Who's In Charge Of This Stuff?

By this stuff, I mean this new stuff. Web 2.0. User-generated content. Social media. Whatever you want to call it.

All this stuff you live and breathe. All this stuff that continues to come in waves. All this stuff that you know is perfect for your credit union. All this stuff that you can’t explain to anyone who is not involved. All this stuff your members are doing online. All this stuff that you know is passing your credit union by.

How about the brand and name experts? No, they’re too busy helping credit unions merge to waste their time on this stuff. They’re telling credit unions, “Skip this stuff. It will pass.”

How about the ad agency? Not likely. They make their money in 30 second increments. If they can’t monetize it, forget it. They, too, are telling credit unions, “Skip this stuff. It will pass.”

How about the PR consultants? Nope. User-generated content with no editorial review is too scary for them. “We need to control this stuff.”

How about the IT department? Yeah right. They’re too busy with bank system security and making sure your in-box isn’t filled with spam. Just try to convince the techies that embedded code from a third-party website is a good thing to do. “Nope, that stuff is not touching my stuff. My job is to block stuff, not touch stuff.”

How about the young person in the organization with a knack for computers? Maybe, but this person will never have the influence or the resources to really implement this stuff. “OK old dudes, this stuff is so cool. Trust me, we really need this stuff.”

How about your marketing and communications department? They would be the natural fit, but with a steady flow of branch requests and with the production of your ingrained annual sales promotions, time and resources are spread too thin. “We’d love to help, but we just don’t have time to do this stuff.”

How about the digital agency or the web consultancy? Possibly. They are definitely capable of doing whatever your credit union wants to do. But they can’t go it alone. “OK, before we do anything, we want to make sure you guys understand this stuff and are comfortable with us doing all of this stuff.”

How about hiring an expert on staff? Good idea. But you better be prepared to listen and give him or her the freedom to experiment or he or she will get frustrated and leave. “I have been telling you about this stuff for months now, but you all still don’t get this stuff. I’m packing my stuff and leaving.”

So, who’s left? Your senior management and, especially, your CEO. Until credit union CEOs and the senior executive team are actually involved in this stuff, it’s not going as far as I know it can go to propel the credit union movement forward.

CEOs and the senior executive team need to feel the anxiety of not being able to see what their Twitter crew is up to while on a flight. CEOs and the senior executive team need to feel the exhilaration of receiving a slew of comments on a controversial blog post that they just posted. CEOs and the senior executive team need to understand the power of this new form of community firsthand. It cannot be explained. It must be experienced.

And CEOs and the senior executive team need to be seen participating in social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn by staff and members. CEOs and the senior executive team need to give permission to experiment and innovate.

As it stands, credit union CEOs and the senior executive team are out of the loop. They see all of this stuff as a waste of time and energy. But guess what, this stuff is real, this stuff is happening right under their nose and this stuff is not going away any time soon, if ever.

Signing off on a message from the president that you didn’t write for your credit union’s quarterly newsletter is not a two-way conversation. Not even close.

Two questions for you:

  1. Who owns this stuff at your credit union?
  2. What can we all do to prove this stuff is worth doing?

Tim McAlpine lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. He is the President and Creative Director of Currency Marketing, an integrated marketing agency specializing in helping credit unions attract the next generation of members. Tim is best known as the creator of Young & Free and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec, and co-creator of the CU Water Cooler.