Posts Tagged ‘CU Skeptic’

Credit Unions: Industry or Movement?

May 2, 2008

It’s pretty amazing when you look around the credit union landscape and realize there are so many passionate, hard-working professionals who are striving to make their members’ lives a little bit better every day.

Recently I had some private email discussion that made me think back to Brent Dixon’s excellent OpenSource CU post on CUs being an Industry vs. Movement. When subsequently the CU Skeptic came on the scene, and got a certain degree of flame-mail for his stance and anonymity, I had to come to his defense to say that his voice is important and likely representative of many others. There are people, both inside the industry and outside, who say that credit unions are really the same as banks… that we are just pushing more debt and doing whatever it takes to bring dollars into the institution no matter what the impact to members (e.g. fees generated via courtesy pay, tap the equity in your home for any purpose), in which case we are no different than banks, right?

Please know that there are few people more passionate about the credit union movement than I am. But more and more people within the movement are concerned about a bank-like attitude that is pervading throughout credit union land, especially at larger credit unions. And they might be afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. Are large CUs losing their way? Are they a black eye to the industry/movement? Or is a more bank-like approach inevitable with growth?

Or is it that we are just an errand that people appreciate even less than dentistry, and we just create tons of junk mail in the pursuit of making a buck? Are we becoming cutthroat competitors of each other who only cooperate when its convenient? Is cooperation now an anachronism?

If we have lost our way as a movement, who is at fault, our members for not caring about the credit union difference anymore, or our fault for not telling our story in a way that resonates with them?

Update: I just discovered (via comments to the CU Skeptic’s About page) that our Irish friends are wrestling with these same issues.

(If you are a credit union professional, and want to respond in a forum where only your credit union peers will view it, you can do so on here.)

Blahg Blahg Blahg Blahg-I’m sick of hearing about Blahgs!

January 27, 2008

It is truly fun to see the mini-firestorm of discussion that this meme of “to blog or not to blog” has generated. (Trey Reeme guesting on CUES Skybox, Tim McAlpine – Currency Marketing, Ron “the Shevlinator” Shevlin, Gene Blishen – Tinfoiling, Currency Marketing again, CU Skeptic, Lisa Hochgraf – Nexus Connection, and right here)

To all of this, I further say, “You are mostly likely already blogging, you just don’t know it.”

To understand why, let’s start by breaking down exactly what a blog is.

At it’s simplest, a blog is simply a web log. (web log = blog. get it?) When my son was born at the very end of 1998, I wanted to post pictures of him online for my family, spread out all over the country, to see. Neither Flickr nor blogging had been popularized yet. So I dutifully uploaded pages and wrote html code in Adobe GoLive. This got complicated when new pictures required new pages, and then they needed to be linked back to older pages. In fact, it grew so wearily tiresome that I stopped this whole effort after about a year and a half. And I couldn’t tell if my family was even paying any attention.

Fortunately, some sharp people realized that they were not the only ones having this kind of dilemma. The need for easily updateable sequential web pages was readily apparent, and the concept of blogging really started to pick up steam with early adoptors in 2003-04 (though blogging goes back even earlier.)

So at it’s simplest, that is what a blog is…. a web site where adding new content is a snap.

Over the last many years, blogging has come to mean much more than that. Bloggers realized the value of communicating with others, and comments on new entries were introduced. Building on that idea, trackbacks were born, which let bloggers know when other bloggers wrote about their blog. This enabled good and/or hot content and ideas to be spread far and wide rapidly.

Here are some CU examples of web pages which may as well be a blog. These pages have all the aspects of a blog, without any of the ease, convenience, or connectedness of a blog.
Mountain America CU Press Releases
Tracy CU What’s New
UFirst FCU Community page
UW CU Press Release Library
Meijer CU Community Activities

And this list is just right off the top of a couple web searches. Nearly EVERY web site could benefit from having at least some of it’s content bloggified.

To be fair, blogging has come to mean far more than simply making serial content available. When most people say blogging, they are talking about holding conversations out in the open, with the potential for the entire online public to be watching. While I think that all credit unions ought to embrace talking with their member/owners, those that are reluctant to do that can, at the very least, dip their toes in the water by making the articles of their newsletters available in blog format. For the very faint of heart, this could even be done with comments disabled.

But wait a minute, as a credit union, don’t you WANT to hear back from your members? Don’t you want to better know how you can serve them? Or is being member-owned merely words on paper to avoid being taxed? Why don’t you want to make member-owned mean more than that? I mean, all savvy FOR-PROFIT businesses want to get feedback from their customers, so that they can serve them better. Why wouldn’t a not-for-profit cooperative want to embrace that kind of feedback even more so than a for-profit company? You’ve got double the incentive…. both from the customer aspect of the relationship as well as the owner aspect of the relationship.

Let’s also look at a couple of companies that realize fresh content is king and made a blog the centerpiece of their web site. The first that comes to mind is Tom Peters, and for a CU example, look no further than the Filene Research Institute.

Bottom line – you are already blogging, you just didn’t know it. May as well use the right tools for the job that will simply your life and make it easier.