October is "Co-op Month"
Promote and Market Your Cooperative!
We offer public relations and marketing opportunities during this month highlighting cooperatives!
Guidelines for Inviting Elected Representatives to Co-op Month Events
Invite the Legislators Early
Make sure to get your invitation letter to elected representatives early before their schedule is full. In this case, "early" translates to now.
See the sample letter in our "Resources for Co-Op Board" page and localize it for your community and forward it to the elected representatives’ schedulers ASAP. Make sure also to follow-up via phone. If you have an associate who might be influential with a candidate or perhaps a board member or other community leader, don’t hesitate to enlist him or her in the effort to secure the candidate’s participation.
Voters, Voters, Voters
Create your event to generate community participation. If elected representatives know that civic-minded constituents will make up the bulk of the audience, they will have a greater incentive to join your Co-op Month event.
Maximize the Exposure
Even better than meeting actual voters, is being on television … or radio … or in the newspaper, because media exposure reaches more voters. Media coverage of Co-op Month events is desirable for you, as well. When inviting elected representatives, be sure to inform them that you are seeking media coverage of the event. Encourage the elected representatives to list this event on the schedules their staff distribute to the media, as well. Try to schedule the event early in the day (before 1 p.m.) to increase chances of media coverage.
Brief the Elected representatives
Work with the elected representatives’ staff to provide background on your event, organization and co-ops in general. It’s difficult to be an expert on all the issues and constituency groups in each district. The staff will appreciate concise, well-organized background material.
Elected representatives will want to speak during the event. But they may not necessarily be on time. Be prepared to adjust the schedule to accommodate their early or late arrival and, perhaps, quick departure.
Keep Us in the Loop
Please let the NACH staff know when you are successful in obtaining a legislator’s commitment to participate in your Co-op Month event. Please send us details about your event (date, time, location, brief description and participants’ names and titles) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Message points should illustrate the three most important things that you want your target audience to remember about your issue. In addition, they must be framed in a way that speaks to the interests and concerns of that audience. In the case of Co-op Month, the primary audience is policymakers. And come election time, policymakers will care about one thing: votes.
Therefore, the message points below are designed to illustrate the political power of co-ops while supporting our three primary communications objectives. The objectives of National Cooperative Month communications are to increase awareness and perceived value of the cooperative form of business. Specifically, to communicate:
- What a cooperative is – research shows a very low awareness and understanding of the cooperative business model among the public.
- How are we different.
- The value and benefits of the cooperative form of business to the primary audience – why should they support the cooperative business model.
What is a cooperative?
Most policymakers and journalists are unfamiliar with cooperatives. Therefore, you will need to be able to answer this question as concisely as possible. All of your communication efforts should include this basic information.
- Cooperatives are member-owned and democratically controlled enterprises, created and used by their member-owners to provide goods and services. A co-op operates for the benefit of its member-owners. Across America, 120 million people are finding solutions to community needs by forming cooperative businesses. This means cost savings, less risk and more choices for America’s consumers and producers.
Some Compelling Statistics
- About thirty percent of farmers’ products in the U.S. are marketed through cooperatives.
- More than 20 cooperatives have annual sales in excess of $1 billion, including such well known names as Land O’ Lakes, Inc., Ocean Spray and ACE Hardware.
- Credit unions have over 76 million members and assets in excess of $100 billion.
- Electric cooperatives operate nearly half of the electric distribution lines in the United States and provide electricity for 34 million people—that’s more than one in ten Americans.
- There are approximately one million cooperative housing units serving households with a range of income levels and housing needs.
- More than 50 million Americans are served by insurance companies owned by or closely affiliated with cooperatives.
- Food cooperatives have been innovators in the marketplace in the areas of unit pricing, consumer protection and nutritional labeling.
- Retailer-owned food and hardware cooperatives make it possible for hundreds of independent store owners to successfully compete with large chains.
Cooperatives yield tremendous economic impact
Cooperatives yield tremendous economic impact. Today, there are more than 48,000 cooperatives in the United States generating in excess of $500 billion in economic activity.
- From childcare to healthcare, agriculture to housing, electricity to telephone service, hardware stores to grocery stores, credit unions to media outlets, cooperatives provide Americans with the basic services they use everyday.
- Revenue generated by cooperatives tends to stay in the community as it is distributed to local members rather than removed shareholders.
- Cooperatives exist not to generate a profit for themselves or outside investors, as do other businesses, but rather to provide goods and services at the lowest possible cost
Cooperative members comprise a significant percentage of the electorate
With cooperatives serving almost 40 percent of all Americans, cooperative members comprise a significant percentage of the electorate.
- In (name of state), there are more than (number of co-ops—include all industries) with more than (number of combined members).
The nature of cooperatives requires democratic participation. Therefore, members of cooperatives are more likely to vote
Cooperatives epitomize the democratic and moral principles upon which this country was founded
Cooperatives epitomize the democratic and moral principles upon which this country was founded. The American election is the highest form of democratic expression and is an example of the ideals shared by the founding fathers of this nation and the pioneers who launched the cooperative movement.
- Cooperatives are owned and controlled by the people who use them. Member control is generally on a one member, one vote basis.
- Cooperatives enable members to reap the benefits of a joint endeavor while maintaining their independence.
- The cooperative option provides consumers and producers with more options. And more choice means a more innovative marketplace and more accessible products and services.
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How to Use Message Points
Deliver a Consistent, Clear Message Then Do It Again
The message strategy is guided by your communications objectives. The supporting statements on “Message Points” are the building blocks for an effective Cooperative Month campaign and listed in order of how well they support the objectives. Those message points that deliver most strongly your objectives should be the main focus of your communications. It is important for you to consider how best to ensure that every aspect of your communications repeats and reinforces the key messages.
These message points are not answers to specific expected questions; they are answers to all questions. No matter where the interview starts or meanders, Co-op Month spokespeople should seek to return the discussion to the key proactive messages presented in your packet. Don't feel uncomfortable repeating the same idea in an interview: good spokespeople repeat their key messages four to six times in a 5-minute interview. If every spokesperson repeats these messages in every interview about Co-op Month, we will make great strides in educating the public and policymakers about the pivotal role co-ops play in American communities.
To illustrate these message points, we recommend that you obtain specific data about the role and power of co-ops in your state. You also should share personal stories that you have gained through your experience with cooperatives
Specific Situations for Using Message Points
The message points should guide every discussion you have about Co-op Month. This applies to all types of media interviews, of course, but also to all other written and spoken communications, including community events, co-op newsletters, invitations to Co-op Month events, etc. Only if all Co-op Month spokespeople repeat these messages will we deliver a consistent message that will inform the public about the tremendous contributions of cooperatives.
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Guiding Interviews to Focus on Co-op Month Messages
Here are a few examples of how to steer interviews back to the message points.
Q: Aren't co-ops most beneficial to people who need to save money by working part-time in a community store?
A: Some co-ops do provide price discounts to members who work in a retail outlet. But co-ops have a much greater economic impact on the average American. There are more than 48,000 co-ops across the nation, generating $500 billion annually in economic activity. In fact, about 4 in 10 Americans receive some type of important service through a co-op—electricity, food, health care or phone service, for example.
Q: Are co-ops in danger, now that chain franchises are entering every community, large and small, it seems?
A: Absolutely not. Cooperatives serve 40 percent of Americans with some service, including necessities such as electricity and phone service. And they generate more than $500 billion in economic activity annually. Cooperatives are founded on many of the same democratic principles that our country was founded upon independence, responsibility, equality and those values will continue to serve as a strong basis for sound businesses.
Q: Why should journalists and the public turn our attention to the role of cooperatives in society?
A: First, cooperative businesses share many of the values on which our nation was founded: independence, equality, responsibility. Second, roughly 4 in 10 Americans are served by cooperatives; that's a huge block of voters. And finally, policy makers at all levels of government must recognize the economic impact of cooperatives, which generate in excess of $500 billion in economic activity annually.
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