Each month, Ruralite Services’ magazine members use the high visibility of the magazine’s back page to address important utility and local issues.
Writing the column often remains in the back of a manager’s mind as he or she mulls over the right way to deliver more than cut-and-dry news.
How do utility leaders move their monthly back page column writing from to do to done?
Annie Terracciano, general manager at Northern Lights Inc. in Sagle, Idaho, takes outside resources to heart.
Every month, Annie looks through back page examples from Ruralite, Florida Currents, Currents, and KIUC Currents magazines Ruralite Services emails to utilities.
“I made a file folder system and put about 3 articles aside once a month,” she says.
Stockpiling references lets her avoid the midmonth crisis of not having a back page column topic. By receiving the back page email the first week of the month, Annie says she has plenty of time to go through the content for inspiration and still have time to submit her back page to her editor.
“There is plenty of time you can take advantage of so the pressure isn’t on when you sit down to write,” says Annie.
Another helpful resource is NRECA’s manager columns. Found in Cooperative.com’s Straight Talk section, the column archives span more than 5 years, with plenty of timeless topics (members only).
In some cases, planning ahead is not the most effective approach. Since the most current topics can change on a monthly basis, Ted Case, Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s executive director, does not use a planning calendar.
“My job is more of a political job, and hot issues like solar are forming, no pun intended,” says Ted. “I’ve got to be flexible when it comes to my topics.”
There are ways to help back page information speak to your readers. Ted does not write a column. He tells a story.
“I rely a lot on my personal history,” says Ted. “I try to write it in a way that it is not so technical that I lose (the reader) in the opening.”
Annie uses a similar approach to connect with her members.
“My preference is to start and finish on a personal note,” she says. “I try to use the month, season or anything else all of us are experiencing.”
As for word count, Ted avoids filling the page.
“What I notice about back pages a lot is that they are dense,” says Ted. “I think, frankly, less is more. You get a big white space on the back and the tendency is to fill it with as much content as possible. I try for 3 paragraphs as opposed to 9. Some topics are complex and need long form. But be mindful that white space is sometimes not a bad thing.”
No matter how you plan your content, there are many beneficial approaches industry leaders take to craft successful back page columns.
“I only get 12 columns a year,” says Ted. “I want to make them count.”
Key Points to Remember
- Use industry resources to generate topics
- Stockpile quality topics
- A personal touch resonates with readers
- When it comes to word count, less is more!