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This year I have the honor of teaching Strategic Marketing at not just one, but TWO Credit Union Management Schools. CUNA Management School at the University of Wisconsin and Southeast Regional Credit Union Schools at the University of Georgia.


This picture says we try harder to be all things to all people. Blech!

In preparing for each class I like to get the student roster well in advance and take a look at their websites and social media efforts. Then, I like to weave in some of the best and worst examples in my teaching. A couple of years ago I had an attendee at a conference get a bit upset because I put their awful happy shiny people website on the screen. And this person wasn’t even in the marketing department. I told her that I was sorry she felt embarrassed by that but someone in her credit union put it on the WORLD WIDE WEB so it really is fair game.

I am still shocked at how many bad credit union websites are still out there. And with the average age of a credit union member holding steady at 47 it’s safe to say that the older members likely don’t care. But to attract the ever elusive Millennial? You better step up your game. They don’t know a world without smart phones and the internet. Facebook is how they get their news.  For a long time I didn’t think credit unions should be on Facebook. But as my friend Matt Davis explained to me – Facebook has become the “yellow pages” so you really should have a presence.  But here are my credit union social media pet peeves:

  1. Blatantly shlepping your “me too” products. Last week I saw a Facebook page that actually talked about “free checking” and had a picture of….wait for it…..a person writing a check. I had to check the calendar to see if it was 1995. Whenever I see a CU boasting about free checking today it’s like driving by a grocery store and seeing a banner that says “We have food.”
  2. My incredibly talented and creative friend Brent Dixon once said in a social media teaching session “If you talked to your friends the way your credit union talks in social media, they would punch you in the face.” Why must we use brochure jargon? Just talk to me. Twitter to me is like a cocktail party. Don’t be the jerk crashing it to sell your products.
  3. Shiny happy people. I looked at 45 credit union websites yesterday. Only THREE of them did not have shiny happy stock art people on them. This is shameful. Some of them even used the same stock art. This is a sure sign of zero differentiation. We are better than this people
  4. And finally, the “About Us” page. Tsk Tsk Tsk if I cannot read your history here. The majority of credit unions today have some kind of community charter or SEG based field of membership, and I get that. But what is wrong with continuing to give a nod to the pioneers of your credit union? Those disruptors to the banking industry in the 1930’s that dared to take their money out of the bank and give it to a co-worker who kept a ledger and most likely put the money in a cigar box or coffee can. That’s good stuff.

Okay – so what is a good example of credit union websites and social media done right? Well, I only have two  I’m afraid. So here we go……. drum roll please.

The first Annual Flying Pig for Excellence in Website Development goes to: ORNLFCU. Even though they dropped in a few “shiny happy people” their navigation is superb. Their history page is amazing, and the boldness of the large photos is sexy. I especially love the home page for the acknowledgement that most people just want to get to home banking – big and proud and in your face. Nicely done.

The first Annual Flying Pig for Social Media Excellence goes to……drum roll again please…….Community Choice Credit Union. I came upon this Facebook page and clicked on their newest ad and laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. I also happen to love kittens, I mean, who doesn’t?

This credit union’s brand is fun, and a bit campy and I love it.

If you would like to nominate your credit union’s website or social media efforts for the Second Annual Flying Pig Excellence awards, please do here. I just made that up and I think I might just really do it. Now, where can I get a Flying Pig Trophy?

Oh, how I’ve missed you. So many times I have wanted to check in, say a few witty things, IMG_2007leave a picture behind. I’m not sure why I said good-bye. Must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. You became a kind of diary for me. As I would wander through my days faced with challenges, observing the awkward things around me, experiencing the highs and lows of self-employment you were always there to help me make sense of it all.

Well. A lot has happened in the last year and I need to talk about it. So I’m back.

If anyone’s still out there listening – thanks. And stay tuned.

I, like many of you am heart broken over the death of Robin Williams. Why? I never met him. I didn’t really know him, clearly. But I grew up with him and he made me laugh, he blew me away with his mind and when he yelled “Good Morning Viet Naaaam” I was transformed.

But this week he lost his battle with depression. Like cancer it can be fatal. And where we get confused is that his job, his gift, his vocation was comedy. So how can someone so funny be depressed. It’s not a weakness, it’s an affliction.

I come home every evening to my 412 square foot apartment – see last blog post – and turn on my DirecTv to watch Jimmy Fallon from the night before. He’s the comic of his generation. So talented, so funny and so kind. No ego. He has surpassed Johnny Carson in my opinion.

When I dialed up the episode tonight I was rooting for him. Jimmy, you cannot not acknowledge this passing, and he did not disappoint. The opening song, “Hey hey hey hey….” Love you Roots – and instead of yelling the episode number…. Questlove yelled, “Nanu Nanu.” Hell yes. That was enough for me. But wait, there’s more. When they cut to the first commercial after the monologue, they showed “Nanu Nanu” on the front of the drum set. Very classy.

Back from commercial. Jimmy took his seat at the desk and gave us the preview of upcoming guests with the glee of a child. He still can’t believe that he gets to host all of the greats, that’s why I love him. But then it happened. And it caught me off guard. He created a pause, and choking back emotion he acknowledged what we were all feeling. Those of us that need levity at the end of the day – that crave it like a drug are feeling the loss of someone who we counted on to give it to us. Jimmy showed a clip of Robin’s first appearance on the Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) and then ended standing on his desk “Oh Captain, My Captain.” Cut to commercial. Thank you Jimmy.

Robin Williams is gone. His disease killed his gift. And we struggle with it. Because deep down we can relate. As my Nana used to say “God gave each of us a gift, and our DUTY is to give it back to the world,” And sometimes that becomes a burden we cannot bear.

Robin, thank you for sharing your gift for 63 years. That’s enough for me. I get it. When I say rest in peace I mean it. You deserve it man. You gave so much joy to so many people in every performance. You have to be worn out.


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

I was thinking this morning that I should write a year in review and I’ll be darned if WordPress didn’t do it for me. Enjoy. Happy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

There is nothing more trying on the human spirit than airline travel. What once was considered luxury and only for the very privileged is now a hostage like humiliating experience. Yesterday I was to board a 5:27pm flight from ABQ to DIA, spend a luxurious 30 minutes in the United Club (at $500 a year membership fee) and then off to SEA for business/family/friends/fun long week-end.

Instead I write this from the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott in Denver compliments of United Airlines in yesterday’s clothes.

It had nothing to do with weather which is why I was labeled a distressed passenger and provided with complimentary lodging and a $7.00 meal voucher. It was “crew delay.” Not sure if that meant the pilot wasn’t sober or a flight attendant overslept….nevertheless it provided me with less than ten minutes to run the 1/2 mile from Gate B71 to B25 in heels. I have flown 1.2 million miles with the Friendly Skies. I know they use computers because I can see them. I know they have the ability to communicate from the air to the ground because I have heard them. But by the time I got to the gate the door had closed. The airplane was still there. I have been on United flights where we reopened the door for a distressed passenger. So UAL, a question. How many miles do you have to fly for this privilege?

My guess is it is up to the crew. As are most customer service experiences. How do they feel about their employer at that moment of truth? Time to viciously comply with the rules or make a loyal customer’s day? Thanks for subsidizing my $12.95 breakfast buffet. This experience only cost me $5.00 plus tip, $90.00 in cab fare, a business meeting and a chunk of my soul. Keep up the good work.


One credit union trend I love is the “All Staff Training Day” Taking an obscure holiday like Columbus Day – remaining closed – and going off-site to a fun place for the entire staff to learn, laugh, bond, eat and receive logo SWAG.

I have had the honor to be the guest speaker at many of these events. I’ve seen CEOs dress up like bikers, HR Directors in a Pickle Costume tossing rubber pickles into the crowd, amazing and funny videos, but most of all I get to see tellers smile.

You see, I started my career as a teller. And I loved being a teller. I loved the validation that comes at the end of every day that is the balancing of the cash drawer.  Tangible evidence of your greatness. And a sense of completion that you rarely get once you move into management.

I also remember just how much control I had over the Credit Union’s reputation.  Which is to say I had the ultimate control. And I used my powers for good – always.

Most credit union’s travel budgets look like this:


So, I’m available for your next staff training day.  I’m holding Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and MLK Day for whomever contacts me first.

Email me for more information

And if you don’t need me this year – tell your friends. Seriously, if you know someone that has access to the CUNA Training List Serv thingy – love to get a shout out.

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recycleBeing a born and bred Oregonian I can’t throw recyclables away. Bottles, cans, plastic containers, cardboard. It’s like a forcefield has grown around my trash can if I even get near it with one of these. Of course the Catholic guilt solidifies the decision.

Where I live now – Cochiti Lake, NM – there is no curbside recycling. We have to haul it 30 miles into town (Santa Fe) and we do. Even though it’s kind of funny balancing the carbon footprint of burning fossil fuel to recycle but whatever. I got over it. So can you.

Last November I had surgery to replace two ruptured discs in my neck. The procedure is called ACDF. I had the option of using a couple of chunks of my hip bone as new discs OR I could use a recycled bone.  I decided to go green and received a donation from two deceased people. Cadaver bones that replaced the ruptured discs.  Someone was kind enough to donate their parts.

After surgery the nurse gave me a pamphlet that had two stickers on it – the code numbers for the two people that now have a place in my heart and my neck. I had the option of writing their families a letter (anonymously) to thank them.

So today I wrote this letter.

Dear Donor Family,

I am writing to thank you for the kind and generous gift of tissue donation*  from your loved one. I am so sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that your decision to donate has changed my life in a positive way.

I needed a tissue transplant because I had two ruptured discs in my neck which caused me excruciating nerve pain and loss of mobility in my left arm. 

Since the transplant, which involved removing my ruptured discs and replacing it with the donation, I have been able to return to full capacity. No more pain. 

For that I am grateful to you and your loved one. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity. 

*not cool to refer to it as a cadaver bone.

If you are not an organ/tissue donor – please consider it. I mean when you’re dead – you’re either going to bury or burn your parts – so why not leave them for the next generation.

Thank you for listening.

UPDATE: Yesterday (9/11/13) I received a letter from Pathways (the company that facilitates the tissue donations). They received a letter from the donor family that I have the option of receiving. Hell yes I want to receive it. Stay tuned…….

I’ve been on a gazillion business trips in my adult life and pride myself on being a pretty good packer. In fact, if all my laundry is done, I can pack for a seven day trip in less than ten minutes. Oh yes, I’m that good. 

But what to pack to take to the hospital? I was not allowed to wear any make-up or jewelry or even nail polish when I went in for surgery. I knew I’d be put in one of those awful gowns that tie in the back. So I just had to figure out what to wear as I left the place.

Being the smart ass that I am I chose my favorite t-shirt:


It’s from the Broadway play Monty Python’s Spamalot. Hands down the best thing I ever saw on Broadway.Twice.

Anyway – little did I know going in that that shirt would be so true. The “service” I received (and many times didn’t) wasn’t life threatening but it was horrible. St. Vincent’s (St. Victims) to their credit, called me last week to inquire about my stay. I gave them an earful, named names, she was very thankful. 

But it got me thinking about the service industry. America is a service economy now. We manufacture very little on our soil. So most of us will wind up serving others for pay.

And to quote Ken Blanchard in Raving Fans: “Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and no one else is doing any better.”

So to all the naysayers out there that say you cannot differentiate with service I say “Hooey!” There’s only one hospital in Santa Fe but I could’ve driven to Albuquerque where there are three to choose from. There’s competition. Unfortunately I didn’t hear any thing great about ABQ facilities so I went for the closest to home. 

Not unlike our members. Convenience continues to be a key driver of selection – and NOT because service isn’t important – for the most part it doesn’t exist. 

As many of you know, I’ve been a Net Promoter Score advocate for years. It asks that simple question “On a scale of 0 to 10 how likely is it that you would RECOMMEND the credit union to a friend, family member or colleague?” And then the equally powerful “What is the primary reason for the score you gave?” 

It’s shocking to me how many credit union members will easily give a 10 – the highest possible score – with the reason “I’ve never had a problem.” Validation of how low expectations are. They are loyal because you haven’t screwed up – yet. 

Or – in the case of my hospital stay, “I’m not dead yet.” I guess I’m a promoter. Thanks for not killing me.

So imagine if you did the unexpected? Wowed them as they run their weekly errand that is banking? Not only would that change their loyalty reason it would create word-of-mouth – the most powerful marketing tool there is. 

I’m in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida attending and speaking at Ondine Irving’s Credit Card SchoolImage. I’m a big fan of Ondine, and spoke for her school last year where I sat in on one session. That’s when I realized it truly is a school – not a conference or a workshop. She assigns homework, she makes her students work with REAL data – not theory. And I know now, it’s kinda hard. 

Yesterday when we went around the room for introductions Ondine revealed that one attendee was basically “her” on the debit card side. She was building a consulting business to help credit unions navigate the increasingly complex world of the debit card. And I was thinking “Why would Ondine do that?” Why would she welcome her competition? And that’s when it hit me. Ms. Irving is a specialist – in CREDIT cards. She is the most knowledgeable person in the industry. She is not trying to be all things to all people. Later in the bar I asked her about it and she said “I don’t have the time to become the expert in debit.”

Notice how she said expert. Not just learn about them – become the expert. 

Is your credit union the expert in a product or service? Are you even above average at anything? If you could only offer ONE product – what would it be and why? 

That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned this week. Go big or go home. 

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June 2023