Promoting Energy Safety to Your Customers? How to Breathe Life into Your Marketing

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August 3, 2022
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When I began my career in energy journalism at The Energy Daily, my mentor and editor John McCaughey gave me a tip: “Your readers will die soon enough — try not to bore them to death!”

 

 

Energy Safety: Good Copy and Provocative Art Can Save Lives

That tip is particularly useful when writing about energy safety. Some energy safety communications use lifeless, turgid prose. As for the art, typically it is somewhat less than completely captivating. All too often, energy safety communications is where creativity goes to die.

Credit: BC Hydro

Credit: BC Hydro

In short, we are being bored to death.

Happily, there are some exceptions. If an electrical shock can heat the human body to over 400° Celsius, or somewhere north of 750° Fahrenheit, as one utility said in its eye-catching safety art, why not focus on that, as that utility did (left and below).

 

 

 

Credit: BC Hydro

Using these images could be particularly effective during the spring, summer and autumn months, when many people cook their dinner on a barbecue grill. Take a closer look: Those are not chicken quarters or hot dogs. The jewelry offers a hint.

I don’t necessarily blame utility communicators for the poor state of safety communications. Based on conversations with some of those communicators, the Risk Management department typically has the whip hand, vetoing “edgy” art and instead insisting on a lengthy list of “Don’t Do This,” the tone of which reminds me of a mother scolding a child.

 

Energy Safety: Unsafe Practices Have Real-Life Consequences

In an effort to cover all their safety bases, and possibly inoculate them from future litigation, some utilities opt for the encyclopedic rather than the engaging when it comes to energy safety communications. In a previous blog post on safety communications, however, I suggested bolder graphics and art might save more lives than a comprehensive listing of things you shouldn’t do around electricity or natural gas.

Communications tip of the month: Energy safety is serious business. The next time you are assigned to write an energy safety piece, don’t compile a CYA list of unsafe practices to avoid. Instead, jazz it up with real-life stories and art showing what happened to people who were not careful around electricity and natural gas.

The best way to warn the public about the dangers of not respecting electricity or natural gas is to tell real-life stories and use real-life art and videos of customers and employees that show what can happen when you’re not careful around electricity or natural gas. In this era of social media, it’s probably not too hard to find a Tik Tok video or Tweet of something gone errantly wrong with electricity, natural gas or water.

Credit: Energy Education Council

Credit: Energy Education Council

In a similar vein, the Energy Education Council boldly chose this path some time ago when it released photos and videos of Shawn Miller (left) after he received electrical shocks when hanging Christmas lights at his mother’s house.

We live in litigious times, and utilities (even small ones) can be big targets. Perhaps a long list of “Don’t Do This” is a risk manager’s idea about how a utility can best protect itself from wrongful death and injury lawsuits.

 

But if you tell a story that’s boring, and the public tunes you out because of that, have you really fulfilled your burden to warn the public?

Or have you effectively killed them with boredom, just like my editor urged me not to do?

 

Energy Safety: Good Copy and Provocative Art Can Save Lives

Sandy Richter, an EEC Perspectives reader and former communications manager for Middleborough Gas & Electric in Massachusetts, sent me a piece she wrote for Electrical Safety Month. Here’s how she started out:

 

Our Old House: A Cautionary Tale

By Sandy Richter, former MGED marketing manager

When I was four, my baby sister crawled under the kitchen table one night while we were eating, took the barrette from her baby locks and stuck its prongs into the electric outlet in the wall. Two things happened simultaneously. A fuse blew, plunging half the house into darkness, and giant ball of light erupted under the table, blowing my sister out the other end. She stopped, siting bolt upright on the floor with her hair standing straight up and her left thumb still smoking. I know I shouldn’t be laughing right now but the vision still gets me. She could have been Larry, Moe or Curly with Stooges music playing in the background. And, of course, she survived; or I wouldn’t be laughing right now.

Electric and gas safety is no joke. So energy safety communications shouldn’t be either. Pitch bold ideas. Use attention-grabbing art or create customer-centered videos. Write like your life depended on it. You could save a life — and retain that customer!

Photo credits iStock unless otherwise cited.

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