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    Episode 72 - Would Your Bank or Credit Union Benefit from a Brand Ambassador

    Episode 72 - Would Your Bank or Credit Union Benefit from a Brand Ambassador
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    In this podcast episode, Meredith Olmsted, CEO and founder of FI GROW Solutions, has a great conversation with August Mize, the brand ambassador for Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union. August discusses her journey from a communications graduate aiming for a career in journalism to becoming a brand ambassador, emphasizing the strategic shift towards influencer marketing to strengthen community connections and appeal to younger demographics. They explore the significant roles that brand ambassadors play in enhancing brand visibility, community engagement, and the overall marketing strategy of financial institutions.


    Key Takeaways:

    • Community Engagement: Brand ambassadors enhance the visibility and relatability of a brand within the community, leading to stronger connections with existing and potential customers.

    • Targeting Younger Demographics: Using brand ambassadors, particularly in social media and community events, helps financial institutions engage with younger audiences more effectively.

    • Extended Role Impact: The role of a brand ambassador goes beyond traditional marketing by embedding the brand into various community activities and digital platforms, which can significantly boost brand recognition and customer engagement over time

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    Transcription:

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Hi there. I'm Meredith Olmsted, CEO and founder of FI GROW Solutions. We are a digital marketing and sales consulting agency and we work exclusively with banks and credit unions. And I have a special guest today on the podcast. So we have a wonderful client who we worked with for many years down in the Myrtle Beach area, Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union, and today we have their brand ambassador, August Mize, on the podcast with us. So say hi, August.

    August Mize:

    Hi, how are you?

    Meredith Olmsted:

    So I'm really excited because brand ambassadors for credit unions are not a very common thing, but we are seeing a lot of clients and other credit unions getting their feet wet with influencer marketing and other kinds of engagement marketing, like that kind of user generated content types of marketing efforts. And so I asked August to join us today so she could talk to us a little bit about her role as the brand ambassador for Carolina Trust. So August, tell the audience first, how... Well, maybe start with how that came about for you personally to become the brand ambassador and then what is your role? I know you probably have a job description, so what does it actually include in terms of being a brand ambassador?

    August Mize:

    Yeah, for sure. So I think a lot of the reason that it came about was just seeing the overall shift of marketing in general towards more of an influencer style marketing and here and there, especially for a younger audience. My background is actually I have a degree in communications with a minor in interactive journalism. So I initially wanted to be a news anchor or a sports reporter, something along that nature. But then when I got out of college, just kind of figured I would go a route that seemed a little bit more of a stable career right out the gate. So I got into marketing. And the credit union actually won a community award and we needed somebody to do a TV interview, to accept the award and thank the community for voting for us and they asked me if I would be interested. And I think just my natural camera presence and having that background from school kind of started in that route.

    So then after that we decided we would go more the traditional media sense and just start doing more commercials using me or TV interviews using me. And then that kind of just developed over time to more of a full on brand ambassador position. And so some of the great things that I guess I get to do in my position, it started with more of the media things and then once you kind have a media presence in the area, people start to recognize you from commercials and different things like that. So we really just built on that momentum and kind of used my face on our billboards, our print marketing, and then did a lot more community focus where I started trying to be as involved in the community and community events as possible to tie everything that people are seeing in the media in with a person at their in-person events.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Awesome. Okay. Very cool. Very cool. So I hear a lot of elements are what the purpose is, your goals and the benefits and all of that, but let's talk about that even more specifically. So if a credit union is out there considering working with an influencer or getting a brand ambassador, why would they do that? What's the benefit to that credit union or that small community bank?

    August Mize:

    Yeah, for sure. I think one of the biggest ones for us to start with was just more of a strong and consistent community presence. We saw that once people could associate our brand with a person, it was just a lot easier for our members or even people in the community that were not our members to understand or to kind of connect with me as opposed to a generic brand. And then once they had that connection to where, oh, this girl is with the credit union, establishing like a consistent routine with different organizations in the community or different major community events and doing my best to be there to create that community presence. I know with the credit union industry it's very important that we serve the community and truly having somebody there that shows, here's the face of our credit union and we are here serving.

    Another one of the big things for us was a younger demographic. Influencer marketing is huge, especially skewed towards younger people on social media and seeing someone younger that is associated with finances kind of helps us to skew our market a little bit lower and connect with a different market than we typically would in traditional marketing. Coastal Carolina University is right here in the Grand Strand area and I'm an alumni at the university, so it's great through a lot of our partnership with them and through my presence and association already with the school, we're able to target a lot of young people that way.

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    Meredith Olmsted:

    Yeah. And you guys do a lot of fun things with them too, because you also have that athletic connection with them as a sponsor of some of their big athletic events. So you give away a lot of tickets and all that kind of thing. But it is fun, I think, for you to be able to put a personal face on of those events, those pictures, the behind the scenes content that you're posting. Do you get recognized a lot?

    August Mize:

    I do, and I did a little to start with. In the beginning it would be people would come up and be like, "Where do I know you from?" But now it is more and more frequent and it's really cool too because where we do so many different things with coastal or different stuff, people will initially, they'll recognize your face and not know where they know you from or then they'll say, "Oh, you're the girl with Coastal," or "You're the girl with that bank." And so now as we have continued to saturate the market with all of the different marketing efforts that we have, people know immediately like, "Oh yeah, you're the credit union girl."

    Meredith Olmsted:

    That's funny.

    August Mize:

    So it's [inaudible 00:06:37] to kind see that evolve and happen over the years to see all of our different marketing techniques really go into effect.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Awesome. So you're a little famous in your little area.

    August Mize:

    Yeah.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    That's so funny.

    August Mize:

    Yeah.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Okay, so then if you've kind of decided to take the plunge here as you all have, I assume that you're going to want to set up some goals, measurable goals as much as possible, smart goals, things that are specific, measurable, relevant, all those kinds of things timely. So what are some of, maybe not specific numbers, but what are some of the numbers or the metrics that you have to hold yourself accountable for each year around your role as brand ambassador?

    August Mize:

    For sure. So like I mentioned earlier, brand awareness and having that individual, your brand ambassador out in the community spreading your brand is super important. So one of the goals that we use, not necessarily in a metric way, but just overall to see how we're doing is at the end of the year, I kind of see how many different organizations in our community that I've been at events or partnered with different things. And so that's great to get out and about. We also do a lot of that with local businesses. So doing our best to just keep track of, okay, how many different organizations that are impacting our community are we working with and how many of their different community events can I have an actual presence at?

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Gotcha.

    August Mize:

    Another big aspect with that would be community service. So all of the big days, the Day of Caring, the Habitat for Humanity, I always try to get those on my schedule first thing so that those are days that I know without a doubt that I don't miss out on and that we have a brand presence there.

    One of the biggest ones, especially in the last year for us, has been a growing digital presence. So we started out initially, like I said, with more traditional TV marketing, email marketing, billboards, and then in 2020 I started a brand ambassador Instagram page where I share all of the different things that I'm doing in the community. I share financial tips, I share things going on at the credit union. I have a weekly blog post where I share different financial topics or even just fun things. Like this past week's blog were different things to do in the community during the month of June. So that's been a big target for us. And something that you can really see numerically is the amount of followers going-

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Yeah, you can put numbers on traffic-

    August Mize:

    For sure.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    ... on engagement, all of that. And I know that you're also pushing out, so you're definitely also playing around with some other social media platforms like TikTok in addition to Instagram and Facebook to continue to edge into that younger demographic. You also mentioned... So really trying to... The goal really over the course of the years is to drive the average member age of your credit union down a little bit, right, 'cause you want to make sure that you've got younger people joining the institution to do their banking. That makes sense. And then you also mentioned school events, which is also obviously going to put the credit unions brand in front of younger people. What kind of events do you attend for schools?

    August Mize:

    So one of our big, I guess kind of pushes here in our area specifically is improving overall financial literacy. So I try to attend parent teacher conference night. I've had several schools reach out and ask if I can do some sort of presentation at those for the parents to help. But with the schools, I've gone in and read financial books during Credit Union Youth month to the younger demographic and then have even done things like being a judge at different things they'll have at the school. So not necessarily financial based, but just being a face that even young kids recognize in association with someone out and about in their community.

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    Meredith Olmsted:

    Yeah. Gotcha. All right, so last things, I don't want to keep you too long, but last thing we were talking about is the hardest parts. So we know you're a little mini famous down there, so you probably get sometimes that probably gets a little bit like uh, or if you're not ready, if you're not looking all pretty and put together, you look gorgeous today, but I'm sure you run out sometimes and your pajama bottoms to the Dunking Donuts or something, so you could get recognized. So that'd be funny. But in general, what was the hardest part? I mean, it seems like Carolina Trust really got very lucky finding you.

    August Mize:

    Yeah. I would say, I think like you just mentioned, one of the biggest parts and the hardest things to get adjusted to is the level of visibility because even if somebody doesn't recognize me directly as someone with the credit union, which people often do, I'll be out to dinner and somebody will say, "Aren't you the girl with the credit union?" And we'll ask, "What are y'all's CD rates right now?" So I have to know. I have to be ready to talk to people. But I'm also, as everyone is in their normal day-to-day life, you're representing your company, but not everyone knows who you work for. I'm a constant 24/7 representation of the credit union, the credit union's brand, which can be a lot of pressure. You kind of have to be aware, would it be appropriate for the credit union to be here or do these things? That's a big deal is finding somebody that carries your brand well in the community and is comfortable doing that 24/7.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Yeah. You said to me, I don't mean to cut you off, but you said-

    August Mize:

    No, you're fine.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    ... you work as much after 5:00 PM as you work during regular business hours.

    August Mize:

    I do.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Which that was crazy when you said that to me.

    August Mize:

    Yeah, I do. And I think some of that has to do a little bit of that is really and truly with the flexibility of being at these different community events that, galas that are on the weekends and different things like that, or nighttime community events, parent teacher conferences in the evening. So there's a lot of actual work hours, but then there's also a lot of, you're just constantly on. You can be running to Walmart in the morning at 9:00 AM on a Saturday to get groceries, and if somebody recognizes you and wants to talk about the credit union and their products and services or donation, you constantly have to be ready and willing to do all those things.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Gotcha. Yeah. You mentioned also making sure that whoever you select isn't going to move, is kind of in it for at least a decent amount of a commitment.

    August Mize:

    For sure.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    For sure.

    August Mize:

    Yeah, 'cause if you're adding a person into really and truly one of your key brand elements, I mean that's a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort in on your marketing team to kind of switch your branding around this person and they decide they're really not in it for the long haul, it's a lot of work on your end to not to get the payout because really and truly, we've been doing this for four years at this point, four and a half, really and truly, and are just now starting to see some of the effects of how it's all tying in together with the digital, the community, and all of the marketing efforts. So it takes a while to really dig in.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Yeah. Last question for you. How do other people at the credit union feel about you and all that you have to do and take on?

    August Mize:

    Some of the people I think are really excited that we're reaching different markets than we were before, and we're in different avenues. I will say it is sometimes difficult because your brand ambassador is not a traditional credit union employee. Especially for me, I was a marketing employee and then this role evolved, which left a gap. If I'm at community events in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, that's leaving a gap in our marketing department for other tasks that need to be completed, as well as other individuals in the credit unions that are typically always in the office. Your loan officers, your tellers, people behind the counter that that's their job is to be there and service your members, and so then they're seeing this other person whose job looks completely different from them, and really establishing with your employee group as a whole, the importance of what this role does and how it is effectively marketing your brand and products and services.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    Yeah, yeah, makes sense. But I think it's definitely a learning experience for everybody, and I'm sure it's super agile and you're always evolving, so very cool, August. Well, thank you so much for joining us.

    August Mize:

    Thank you for having me.

    Meredith Olmsted:

    I was really excited to have you on. And if you want to learn more about digital marketing and sales for banks or credit unions, please visit us at figrow.com. We have lots of other podcasts and blogs about influencer marketing, social media marketing, all those topics. But in the meantime, let's just all get out there and make it happen.

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