Utility communicators find themselves in a difficult place these days—the need to communicate more frequently on a broader range of topics with critical stakeholders yet having fewer communications “resources” – i.e., less staff and fewer dollars. Many utilities are turning to energy communications consultants to fill the gap between what needs to be done and what can be done with existing staff.
How Do You Select the Right Consultant?
- Look for industry expertise. If a communications consultant works on potato chips on Tuesday and computer chips on Thursday, why do you think they would have any useful insights about utility issues on Friday?
- Look for a good cultural fit. Clients and consultants need to interview each other to see if they would enjoy working together. What works for one client might not work for another client. During an interview, both sides should actively probe for “elephants in the room,” i.e., issues that are difficult or awkward. If you don’t surface these issues at the beginning, they will surface on their own down the road – when it is more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to fix them.
- Perform due diligence. Like any important decision, you will need to invest time in identifying, selecting, and back-grounding a communications consultant. Whether it’s a strategic engagement or a specific deliverable, each side needs to do its due diligence. That requires time, phone calls, and possibly a site visit. Skimp on this and one of you will look back with remorse.
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