Branding. It’s a hot buzz word and topic in credit union circles these days. Credit unions spend a ton of time and resources on their brand’s look, design, graphics and marketing. But branding is more than your strategy and look. Branding is also about your people.
Branding is only as strong as the employees that live it. Once you develop your brand plan and look, how do you get your employees to live it? Here are five tips to get your employees engaged in your brand.
1) Communicate your credit union values. Ensure they are clearly spelled out to employees at every opportunity. Make the most of the time you have, including employee meetings, orientations, training and marketing event kick-offs. Your employees cannot truly live the brand unless they know the credit union’s core values.
2) Drop “sales training” and implement brand training. Everyone talks about “sales culture” these days. While that’s not a bad thing, it’s time we evolved beyond sales training and dived into brand training. Brand training goes deeper than a cursory glance toward “sales culture” and demands more of your staff. By more fully immersing them in what it means to work and thrive at your credit union, you set them up for success as brand ambassadors.
3) Talk about branding at every opportunity with your staff. This could include all staff meetings, new employee orientation (where HR brand buy-in is critical) and other events. Connect your brand with all promotions and how staff’s dedication to the brand directly impacts the bottom line.
4) Develop brand standards and require all staff to adhere to them. Your employees can’t live the brand unless you have standards in place. How should they dress? How should they interact with the members? How should they be involved in the community? These and other basic questions clearly articulate what you expect from your employees. If you expect nothing from your employees when it comes to your brand, then that is exactly what you’ll get: nothing.
5) Develop an acronym that helps employees recall the brand message. We tend to develop grandiose vision and mission statements (which are a good thing). However, what do they really mean to a front-line employee? As an example, one of our clients recently changed their name from Great Falls Teachers Credit Union to Embark Credit Union and rebranded themselves. Their new tagline is “your journey begins here.” With the new name they want employees to “embark”: Embrace our vision, Make a personal connection, Be your best, Ask questions and listen, Recommend solutions and Keep it real. The acronym helps their employees live the brand and deliver it to members on a daily basis.
Getting your employees to live the brand isn’t a one-step or one-day process. It takes time, determination and total buy-in at all levels, from the board to the CEO to the management team to the front line. However, the fruits of this labor are well worth the effort. Employees that live the brand internally will live it externally and serve as the best marketing and communications vehicles your credit union has.
We talk frequently about the importance of solid branding in modern credit union marketing efforts. Branding is the key to the eventual success or failure of everything we try to project as a public image to member and potential members. Branding is everything we do to personify our credit unions, from marketing materials and corporate culture all the way down to cleanliness of facilities and targeted community involvement.
All of this requires member and potential member buy-in to work. If these people are going to “own” our credit union brand, we must successfully reach them and ingrain the type of branding message we want to embody. The deeper question becomes, then, how and why can we expect our members and potential members to own the credit union if our employees do not own the brand? The bottom line is – your brand is likely to fail if staff is not active proponents of it.
We often talk about how members are the actual owners of our credit unions, which is true. But the deeper questions becomes, can your members actually own the credit union brand if your staff doesn’t?
As the main point of contact between the credit union and members/potential members, employees are the critical link in the chain to successful branding. Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it makes sense to ensure staff is enthusiastic about and knowledgeable concerning our unique brands.
How can we help this happen? Below are a few tips to help staff get on-board with your credit union’s brand proposition.
1) Staff must be regularly immersed in the brand culture. This means keeping them involved and enthused about the brand on a regular and recurring basis. Talk about the brand at every meeting. Quiz staff about the brand and what it means to them. Ask them to relate stories of how they shared the credit union brand message with members as part of their daily jobs.
2) Keep brand front-and-center. The brand is not a promotion or message of the week. It is a long-term commitment to a unique credit union culture and personality. Staff must understand this and realize that the brand isn’t going away. While branding sometimes requires a challenging shift in thinking amongst credit union staff, it must be lived to be learned. Live it every day and expect the same of your staff.
3) Develop your staff into brand ambassadors. Just as some people are more naturally skilled in sales than others, some staff are better at promoting the brand. However, like sales skills, you can also teach brand enthusiasm. Find the most passionate credit union brand ambassadors amongst your staff and encourage their development. With the right guidance, you can also work to incorporate the credit union brand message into their social media lives. For example, if your credit union brand ambassadors are also passionate Twitter or Facebook users, work with them to develop a credit union voice into a portion of their postings. In our digital world, an authentic and trusted social media voice, as embodied by a credit union employee instead of the typical “corporate” persona, is an invaluable link towards building a talked-about and trusted brand.
Those are just a few ideas to help you build your staff into active and valuable brand ambassadors. In order for your branding efforts to work, you must tap into the greatest source of member/potential member contact. That’s not direct mail, billboards or catchy slogans. That is your staff, the true initial “owners” of your credit union brand.
Their Facebook engagement example didn’t actually start on Facebook. It began with a local community event the credit union sponsors (Balloon Glow in Cedar Rapids, Iowa). While Tara Bross, marketing specialist for Linn Area Credit Union, and other Linn Area CU employees were cleaning up after the event, a couple approached the group with a stuffed monkey—an obviously very lost and very loved stuffed monkey.
Rather than just put the monkey in some ambiguous lost and found, Bross took action. But not just any action—she took to social media. Linn Area Credit Union’s tagline is “we are family.” Those are not just words to Linn Area Credit Union employees—they live that slogan daily.
“The monkey was so obviously loved,” Bross said in a blog post recapping the ordeal. “So obviously going to crash and burn the world of some little child out there!” So what did Bross do? She posted a picture of the monkey who had lost his “bestie” on the Linn Area Facebook page. The message read, “Missing: My Bestie. I was accidently dropped last night while at Balloon Glow. I’m guessing my BFF didn’t sleep well last night without me! Don’t get me wrong—these people at Linn Area Credit Union are really funny, but I miss my home! Please SHARE and help find this sweet little monkey’s best friend!”
They didn’t just post the message on their own Facebook page, however. Linn Area CU also used the event’s and local news outlets’ Facebook pages as well. Word immediately began to spread.
The credit union also had ongoing fun with the monkey. They posted regular pictures and captions of what the monkey was doing at the credit union: sitting in the CEO’s desk, taking a picture of himself on the copy machine, testing fraudulent bills, etc.
One week later, thanks to someone seeing the Linn Area Facebook page and post, a friend of the monkey’s owner realized the connection. When the mom posted on Facebook about losing their child’s monkey it didn't’ take long for others on Facebook to connect the dots. And of course, there was one incredibly happy reunion.
So what’s the ROI on all this (a cynic CFO might ask)? Well actually, Linn Area tracked the results. According to Alice Hagerman, Linn Area Credit Union’s vice president of marketing, the credit union had the following results:
150 comments on their story
Their organic Facebook “likes” increased by 132
2,125 credit union members “shared” the story with their Facebook friends
Over 150,000 people were reached by the story
Local media covered the story
A local television station ran the story twice
The Cedar Rapids Gazette published an article with photos
“This was a textbook example of using social media to entertain, engage and promote our brand image,” Hagerman said. “Much of the credit goes to Bross and her creative thinking.”
Notice the social media lessons:
Branding—The actions Linn Area Credit Union took on social media tied directly to their brand (We Are Family).
Engagement—They asked questions, enlisted the help of their Facebook community to spread the word, used video, had some fun, etc.
Measurement—They tracked the results (although that wasn't their motivation). They were able to show tangible benefit (awareness, news coverage, number of impressions, etc.)
So the next time someone questions the validity of using Facebook and social media channels, point them to Linn Area Credit Union as an example. You can read the full account of the monkey business at Linn Area Credit Union’s blog.
Most corporate institutions, banks and credit unions included, spend a great deal of time in meetings. Staff meetings, management meetings, team meetings and meetings to help plan meetings are but a few. In fact, a recent article indicates up to half of all manager and executive time work hours are spent in meetings.
The question becomes, if we are bound to spend all this time in meetings, what can we do to help make the time as productive as possible? Here are a few tips to help make your organization’s meetings less of a time-kill and more of an exercise in relevance.
1) Every meeting should produce an action plan. Nothing drains morale more than to require employees to spend hours in a room where nothing is accomplished. Make sure every meeting has some sort of actionable set of steps at its end and that people report back on those steps.
2) Latecomers beware. If people are late for a meeting, tough. Do not waste the time of the people that made it on time by rehashing the first few minutes for latecomers.
3) Opt-out option. Whenever possible, allow employees the option on opting out of select meetings, without fear of reprisal or requiring justification.
4) Meeting leaders must control their meetings. Do not allow one or two people to hijack meetings to rant on their own manifestos or gripe lists.
5) Whenever possible, end meetings early. People will be pleasantly surprised by this and will respect the fact that the respect their time over simply running out the clock.
Meetings are a necessary evil in the corporate world, but they need not dominate every waking hour of the workday. With a little preparation and forethought, managers can help end the dread of meetings and turn that time into something productive for all involved.
The user experience (UX) is one of the keys in reaching consumers today. The user experience is not just a buzz word—it’s a strategic approach you must develop. How members or customers actually use your website and branch matters.
In the video clip below, Mark shares three ideas for how to improve the user experience at your credit union or bank.