HGTV Host a Public Relations Bonanza for Michigan CU

Lake Michigan CU signs HGTV’s Carter Oosterhouse as a celebrity spokesman.

June 19, 2013
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Signing Carter Oosterhouse as a celebrity spokesman has been a public relations bonanza for $2.7 billion asset Lake Michigan Credit Union (LMCU) in Grand Rapids, Mich. The credit union counts the host of HGTV home improvement shows among its more than 252,000 members.

Oosterhouse, who became a carpenter’s apprentice at age 12 while growing up in Traverse City, Mich., is the focal point of a marketing blitz centering around a $25,000 home makeover sweepstakes.

The grand prize includes a two-hour consultation where he’ll provide design ideas and eco-friendly building tips.

Oosterhouse appears in three television commercials and in ads on billboards and in print, as well as on brochures and LMCU’s website.

The credit union also launched a social media campaign to prompt entries for the sweepstakes, which closed April 30, with the winner drawn May 17.

The feedback has been impressive. The sweepstakes drew 61,000 entries in the first six weeks, during which time LMCU more than doubled the “likes” on its Facebook page, to nearly 5,000. Branch traffic is up as well.

“He’s given us a lot of visibility in the community and a positive feeling among staff,” says Don Bratt, vice president of marketing. The relationship began when Oosterhouse took out a mortgage for a home in Traverse City through his friend Corbin Buttleman, LMCU lending officer.

Credit CEO Sandy Jelinski for realizing Oosterhouse would be a great public face for LMCU, which originates the most mortgages of any credit union in the state.

“Align your institution’s values with the values of the celebrity— work with someone that makes sense,” Bratt advises.

“We’re big into mortgages, and Carter’s big into homes. That’s a nice connection.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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