Sitting Down with Chris Francis, Senior Vice President at First Heritage Federal Credit Union

First Heritage Federal Credit Union currently serves over 41,000 members in Steuben and Chemung counties New York and Tioga County Pennsylvania with products and services that continuously improve and expand. The credit union and its staff are committed to improving the financial well-being and lives of its members and strengthening the communities they serve each year through making monetary donations to local charities and volunteering countless hours with several area non-profit organizations.

Since 2015, Communiqué Design & Marketing has been working closely with First Heritage Federal Credit Union’s marketing department and leadership team. At the beginning of our relationship, a complete brand overhaul was conducted to modernize the credit union’s image and to help it stay connected with its current membership as well as connect with a younger demographic.

Today, Communiqué and First Heritage continue to work closely together on integrated marketing campaigns. The most recent of which was a successful campaign based on the positive results from the credit union’s Member Survey and entitled “Dear First Heritage”. The campaign highlights the organization’s involvement in the communities it serves and took the form of a letter addressed to First Heritage, written/spoken by its members. TV commercials, radio ads, billboards, and digital ads were all designed and executed in-house by Communiqué.

After speaking with Chris Francis, Senior Vice President at First Heritage Federal Credit Union, it is evident that Communiqué’s strong relationship with the credit union goes beyond a new logo and marketing campaigns. It is an excellent example of a marketing agency and client working collaboratively to completely redefine an organization and its presence in the community.


Take a look at a Q&A between Chris and Maddie:


1. What was your marketing plan before working with Communiqué?

I’ve worked at First Heritage since 1995, but only in the IT world; marketing was shifted under my umbrella in 2015. Many ask, IT and Marketing; why would they be together, but honestly in today’s world, technology is involved in every aspect of a business especially Marketing. Prior to Marketing shifting under my umbrella and us partnering with Communiqué, our marketing plan was very traditional. When I joined the Marketing team, I had two clear initiatives, develop a digital marketing presence and find a strong business partner to work with in establishing a strong brand image within the communities we serve.


2. When you began looking for a marketing agency to work with, what about Communiqué attracted you?

We were really looking for someone who was as vested in and cared about our brand as much as we did. We didn’t want someone who was just going to do what we asked, but a partner who was going to ask questions like “how does this impact you,” and “how does that affect you,” or “what are you going to get from that?” Also, one of the things that attracted me during the search was Laurie Linn (President and CEO of Communique Design & Marketing) and her dedication to her clients. It was very clear from day one that she wanted to get to know her clients and really connect with them, not only from a business perspective, but as an individual as well. Additionally, her sincerity, dedication, and commitment to have things exactly how you want them was what shined through right from the very beginning. And I can say that that still stands true today.


3. In what aspects has Communiqué helped your brand?

Once we partnered up, one of the very first initiatives we took on together was updating the First Heritage brand as our existing brand could be dated back to the 70’s and possibly even older than that. Our name was strong and had a positive image in the community, we just needed to update our brand. By making a very slight change to it, I feel as though we’ve maintained a connection with our existing membership while at the same time have become more considerable to other members of our communities. From changing the outdated logo to a triangle to building the entire brand, we have ensured we have a cohesive and consistent message in everything we put out. That’s very important because I want to be able to look at something and know that it’s First Heritage without it even saying First Heritage and I definitely feel like Communiqué has helped us get to that point. Today, our brand resonates strong solidarity and consistency in everything we do and Communiqué has played a big role in helping us reach that goal.


4. How would you describe Communiqué in three words?

Strong leadership, teamwork, and innovative.


5. In what ways have we met or exceeded your expectations?

In regard to rebranding, I definitely feel like we have met and exceeded that expectation. People are starting to recognize us because they see us out and about in the communities and one of the strongest feedback we consistently hear in our Member Survey is that we’re everywhere in our community. People are seeing us out there in the community and love it! We have also gained a strong digital marketing presence over the last three years; while we’ve always had a great website and leading edge online banking tools, we now have a very strong retargeting and behavioral program in the digital world that are directing people to our awesome website! Laurie and the team at Communiqué definitely helped us achieve both of these goals.


6. Can you describe how one of First Heritage’s signature events the NextGen Leaders Awards was born between Communiqué and First Heritage and why? Can you talk about the success of the event?

When we first joined in partnership with Communiqué, they told us about the Fab Five Awards that had just taken place in Ithaca. It seemed like a natural progression for First Heritage, because we have the Everyday Heroes event which recognizes over 75 students each year from our local schools for being kind, generous, and helpful to their peers. When Communiqué started telling us about the Fab Five Awards, we realized it was the adult version of Everyday Heroes, which at the time, we had been doing for about 10 years. It was a natural fit for us since we recognize these individuals as high schoolers. NextGen Leaders gives us the opportunity to recognize them as adults who are working and contributing back to their communities.

This year would be our fourth NextGen Leaders Awards and is definitely one of our signature events. We absolutely love that it’s grown every year. We’ve certainly put a little First Heritage twist on it in that we don’t want to have a sit-down dinner because we want it to be more of a networking event. We’re bringing about 150 to 200 Generation Y people into a room together, we want them to get to know and support each other. In the past, we’ve held the event in restaurants located in the Gaffer District and the last couple of years, we’ve had it at The Rockwell Museum, which is just a perfect backdrop because people can mingle while having light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments with background music playing. It’s just a nice cool vibe. We’re definitely happy Communiqué brought that to our attention because it certainly fits in with what we are giving back to the community and recognizing those heroes and leaders.

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