "Manager's Memo" or some other so-named column (in some cases it's even written by the CEO!) that appears somewhere inside.

The Credit Union Journal is on the mailing list of numerous credit union newsletters (if you want to add us to your list our address is P.O. Box 4387, West Palm Beach, FL 33402) and over the years I've had the opportunity to read a countless number of the CEO's (or ghostwriter's) communications with members.

The style employed ranges from the folksy and personal (in which cases CEO stands for the Corny but Effective Offering) to the by-the-numbers and straightforward (in which case CEO stands for Concise and Efficient Offering). In a few newsletters there is no direct communication from anyone with the credit union, which seems a mistake as one reason branches have grown is that people still like to see, feel and touch some touchpoint related to their money.

No one style of communication with members is really better than another; rather, it all comes down to readability. In any type of publication, readability is ultimately addressed by how well the following question is answered: "What's in it for me?"

So what's the point here? Credit Union Journal has been working very hard to answer that same question for our readers. Late in 2006, the Journal's editorial team met off-site for extensive discussion of that question and how we are answering it. Since the Journal's inception in 1997 we have been singularly focused on delivering what our readers-the senior executives at credit unions-want in a newspaper. While the first thing most folks noticed when we introduced a redesigned format in conjunction with our 10th anniversary in January of this year was the new paper stock, we also refocused the editorial content. Here's what readers have said they want:

* Strategies for growing their operations.

* Examples from peer group leaders.

* Balance-sheet related analysis.

* Provocative opinions from thought-leaders that challenge the status quo.

* Best practices (please take a moment and read more about this on page 39.)

Here's what readers made clear they absolutely do not want:

* Extensive coverage of silly trade association politics.

* Lots of warm-and-fuzzies.

* Coverage they can get (and have gotten) elsewhere.

* Reporting about challenges, rather than what can be done in response.

* Long, ponderous stories. (Credit Union Journal has, from day one, strived to deliver news in a tight, concise format, something you'll find in this and every issue).

In keeping with what readers have asked for this year the Journal has added, among other things, a LeaderBoard series that profiles peer group-leading credit unions; a "7 in 07" series that probes various professional disciplines within credit unions for strategies and trends; a synopsis of research that is now newly released, among other offerings.

We have also retained some very well-respected correspondents to delve deeper into issues that deserve greater discussion. In this issue, one such correspondent, Jim Jerving, examines the cost efficiency differential between large credit unions and others in a piece we have titled "Will Only The Big Dogs Survive" (see story, page 1).

Let me stress we know that the vast majority of our readers are the small and mid-size dogs. As such, they have very real concerns about the future of their credit unions and even their own careers. As Mike Hales notes on page 38 of this issue, a future of 1,000 "mega-credit unions" is likely not a bright one.

We also know that if there are no credit unions, there's not really much of a need for a Credit Union Journal. That's why we have invested so much effort answering, "What's in it for you-and your members?" Let us know how we are doing.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann<at>cujournal.com.