Lorrell Walter received the 2022 Community Outreach Professional of the Year Award from the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council for her work as senior vice president of marketing and member experience at $214 million asset Western Vista Federal Credit Union in Cheyenne, Wyo.
She spoke with CUNA News about her career path, interests, advice for marketing and communications professionals, and how volunteerism drives her.
CUNA News: Tell us about yourself and how you came to work at the credit union.
Lorrell Walter: I’ve been at Western Vista for just over five years. This is my first gig in financial services, but I’ve been doing marketing and PR for more than 20 years.
Q: How did you successfully shift between industries?
A: Once you know the foundations of what you’re doing and how to tell the stories you’re trying to convey, you can do anything.
I’ve always been a volunteer, and that’s the foundation of who we are as credit unions. It’s built into the cooperative principles about serving your community.
I’ve often said that if I could volunteer for a living, I’d quit my job in a heartbeat. I love my job, I love my boss, and I work at an awesome credit union, but I love to volunteer and be out in my community.
Q: What career advice would you offer new professionals or those looking to grow their role in marketing and PR?
A: Practice, practice, practice. Meaningful internship opportunities as a younger person are great, but they’re not always readily available.
I appreciate people’s passion and enthusiasm over talent. If you’re driven and you’re committed to doing a good job, I can train you to do anything. But I can’t teach you to be passionate or to share ideas.
I’m known for telling my boss, “I’ve got an idea.” I will literally text him at night. I encourage those coming up the ranks to share those ideas because it’s those little nuggets that develop into great things.
Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment at Western Vista?
A: The one Diamond Award we’ve won since I’ve been here. One of my ideas was something called “Signs for Seniors.” When the coronavirus shut down our schools, we all felt so bad for our high school seniors. All of a sudden it was, “Boom, the doors are closed.”
We created light pole banners that were customized to each school with the kids’ pictures and names on them. They were all throughout our city. Kids were taking pictures in their letter jackets and their caps and gowns below their banner.
It was not a PR initiative for us, but it had PR value. Our logo was plastered all over the community. But when we did it, it was because we felt so bad for those kids.
Q: Why is community outreach important?
A: What I get involved with generally are things I’m either passionate about or are inspiring to me.
Cheyenne is known for Cheyenne Frontier Days, a 10-day, world-famous rodeo. I moved here nine years ago in June and the rodeo is in July. I grew up on horseback, I love the Western way of life, and I’ve attended rodeos since I was a kid, so I jumped right in.
I’m also on the board for the Wyoming Breast Cancer Initiative. I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, so I started helping with fundraising, advocacy, and spreading the word.
Early detection of breast cancer saved my life. If I hadn’t found it when I did, the type of cancer I had probably would have killed me. I jumped on the board because there’s a story to be told.
The Wyoming Breast Cancer Initiative funds early screening tests for underinsured and uninsured people. I feel so passionately about making sure people know there are resources available.
The military is a big thing for me, so I’m involved in our military community. Cheyenne is home to Warren Air Force Base. I’m on the board for our Air Force Association, the steering committee for our Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, an honorary commander, and the military committee for Cheyenne Frontier Days.
There are so many ways you can support the things you care about.
Q: What’s the best vacation you’ve been on?
A: I’m going to talk about one I have planned. My daughter is a freshman in high school. She’s in year 10 of Girl Scouts and plans to go through her senior year of high school. I was a Girl Scout for 11 years and I’m a registered adult now.
Before we moved here, the troop she is in had been planning a trip to Europe when the girls were in high school. When we sell Girl Scout cookies, that’s what they talk about: “We’re raising money to go to Europe.”
We talk about money and saving with our girls all the time. So, next summer we are going to France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy on a 13-day trip. I’m looking forward to what I think will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.