Heroes and Humans

I’m guilty. I put famous people up on a pedestal. I think we probably all do more than we should. The world is a gigantic business and most of what we see and hear is very well rehearsed. Most of it is scripted.  Every once in a while we see who these “heroes” of ours are. It’s the times when you see or hear or read something that resonates deep within you. It’s a moment that you realize that the people you have put up on a pedestal are human just like you.

Nowadays, many of us are divided. It is my hope that we can return to a civil society focused on liberty and the best interest of all someday soon.

About this video… For me, this was one of those moments that I realized an artist I admired was human. He has the same emotions as me. He has the same tipping points as me and he is comfortable with being vulnerable.
This song, Why Not Me, pretty much sums it up. Our world lost a lot of innocent people this week. People who were out to have a good time and enjoy the music that gave them the special moments we all seek.
This video moved me and I hope it moves you to see how much more we all are alike than we are different. If you are a man and reading this, I hope you know that it is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to feel and it is okay to share your feelings.
I’m thankful for moments like these that I will never forget, but I wish this moment would never have had to happen. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people we lost, all of the people who were wounded and every single individual affected by this horrific tragedy. All of my respect goes to the brave men and women of the LVPD who risked their lives to limit this unimaginable event.

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When Memes Go Wrong

dear asshole

Hey there.  I know you’re not a frequent reader because I haven’t updated my blog in 2+ years, but guess what, today something hit me so hard that I thought I should share my thoughts.  You may disagree.  You might even agree.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m right about this.  If you disagree, please take a bit longer to examine your thought process.

I’ve selected an image to be attached to this post.  Honestly, I am disturbed that it exists and I had a hard time taking a screenshot of it because all I could think of was that I may also be contributing to the problem I am about to dive further into.

The title of this blog is misleading.  It’s not when memes go wrong, it’s when people go wrong.  I go wrong a lot.  I know it.  Most people know it and I’m not denying it.  So please, don’t take me for a hypocrite.  One thing I do know is that I NEVER joke about mental health.

Chris Cornell.  Chris Cornell died this week.  He left this earth and he left behind groundbreaking music, but he also left behind three children and a wife that he adored.  By all accounts, Chris had everything you and I have probably ever wanted, but he had something else that some of us might deal with day to day, some others might have a family member who fights their illness day-to-day and others may have never experienced depression, a mood disorder or any other type of “mental illness”.

By now, you’ve read a lot.  Here is my point.  If you walk by three people a day, statistically one of those people has had or will have a depressive “episode” in their life.  As a side note, I am using quotation marks when I must use terms that I do not agree with.

Chris Cornell did end his own life.  This is a fact.  Aaron Hernandez (the football player convicted of 1st-degree murder) also killed himself inside his prison cell.  Both of these HUMAN BEINGS had nothing in common with the exception on the Hollywood limelight.

To compare these tragic events in the hopes of a few Facebook Reactions, Twitter RT’s or whatever is completely insensitive and one of the key indicators of why our (the American) society continues to trot along with blinders on our eyes to the real issues we must first address.

In summation:

  1. Please stop using other people’s misfortune to gain a laugh, promote your product or further your own selfish initiatives.
  2. Suicide is NOT an issue of someone taking their own life.  Suicide is the sometimes sudden, but other times prolonged process of brain chemicals causing a person to experience various levels of suicidal thoughts and/or depressive/manic episodes.
  3. People who struggle with a mental health diagnosis are ill.  Some may be ill for a short time, others may battle their illness their entire life.  NO ONE ever makes fun of someone battling cancer, but in less than 48 hours people have created memes about a HUMAN BEING ending their life.  Correction, what I should have said is that a HUMAN BEING’s illness finally became insurmountable and they succumbed to it.

If you’re reading this and you feel like it is an attack on you, it isn’t.  This image and cultural appropriation runs rampant in our society.  It must be stopped.  I am just sharing my thoughts because I fight a struggle myself.  I don’t know what struggle Chris Cornell fought.  For that matter, I don’t know what battle(s) Kurt Cobian, Layne Staley, Bradley Nowell and so many others have fought.  You can read the articles and call it drug addiction, but please know that addiction is a mental health diagnosis and often the after effect of a pre-existing mental health diagnosis and they call is co-morbidity.  Look it up.

Anyhow, please just stop it.  There are a lot of funny and often hilarious things that take place in life.  Unfortunately, there are also very sad and tragic things that take place every day, too.  We know about the more tragic events because of a thing we call, “the news”.

With social media, we can be the NEW news.  We can share the positive.  We can discuss issues and we can also debate.  Unfortunately, we can also make light of serious situations.  We can jest at others misfortune knowing that they may never see it but we may forget that the loved ones left behind may see it.

I know I’ve done my fair share of making light of others misfortunes before and I am confident that if you go back in my FB history you will probably find more than one instance of this immature behavior and I will likely be a hypocrite in someone’s eyes in the future, but for some reason this issue just really hit me hard.

I could write nonsensically all day.  Trust me, I could.  At the end of the day, I am writing this because it’s cathartic and I hope that it will change my future behavior and maybe someone else’s.  For the last 72 hours or so I can’t tell you how many times I have listened and viewed some of Chris Cornell’s YouTube videos.  I am thankful that we all have those to remember him by.

Thanks for reading.

Bryce

Lessons Learned by a Young Professional

Lessons learnedThis past weekend, I made an outlandish and uniformed comment via one of my favorite social channels, Facebook.  My statement was about credit union trade organizations and the role that they play. While my intentions were to create a meaningful dialogue, my comments turned into a direct attack on the organizations that work every day to further the reach and impact of credit unions. I am deeply saddened and disappointed in myself for my words and actions and I apologize to everyone that I have offended or discredited.

I realize that my statements reflect negatively upon me personally and may be perceived to represent the thoughts and beliefs of the various organizations I am a part of.  I can assure you that the thoughts I expressed this weekend were entirely my own and were formulated with no empirical evidence to support them. This past weekend was most definitely a low for me.

While it would be easy to ignore my mistake or downplay the impact my words had, I realize as a Wisconsin Credit Union YP, it’s more powerful to own up to my mistake and share what I have learned.

I should never let my desire for meaningful change, my passion for credit unions and my impatience cause me to lose sight of the end goal.  As a firm believer in the power of cooperative finance (cooperative anything, really), I believe that every credit union young professional can learn from me by remembering to be mindful that we are an industry founded on cooperation and that the cooperative principles are our biggest differentiator from other financial institutions.

After reflection, it’s clear to me that it takes diversity to make an industry great.  We need our trade organizations to help us grow professionally and our trade organizations need us to provide them with constructive feedback and insight into the topics that we feel we need to gain a better grasp on.  Most importantly, we need organizations like CUNA to carry the political advocacy torch for us.  But, CUNA cannot do it alone.  We need the fresh ideas of professionals – young and seasoned – to bring new thoughts and viewpoints to the table to keep our efforts effective and fresh. The credit union industry is very diverse and is made up of  “shops” large and small.  Credit union vendors are an excellent way to help smaller credit unions make up for inefficiencies due to lack of resources human and/or capital and remain relevant in their respective marketplaces. Though we face big challenges, when we move forward together, we are unstoppable.

As I look forward to working in the credit union industry for many years to come, I know that the lessons I learned this week will help to guide my way of thinking as I continue to grow professionally.  They have reinforced my understanding of the importance of remaining accountable for my thoughts, words and actions.  I hope that my fellow young professional friends can use some of the above takeaways in order to further their own professional growth and be the assets that we need them to be so that we can continue to grow and make a positive difference in the lives of current and prospective credit union members.

Sincerely,

Bryce Roth

Where #DontTaxMyCU Falls Short

imgresIt’s Governmental Affairs Conference week and political advocacy for credit unions is all the rage.  Political advocacy has never been more important for an industry that serves over 96 million people and seems to be regulated more and more with each passing year.  If you read the title of this blog, you might think that this is a post intended to bash the #DontTaxMyCU campaign and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The #DontTaxMyCU campaign has been wildly successful among credit union folks and it appears that we have even captured the attention of Washington without having to write a big check like some other financial institutions may or may not do.  But how much further can #DontTaxMyCU really go?  Does it resonate with credit union members?  Here’s my take and a few things I believe credit unions need to do if they really want political advocacy to reach a whole different level.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m a political analyst, but we all have a basic understanding of how lobbying goes.  Groups of all kinds are knocking on the doors of their respective representatives whenever they get the chance and there are always two basic assumptions in play.

1. The lobbyists have their own agenda.  In the case of credit unions, credit union employees want less regulation and we want our tax status to remain the same.  We all know why credit unions SHOULD keep our tax status and we also know that if we don’t, we will not be able to provide the services we currently offer, we won’t be able to serve the under served and a lot of us will be out of jobs.  We are fighting for our very survival.

2. Politicians (most) know the facts one way or another.  This isn’t a new issue, it’s just become so much more real.  Politicians are in a constant battle to keep their backers happy.  One vote cast the wrong way could mean the end of their career.  Essentially, politicians and lobbyists are both fighting to survive.

In any competition or fight, there is always a winner and a loser.  If we can assume that we (credit union folks) are up against the banking industry and politicians who like the banking industry because they have a lot of money, we need to be at our very best if we hope to stand a chance on the issue of our tax status.

Knowing how important this issue is, how many of us have thought long and hard about how we are trying to tackle this issue?  My guess is that some have, but others are just going through the motions because that’s what they/we’ve been told to do.  Here’s the problem: The vast majority of credit union members have no idea that their credit union has a special tax status.  Think about that.  Now think about how many of your members even know that your credit union’s business model is fundamentally different that that of a bank.  Lastly, think of how many of your members call your credit union their bank (I honestly don’t care what members call us, but I think you can see where I’m going.)

If our members don’t know these points, how could a message as simple as #DontTaxMyCU really gain steam in the consumer world?  Unfortunately, it can’t.  I know that tons of people have gone to great lengths to build an awesome website and create collateral pieces spreading the #DontTaxMyCU message, but those will only be effective if each credit union takes a more proactive form of advocacy through the lens of member education.

This is a pretty complex issue and even some of us in the credit union industry don’t totally understand the implications of a change in our tax status, how can we expect our members to understand the magnitude?

So what do we do?  I believe the answer lies in the 5th Cooperative Principle.  We need to educate our members in a way that makes this issue real to them.  We need to think like we do about other things in our life.  We need to think about “what’s in it for me?”  At the end of the day, when you are asking someone to do something that is above and beyond what they normally would do (contact a representative), you had better make certain you’ve given them a darn good reason to take action.

How can we educate our members?  In my opinion we need to get our members together to really dive into the issue.  We should be holding town hall meetings in our branches, we should be creating political advocacy groups among our members.  We should be running this thing like were trying to become President of the United States.  What message do you think would get more people’s attention:

#DontTaxMyCU

or

Because of possible government changes, we may have to raise our loan rates and charge more fees, soon.

A hashtag is great because it’s trendy, but hashtags were never meant to tell entire stories.  This is a story and it’s worthy of more than a social media tracking invention.  We need to have real conversations with our members that tell them the real life implications of this important issue.  I’m not saying the #DontTaxMyCU hashtag is bad, I’m saying it needs to have more substance.  When I use substance, I do not mean tweeting or posting on Facebook, “#DontTaxMyCU Go visit this website for more information.”  This is not a winning strategy.  Besides, when it comes to social media, most posts containing links are clicked on the least (especially on Facebook) when compared to posts of plain text, images and videos.  Social media is not the answer for this fight (can you believe I wrote that?)  Social media is but one leg on the stool that we need to create if we want to create member urgency and involvement.

With many credit union annual meeting coming up, is this issue on your credit union’s agenda to be discussed?

What are some ways your credit union is engaging your members in political advocacy?

Without wax,

Bryce

Storytelling: So Easy, Even a Caveman Can Do It.

geicocavemen2ORIGINALLY POSTED ON CHATTERYAK.COM

 

Content marketing has been around for ages, and it has been a hot topic around the marketing and advertising world for the last several years.  Now, it appears that credit union marketers are taking note (as they should) and that makes us happy.  If you’re not sure what content marketing is, you’re in the right place.  In this blog, we’ll be sharing what we know and we’ll also include some helpful information from other thought-leaders on the subject.

So, let’s get the definition stuff out of the way first.  According to the leaders in the industry, The Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined as:

 “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Sounds a lot like social media, right?  Sort of.  Social media is a great delivery channel for your content, but content marketing is so much more than simple tweets and Facebook/Google+ posts.  When it comes to credit unions, content marketing is all about solving the problems of your members.  Now, this seems like a very simple concept to grasp, but solving your members problems is much more complex than the following line of thinking:

 “Members have a lot of credit card debt on high-interest credit cards and our credit card has a lower rate.  Therefore, we should scream our {low} rate from the rooftops.”

The above is what most credit unions have reduced their marketing and advertising messages to.  Your credit union is so much more than a purveyor of loan rate loans and minimal fees.  You see, content marketing is all about telling a story that people actually want to hear.  If we continue to compete only on rates and service, we will continue to lose out to other financial institutions and here’s why: Your members care less about you and more about what you can do for them.

From the beginning of time, people have been telling stories.  From cavemen (and cavewomen) to the Egyptians, the world is covered (literally) in stories.  Bringing things a bit closer to modern times, the first true form of content marketing was created by a little tractor company known as John Deere.  In 1895, the company produced and distributed “The Furrow” a magazine designed to help farmers find solutions to the problems they faced on a daily basis.  The magazine was not littered with ads for tractors and guess what, it’s still being produced today! (Joe Pullizi tells the story way better here.)

So what does this mean for credit unions?  We think it means our industry needs to start worrying more about what our members want and less about what we wish our members would do.  In the end, it boils down to basic psychology.  If you want someone to perform a specific behavior, you need to give them a reason or motivation.  Motivation can be internal or external.  Here is an example of each:

External: If you become a member at ABC credit union, we will give you $25.

Internal: A person is so compelled by your credit union’s story or branding that they want to become a member.

While building a strong and impactful brand is much more difficult than doling out $25 for each new person who walks through the door, an externally motivated member’s affinity toward your brand will be much weaker than someone who saw/heard what your credit union has been doing and sought out membership on their own.  Taking things a step further, if you build the foundation of your membership on externally motivated individuals, it will be much harder for your credit union to get those members to understand the cooperative mindset and you will likely remain in the rut of competing on price rather than value.

In 2014, choose to build value!  Rediscover your credit union’s story and tell it from a perspective that resonates with people (members or not).  Maybe even checkout 6th Story to see how they can help you with your credit union’s story.  Remember that people don’t want to hear from organizations that consistently talk about how great they are.  Get into the practice of demonstrating the value you offer and create compelling stories (content) that you can share via social channels, on your website or in your newsletter (if you still do one of those).  Think about what your credit union does every single day and repurpose that information.

What are your thoughts?

Without wax,

Bryce

The final #NTCUE push!

Image

The good new is that after Tuesday at 5PM Pacific time, I will no longer clog your newsfeed or Twitter stream.  The bad new is that I am way behind in like (heart clicks) on the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) Next Top Credit Union Executives website. Can you please visit these link and click the heart button? You can even leave a comment and share them with your friends (They will love it .) That would a really nice thing to do, btw.

http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/blog/applicant-8-bryce-roth

http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/blog/top-15-post-bryce-roth

http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/blog/top-5-video-bryce-roth

The heart button is always under the video or at the end of the blog.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  The people I have met along this journey and what I have already learned is priceless.  Your support means the world to me.

Without wax,

Bryce

50 Ways To Lose Your Members

First things first, Paul Simon is a musical genius.  Now that we have a common understanding, I will proceed.

Recently, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover graced my ears.  I did not actively seek out this tune, but the precocity of iTunes shuffle prevailed once again.  Because I’m always thinking about credit unions (seriously, it’s an illness), I thought, “If Paul and Art think it’s easy to lose a lover, it’s probably even easier to lose a credit union member.”

I (think I) know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is a stretch.  Either way, member retention is something that a lot of credit unions don’t focus on.  It’s not to say that we are lazy as an industry, but let’s face it, we’ve all got a lot going on and many of us are lucky to keep our heads erect due to the sheer weight of the multiple “hats” we’re wearing.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of tuning in to a Google Hangout with Tom Glatt and a few others  and he echoed the importance of member growth.  Remember, you can’t have growth if you’re CU is hemorrhaging members.  So, here it is: 5 (not 50) Ways to Lose Your Members (not lover):

 

1. Don’t make a new plan, Stan

“We always run this loan special in the Spring…”  Times, they are a changing.  Your credit union needs to change with them.  So much is said about “thinking outside of the box”.  I say this, “There IS NO box!”  Let’s stop talking about cardboard and get down to brass tacks.  Be unconventional, question traditions and don’t just do what you’ve been doing for years “just because”.  Credit union members have a lot of choices.  Online banking is taking off and banks are working to become less, well, “bankish” every day.

Banks and credit unions sell the same widgets.  Package them differently.

 

2. DON’T keep doing what you’re doing

Your credit union is unique, no doubt.  Is your membership aware of your CU’s uniqueness?  It is totally necessary to be innovative with marketing and branding strategies, but other things are better left as is.  Member service (I will only address this topic once) is important.  If you’ve got a member-centric mindset and your credit union lives it every day (every day), please skip to #3.  If not, please proceed.

I’m sure many of you have experienced the member that only conducts their business with a certain Member Service Representative (insert your CU’s title).  Why do members do this?  They do this because at one point, that employee went above and beyond what was asked of them for that member.

In my opinion, if we all went above and beyond, this phenomenon would fade away.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, but one member’s preference to work with only a specific employee implies that they may have had a less than stellar experience while interacting with a different employee.  We need to strive to provide the best service, we don’t necessarily need to talk about how awesome we are at it, though.  Not sure if you’re employees are making the grade?  Why not employ a mystery shop program?  We need to stay honest with ourselves, outside parties are great at doing this.  No one likes holding their own feet to the fire (if that’s even physically possible.)

 

3. Hop on the bus, Gus

Get out of the office and get into the community!  Already doing three community activities?  Why not make it six?  If people don’t see you out in the communities that you serve, how will they get to know more about you?  Other than what you post on billboards and run on the radio or TV, how are your members and prospective members learning about you?  Community events, when done correctly are the best marketing your credit union can do.  Let your members see you living the credit union lifestyle.  Start conversations with them outside of the branch.  Ask how your credit union is meeting or falling short of meeting their needs.  Show them that you care (actually caring helps as well) and use their feedback to address issues that need to be dealt with.

Let me be clear here, I am NOT talking about throwing sponsorship dollars around.  I am NOT talking about hanging a banner somewhere with your logo on it and expecting people to see it, actually process it and then make a “buying decision”.  No one does this, no one.  We need to get our brands out there in traditional ways, but if you can get your brand out there and have employees there to talk about making people’s lives easier, your credit union’s success at retaining and attracting new members will skyrocket.  What I AM talking about (Willis?)

 

4. You don’t need to discuss much?

You may not need to discuss much about “leaving your lover”, but you do need to spend time talking strategy.  Ideally, the amount of time you spend should shake out like this (from least amount of time to most): 1. Talking (everyone loves meeting right?) 2. Planning (“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”) 3. Executing (Not that sort of executing.)

We’re busy, but no one is too busy to do their due diligence.  Plans should always come first!  You may want to be the first credit union on Pinterest (trivial right?), but once you get on the website, what the heck are you going to post?  How are you going to use it to provide value to your membership?  How are you going to avoid being a salesperson?  You can apply this to budgeting, loan growth, marketing, membership growth, you name it.  I’m not casting stones here, but it has become apparent to me that there is a lot of doing, but little thought behind the action.  Lay your plans first, carry them out and then assess what can be done better.

 

5. Don’t let your meaning be lost or misconstrued

Don’t embrace social (new) media.  There’s no ROI, right?  I’m calling BS on this argument.  You want statistics?  Well, go find them for yourself.  I am more concerned with results.  I’ve been a part of managing social media campaigns for credit unions for three years (impressive right? lol).  There is an ROI and it CANNOT be measured traditionally.  You don’t measure water and square footage the same way, how can you expect to measure two completely different tactics the same way?

I expect, no, I welcome disagreement.  Discourse is good.  Results are better.  What are the results of a properly run social media campaign?  At the credit union I worked at prior to my current venture, we decreased the average age of our membership by 3.5 years in twelve months time.  Furthermore, 86% of net new members were under the age of 46.  Need more?  Here, 60% of that same net new membership was under 31 years old.  Read this white paper for more.  Pick your metrics, work your plan and reap the rewards.

Social media is the easiest way to get your message out of your branches and in front of more people.  It is a relationship builder.  Stronger relationships generally lead to higher member retention.  If you’re lucky enough, you might get people talking about you.  When this happens, sit back and enjoy the show.  I’m not saying Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and whatever other platform you prefer should be your primary focus.  What I am saying is that they provide value to your members and when you have the right person running your campaign, it’s cost effective and high impact.

 

What are some other ways to lose your lover (err… members?)  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Without wax,

Bryce