SAN JOSE, Calif.-Credit unions often struggle with creating a strong presence in the mainstream media, especially smaller CUs. But $139-million San Jose CU has earned a Credit Union Journal Best Practice for the attention it garnered before, during and after Bank Transfer Day.

Sara Karam Holtz, marketing manager, told Credit Union Journal that when it comes to public relations, strategy-not size-is what matters.

"We looked at the national focus on Bank Transfer Day and wanted to take part in it," Holtz recalled. "As a smaller credit union, we knew we needed to strategize."

That concept soon became a six-tiered strategy, Holtz reported.

Strategy One: Be Ready and Available. Although SJCU is not regularly open on Saturdays, it held special hours for Bank Transfer Day. "This added to our story and allowed us to participate in media awareness for the day," assessed Holtz.

Strategy Two: Reinforce the CU Brand. SJCU held a debit card promotion to reinforce its benefits. Its "Be Free" campaign contained eye-catching creative and was printed in several stories as an illustration.

Strategy Three: Foster Excitement. "We decorated our branches and event attendees spun a wheel for prizes, which created an exciting atmosphere while showcasing our difference," she said.

Strategy Four: Submit an Effective Press Release to a Targeted Media List. A press release summarized the BTD event, special hours and debit card promotion, and was sent to local papers and news stations, the PR Newswire general release distribution list, as well CU trade press.

Strategy Five: Offer the CU as a Resource. SJCU representatives were offered as a resource for each media group for the day of the event.

Strategy Six: Submit Photos. Multiple photos of the BTD event were taken and offered to reporters during interviews; several were used in articles.


Being Available To The Press

After Bank Transfer Day the credit union made itself a resource to the media, Holtz continued, and local news stations "took us up on that."

"Being available and being a resource was our biggest advantage," she said. "CBS News came out Friday, Nov. 4, for a preview package, and again on Nov. 5. We were the featured credit union for the CBS television affiliate for the Bay Area. ABC News mentioned us, and we were written about in several blogs, including Bank Tracker and Nerd Wallet."

The media strategy helped generate greater awareness of SJCU in the San Francisco Bay Area, Holtz said, adding this awareness resulted in increased memberships and accounts. In addition, she said it formed media relationships it is still enjoying and benefiting from today.

"We feel credit unions are awesome but we are a best-kept secret," she said. "We saw Bank Transfer Day as a springboard we would be remiss not to use. We had a great story to tell and we leveraged the national excitement."

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