EEC Perspectives

Time to Rev Up Your Clean Energy Communications for Customers

California’s decision to go to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045, passed late last month by the state legislature and awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, means electric utilities and electric cooperatives in the Golden State will have to up, yet again, their clean energy communications. That applies to electric utilities and cooperatives located outside California, too, as customers increasingly prefer cleaner forms of electricity.

I understand and agree that utilities face serious operational and financial challenges to get to 100% carbon-free energy.

But conducting clean energy communications is a lot easier — providing your communications are closely aligned with your customers’ preferences and expectations. If they are not, now’s the time to tune up your messaging and graphics.

Credit: iStock


Clean Energy Communications: Recognize the Ground is Moving

Fortunately, a recent article I wrote for Public Power magazine shows electric companies of all kinds — public, private and cooperatives — ways to structure that clean energy conversation with customers.

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Customer Communications: Reaching Customers’ Brains Through Their Hearts

Credit: Energy News Network

“Poles and wires are boring, but people are interesting,” a utility communicator once told me. I agree completely: The best way to feed your audience, especially customers, the information you want them to know is to embed it in a compelling story focusing on people. Whether it’s still or video photography, the image draws the audience (customers) in and carries the weight of the story. Once an image connects to an audience member’s (customer’s) heart, their ears are more likely to hear the words that explain and support the image. This applies to utility customer communications in so many ways.

You could think of it as feeding sugar-coated broccoli to your children or inserting your dog’s heart-worm medication in a glob of peanut butter. It may sound a little sneaky, but it works. Ask any parent or dog owner. Julie Andrews sang about this in “Mary Poppins”: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way.”

It’s a point worth considering by utility communicators and marketers who want to communicate more effectively with customers. Living as they do in fact-rich environments, filled with information about kilowatt-hours, volts, amps, circuit-miles of wire, emissions, cubic yards of cement, therms and hundred cubic feet of water, practitioners can be tempted to rely on facts, rather than peoples’ stories, when communicating with or marketing to customers.

This is especially true when it comes to complicated or technical issues like prices, pollution, energy efficiency, environmental regulation or energy efficiency.

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Better Public Speaking: 6 Tips, 6 Sins and 1 Golden Rule

Does the photo look familiar? It might. I used it five years ago to illustrate this blog post on how to become a more effective public speaker. I attended several industry conferences earlier this year and found the same public speaking sins were still being committed that caused me to write this piece back then.

Hope springs eternal. We’re just about to enter the fall conference season, and you may have secured a speaking slot at an energy conference. Do not be afraid!  You were selected for a reason — probably that you are a subject-matter expert on a particular issue. But mastery of a field counts for little if you can’t persuasively convey that to an audience. We hope you can use some of these helpful hints for public speaking when it’s your turn to stand at the microphone.

My brain was under assault. Productive thought had long since vanished. I stopped taking notes two hours ago. More coffee was out of the question — my eyes already were twitching from too much caffeine. My mind wandered. In three hours I knew I would be at a baseball game with my family — but how would I pass the time until then? I couldn’t escape by playing with my mobile device because it couldn’t get a signal. I’m not actually in this photo, but I could have been.

I left the conference feeling drained and disappointed. It had been a disaster — two days of my life I will never get back. What happened? The conference focused on energy industry issues I knew were important. The session descriptions piqued my interest. The speakers boasted solid credentials. I had secured a complimentary registration, so my disappointment wasn’t a question of buyer’s remorse.

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