The holiday season is a time for utility communicators and marketers to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, spend time catching up on reading and begin planning next year’s activities. Our holiday present to you is a respin of our best-read content from 2018. Perhaps you had your head down finishing a project when some of these pieces arrived, and you missed them. Or maybe an issue wasn’t ripe for you when we wrote about it.
In any case, we hope you enjoy reading, and possibly applying, this content to your work. And have a joyous and wonderful holiday season!
Millennials, Purpose and Culture
Going to an industry conference can be a wonderful way to refresh and reflect.
When I attended the annual conference of the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA), some of the presentations focused on important developments within the Golden State, like legislative and regulatory updates. But some of the presentations focused on broader, nearly universal, topics that apply to utilities in California and beyond.
At the 86th annual CMUA conference, three topics stood out as near-universal in their application: developing your workforce to attract and retain include Millennials, living a purposeful life and rebooting a utility’s culture. Read more here.
Effective Conference Speaking
One of the things that made the 86th annual CMUA conference so enjoyable was the quality of the speakers. I’m not talking about their position within their company. Rather, I’m talking about the quality way in which they prepared and delivered their talks. The photo at right was definitely not taken at the CMUA event.
Some of you speak at conferences. Statistically, some of you are scared to death of addressing an audience of your peers. Do not be afraid!
Effective public speaking is essential to your career advancement. A conference producer contacted you for a reason — probably because 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. Read more here.
Use PowerPoint Like a Master Craftsman!
How many of you have attended a talk delivered by this guy? In the immortal words of Microsoft’s former CEO Bill Gates, “The trouble with PowerPoint is, usually there’s no power and no point.”
Perfectly fine, even terrific, talks can be delivered without the use of PowerPoint.
But if you choose to use PowerPoint, use it wisely. Don’t use a hammer when a screwdriver is needed! And just because you can cram one additional fact onto a slide doesn’t mean you should. Remember, less is more! Read more here.
It’s a Simple Playbook, But You Have to Use It!
It doesn’t appear that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts read the crisis communications playbook or learned the lessons of the Tylenol poisonings from three decades ago. That’s like proclaiming yourself to be a Biblical scholar but never opening the Good Book.
On September 13, a series of gas explosions rocked the Massachusetts communities of Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, killing one person, injuring dozens and damaging or destroying over 100 homes and businesses. Thousands of homes in those communities will be without gas heat until sometime in 2019.
The general communications crisis playbook for responding to negative events usually reads pretty simply: take responsibility, apologize, work hard to fix the problem and show your stakeholders that you are working hard to fix the problem. We interviewed a crisis communications practitioner and blogged about his recommendations earlier this year.
That expert’s advice, which I endorsed, applies in general regardless of the size of the crisis. So whether your utility’s crisis is relatively local and modest in scope, like billing errors, or gigantic catastrophes like Pacific Gas & Electric’s San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010, the simple truths about crisis communications apply. Read more here.
Do Unto Others…Going for Gold in Customer Service
Any public power utility looking for an established checklist and a clearly delineated road map to customer service excellence will be disappointed. There is no single path to excellent customer service, even though the desired result — happy customers — remains the same.
The goal posts may move continually as the expectations of customer-owners evolve, but the fundamentals of what makes for good customer service — compassion, know-how, communication, and respect — don’t budge.
That’s why public power utilities that deliver extraordinary service, including those regularly recognized for excellent customer satisfaction by J.D. Power, work hard to make sure serving customers is at the core of their organizational culture.