EEC Perspectives

Gas Prices Fell, Will Electric Prices Follow?

conoco signI filled my car up with gasoline the other day, delighted that gas prices have fallen by about 50% in the last seven months. But that price collapse creates big problems for some utility communicators.

Price increase communications was this year’s biggest challenge facing utility communicators and marketers, according to Budgets, Gadgets & Price Increases: EEC’s 2015 Survey of Utility Communicators & Marketers. In some cases that’s because this was the 6th or 8th or 10th year in a row that a specific utility has increased its electric prices. In other cases, it’s because prices have not increased for 20 years, and no one knows how customers will react to the planned boost.

Falling gasoline prices pose a serious messaging dilemma for utility communicators. In recent years, the cost of electricity held pretty steady for most consumers while the price of food, gasoline and entertainment rose. Given those circumstances, a staple of utility price increase communications has been, “The price of our electricity is increasing at a far slower rate compared to these other consumer goods, such as food, gasoline and entertainment.”

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How to Win, and Keep, Your Seat at the Decision-Maker’s Table

Budgets, Gadgets & Price IncreasesHow to win, and keep, communicators’ and marketers’ seats at their utility’s decision-making table was discussed at several industry conferences I attended in 2014. I expect that will continue to be a top-of-mind issue in 2015.

That’s why we visited that topic when EEC conducted its first annual survey of utility communicators and marketers. In Budgets, Gadgets & Price Increases, practitioners told us how they got a seat at that table, and what they do to keep it.

If communicators or marketers do not have a seat at that table, they will not be able to shape the discussion there and offer counsel on the risks of a particular course of action. They will not be able to coach the leaders on potential problems that could arise during the implementation of a strategic initiative.

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The Care and Feeding of the News Media

sigmund_freudWhat do the news media want? Sigmund Freud spent a lot of time a century ago pondering a variant of that existential question – “What do women want?” Eventually, he concluded, it was best to ask them. And so it is with the news media, which many of us interact with on a daily basis.

A lot of utility spokespeople used to work on the other side of the fence, reporting, editing and producing news for newspapers, online news sources and radio and television stations. That’s valuable experience that gives those spokespeople a leg up on other media relations professionals who have not logged time as a member of the Fourth Estate.

But being an effective utility spokesperson does not require a stint in the news media. And regardless of whether you toiled in journalism’s vineyard earlier in your career, you can do a fine job if, as Dr. Freud suggests, you ask reporters, bloggers, editors and producers what they want – then make every effort to give it to them in the way they want it.

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