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How many CUs should be blogging or how many angels can dance on a head of a pin?

January 24, 2008

Morriss has written a blog “How many credit unions should be blogging” over at EverythingCU.com. Some very interesting ideas that I need to expand on.

Beyond the point of every credit union should be blogging is a crucial concept that constantly churns in my mind. Credit unions’ common cause is that of a co-operative financial institution serving the needs of its members. The blog as a means of communicating should augment this premise, again by serving member needs. But how does something as verbose as a blog truly represent the entity? There will be views and ideas proposed that are representative of the individual, blogging about the credit union. That could be staff, management, CEO, board member, or even a member themselves. The credit union’s blog is also it’s banner and that communication will have a human perspective, not necessarily the credit union’s perspective. And this is maybe why CUs are hesitant. Some understood the mantra that their message must be pure, sanitized, non-controversial, politically correct, easy to understand and always towing the marketable CU (company) line.

I don’t believe a blog is a tool in a marketing toolkit. It can’t be a blog if it has to follow the above mantra. It needs to be resilient, challenging, inclusive, fair, honest, thought provoking, communicative, informing and whatever other attribute that will evolve over the next years. It is fundamentally the conversation that those 10 charter members had around that kitchen table that started the credit union. Those people got together out of a need, not out of a marketing direction.

The readers of credit union blogs need to understand the nature of blogs, that they aren’t marketing instruments (they may be tainted with marketing though). That they are open dialogues. They are a member notice board. They are Luther’s Wittenburg door. They are the radio call in show. They are the emotion, passion and human attribute of the credit union in a textual form. Again I would use the phrase – they are like nailing jello to a tree, sometimes very tough to define.

What is so necessary is that blogs become what each credit union needs them to become, developed in the context of their own culture. That diversity is something that should not be feared but embraced because that is what this system is all about. And here is where I will disagree with a number of my blogging peers. It cannot be solely or utterly defined in the realm of marketing because that isn’t what it is. Members will eventually see it as that. Do we really want our blogs to be the cloaked hype machines that so many businesses have made their blogs become? We are co-operatives. Realizing that just makes us different. And blogging should fit so easily with credit unions because diversity is and always is the domain we live in. If don’t realize our difference then we have a bigger problem that goes beyond blogging.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2008 6:48 am

    Gene, thank you for this well-reasoned response. I’m glad I could stir things up a bit. One point I’d like to make is that you are painting marketing in a very negative light. Yes, there are some practitioners making a bad name for it. But marketing, in it’s truest sense, is bringing together a business with the customers who could benefit from what the business has to offer. Often, the best “marketing” is to have a unique and desirable product or service that is spread through referrals. While I’m guessing you don’t have a dedicated marketing professional at Mt. Lehman CU, the fact that you are excellent operationally, innovative, personal, etc., is a form of marketing.

    Bad marketing is hype, false promises, and half-truths. Good marketing is education.

  2. January 24, 2008 7:40 am

    I knew there was something that bothered me when I read the posts that Ron and Tim had on their blogs recently. You’ve “nailed the jello” to the tree for me. A credit union blog is not a marketing tool. If they beome one, members will fast forward through them in the same way TV commercials get screened out. If they are a strategy, at all, they are a member service tool that represents what is at the heart of what a credit union is and does for its members. Blogs don’t make sense without a commitment to a high quality of service. Blogs aren’t necessary for a credit union to make superior member service part of daily operations but, I believe, it’s a tool that could help.

  3. January 24, 2008 4:02 pm

    Thanks for posting your perspective Gene. To date, I have not blogged, I only have commented so maybe I am not qualified to comment on blogging. But I am also ignorant, so here it goes…

    Many of your blogging peers view their blogs with marketing glasses because blogs are usually driven by, moderated by or defaulted to those in the marketing dept. You know this. Enough said.

    I whole-heartedly agree with Morriss’ comments – marketing has been painted in a negative light. When I joined twitter, I asked social media pioneer/guru, Chris Brogan, his thoughts on social media and the appropriate channels to use as marketing tool. His response, “I’m not a marketer. I don’t like being marketed to, but I love conversations.”

    The blogs that I frequent the most are not CU- or even marketing-related. They are run by people that I consider authentic. The blog post topics span a broad spectrum. They invite conversation.

    So having said all that, I come back to CUs. What’s up with Currency’s “blogging for money”? (I hope this doesn’t come across as a marketing plug). Enter Common Wealth Credit Union – a CU that has a genuine interest in understanding and communicating with YGeners. What were the appropriate channels to communicate? Social Media channels with blogging as its hub. Was it marketing product? Yes. Was it successful and will CWCU get a return on its investment. Yes.

    Now Larissa has taken the helm of the Y&F blog. Here is someone who is SO engaging. Being a spokesperson fits her to a tee. She uses her gifts as a visual artist. She blogs about things that interest her AS WELL AS indirect product plugs.

    What we are seeing is that throwing product mentions in the mix does not necessarily compromise authenticity. I am rambling. Bottom line – I agree with you. CUs need to dig a little deeper to ask the “why” questions and see how it fits before they start a blog. It really comes down to intent.

  4. January 28, 2008 7:26 am

    P.S. Stunning photos in your Flickr feed, Gene. I look forward to visiting you in-person someday.

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