Billboards around the Shoals area will soon be featuring the face of the state's Young and Free Alabama campaign spokesperson.
The three finalists in the 2011 Listerhill Credit Union-sponsored competition include Lee Taylor and Zack Cox, both of Florence, and McKenzie Lockhart, of Muscle Shoals.
The winner of the yearlong spokesperson position will be chosen by an online vote. The three are featured on the Listerhill Young and Free Alabama website at youngfreealabama.com.
Listerhill Credit Union has the state's exclusive rights to Young and Free Alabama, a yearlong campaign designed to provide useful financial information for the 18- to 25-year-old population. Other states have the Young and Free program as well. The intention is to not only educate young Alabamians about the importance of having financial knowledge and security, but to educate the public on issues facing that generation.
The winner will hold a full-time position with Listerhill for a year during which time he or she will make speaking engagements, provide online content such as videos and other marketing projects and share ideas with Listerhill officials and the public about how the 18-25 age demographic can be better served.
The three candidates know each other. All three are musicians, which they will use as part of their marketing technique if selected, they said.
“This group of finalists is phenomenal, with their talents and personalities,” said Kristen Mashburn, marketing director for Listerhill Credit Union. “They all have that ‘it' factor. These are people that everyone wants to be around. They're great writers, are musically inclined and are extremely creative, which is important because that creativity will drive the content. And, they already have good relationship within their communities.”
Mashburn added that the 2010 winner, Chris Anderson, 25, is now working for Listerhill as a full-time marketing specialist.
“We don't make that guarantee to all spokespersons but certainly if it works out well, as it did with Chris, there's a good possibility.”
Although the crux of the job is teaching young people how to save, spend and borrow money, Listerhill officials say they don't expect the spokesperson to come in with “economist skills.”
“The winner will receive training and will be very well versed in our programs before they begin sharing the information in other communities,” Mashburn said.
For University of North Alabama student Zack Cox, 21, of Florence, saving money has long been a forte as he's traveled extensively, including three times abroad.
“I have connections in and outside the U.S. and that could work to my advantage in that position,” Cox said. “I know how to save money and, in fact, have fully paid for all my travels, financing my stays each time from my part-time job that I've worked for three years and by doing odd jobs. I'll keep $20 out of a paycheck to live on for two weeks and save the rest. I went to Germany for the summer and my mom gave me five dollars and told me to have fun. I've always had to save my money.”
But he's clear on what the job entails, he said.
“This is a very modern job, with promotion online and on the streets with people,” he said. “The focus is on all aspects of being young and part of this generation. They want someone who can connect with other people, and I can do that.”
Lockhart, 19, is the youngest of the candidates. She described the Young and Free spokesperson position as “one of the coolest jobs I've ever heard of.”
“It's basically a huge marketing campaign for young people who are often overlooked by financial institutions,” she said. “The job would mean informing young adults and even older teens about financial stability and how to achieve it, and all that stuff that we just don't get enough information on.”
As a songwriter and musician, Lockhart said her greatest attribute for the job will be creativity.
“I've spent a year marketing myself and my music, so I feel that experience can only help me in this job. I was the youngest of the applicants and that could be a little intimidating, but I'm up for the challenge. I already have ideas about what I can do. And, the music will definitely help.”
Taylor, 24, is a University of North Alabama graduate, who said his age and experience should work to his advantage in the competition.
“I have real-world work experience and worked my way through college, so the maturity aspect is my strength,” Taylor said. “Being a musician give me a good network.”
Taylor is the guitarist for the band, The Ray Brothers, and also has led music at various churches in the area.
“I'm not nervous in front of people but I also realize that you can be a great musician but that doesn't make you marketing savvy.”
Taylor said his past and current exposure with media may be an advantage for him as well. He works for the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa.
“I love that the job involves (multimedia) and I've got plenty of experience in those areas,” he said. “This whole competition is sort of bittersweet because I'm friends with the other two finalists and they're really great people.”
Listerhill Credit Union has 17 locations throughout north Alabama.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.