Stephanie Graves, a Shorter University master’s graduate who serves as associate vice president of marketing at Coosa Valley Credit Union, was the final speaker in a series of lectures hosted this spring by Shorter University’s Robert H. Ledbetter College of Business.
Mrs. Graves’ talk was titled “Life as a Credit Union Marketer” and focused on key aspects of her position, including building a brand for the credit union.
“A brand is more about a feeling,” she said. “It’s not about what I say it is. Our brand is what you say it is. It’s really about a promise. It’s not only about external communications, but I need to work with our frontline staff to be sure they match our promise. If I say we have friendly, experienced staff and that doesn’t line up with the customer’s experience, then we have a disconnect.”
Mrs. Graves added that branding is important in building relationships with customers. “People make decisions based on their feelings and then justify that with facts. Advertising grabs customers’ minds, but branding grabs their hearts. If you’re in the business of making refrigerators, you have to make a good refrigerator. You have to have a good product, but the experience also matters.”
She shared examples of extremely successful branding campaigns launched by corporations like Apple and Toms. “When Lee Clow designed Apple’s ‘1984’ Super Bowl campaign, he knew he needed to create a movement and a reason for being for their brand. He knew if he could get fans for their movement, he could sell them anything. And that’s certainly how it’s worked out. Apple is no longer just a computer company.”
In addition to her remarks on marketing and branding, Mrs. Graves offered advice for students once they enter their career path.
“Be a problem solver,” she said. “You want to be the person your boss and coworkers will go to with questions. Don’t think in terms of your job description. Everything in the organization is your job if it helps the organization. If you’re asked to do something outside the realm of ‘your job,’ smile and do it anyway.”
She added, “Be bold and fearless. Failure is important, and we need your ideas. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but don’t forget you still have lots to learn. Find a mentor. See yourself as a student of your organization. Raise your hand for assignments.”
Another key step for students, Mrs. Graves said, is building a professional network. “Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk with people. Ask them if you can learn. You’re more likely to find opportunities through these connections than just an online application.”
Mrs. Graves ended her remarks by telling the students the importance of financial health. “Take care of your financial life. Put a few bucks in your 401k or IRA with each paycheck. My best tip for saving is to make it automatic. Do establish credit and use it wisely. Employers are going to check your credit so pay attention. And always live below your means.”
Mrs. Graves has had over 15 years of experience within public relations and marketing. Prior positions that Mrs. Graves held were special event/marketing coordinator at UCP of Greater Birmingham and director of the Shorter Fund and special events and director of foundation relations at Shorter University.
At Coosa Valley Credit Union, she oversees the marketing department and manages the credit union’s strategic approach in the areas of marketing communications, brand identity, and product development. She assists the President and CEO in determining market trends and works to attract new members, and manages relationships with current members.
Mrs. Graves received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Mass Communication from Samford University and her Master of Arts in Leadership from Shorter University.
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christ-centered, four-year liberal arts university committed to excellence in education. The Princeton Review annually includes Shorter on its list of best Southeastern Colleges. The university offers traditional bachelor’s degrees in 40 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, and master’s programs. Learn more about Shorter at www.shorter.edu.