We talk frequently about the importance of solid branding in modern credit union marketing efforts. Branding is the key to the eventual success or failure of everything we try to project as a public image to member and potential members.  Branding is everything we do to personify our credit unions, from marketing materials and corporate culture all the way down to cleanliness of facilities and targeted community involvement.

All of this requires member and potential member buy-in to work. If these people are going to “own” our credit union brand, we must successfully reach them and ingrain the type of branding message we want to embody. The deeper question becomes, then, how and why can we expect our members and potential members to own the credit union if our employees do not own the brand? The bottom line is – your brand is likely to fail if staff is not active proponents of it.

We often talk about how members are the actual owners of our credit unions, which is true. But the deeper questions becomes, can your members actually own the credit union brand if your staff doesn’t?

As the main point of contact between the credit union and members/potential members, employees are the critical link in the chain to successful branding. Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it makes sense to ensure staff is enthusiastic about and knowledgeable concerning our unique brands.

How can we help this happen? Below are a few tips to help staff get on-board with your credit union’s brand proposition.

1)  Staff must be regularly immersed in the brand culture. This means keeping them involved and enthused about the brand on a regular and recurring basis. Talk about the brand at every meeting. Quiz staff about the brand and what it means to them. Ask them to relate stories of how they shared the credit union brand message with members as part of their daily jobs.

2)  Keep brand front-and-center. The brand is not a promotion or message of the week. It is a long-term commitment to a unique credit union culture and personality. Staff must understand this and realize that the brand isn’t going away. While branding sometimes requires a challenging shift in thinking amongst credit union staff, it must be lived to be learned. Live it every day and expect the same of your staff.

3)  Develop your staff into brand ambassadors. Just as some people are more naturally skilled in sales than others, some staff are better at promoting the brand. However, like sales skills, you can also teach brand enthusiasm. Find the most passionate credit union brand ambassadors amongst your staff and encourage their development. With the right guidance, you can also work to incorporate the credit union brand message into their social media lives. For example, if your credit union brand ambassadors are also passionate Twitter or Facebook users, work with them to develop a credit union voice into a portion of their postings. In our digital world, an authentic and trusted social media voice, as embodied by a credit union employee instead of the typical “corporate” persona, is an invaluable link towards building a talked-about and trusted brand.

Those are just a few ideas to help you build your staff into active and valuable brand ambassadors. In order for your branding efforts to work, you must tap into the greatest source of member/potential member contact. That’s not direct mail, billboards or catchy slogans. That is your staff, the true initial “owners” of your credit union brand.