EEC Perspectives

Reaching Viewers’ Hearts through Their Funny Bones

funny guySeveral years ago I attended a utility communicators’ conference that featured a speaker from a national insurance company. An odd choice to speak to a group of utility communicators, I thought, but I took away some salient points. Insurance companies, like utilities, were a low-interest category among the general public, the speaker said. No controversy there. The speaker further observed the only time most people thought about insurance (or utility service) was when they get the bill or when something bad happens — an auto accident or a power outage.

For many years, the speaker continued, insurance advertising had been sober and fact-based. But messages weren’t sticking, and sales were falling. To break free of its institutional challenges, the speaker said insurance companies were upping their creative game and trying to connect with customers and prospective customers on various levels — besides price. One way was through humor.

UntitledSure enough, it wasn’t too long before a different flavor of insurance ads began popping up on TV. I’ve already blogged about Prof. Nathaniel Burke (right), the tweedy but likable pitchman for Farmers Insurance who uses unconventional settings to teach newbie agents and customers the ins and outs of insurance.

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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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