Download Pioneer’s 2022 Content Planner below and save your spot in our content planning webinar on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. EST.
How to Find Strategic Stories for 2022
By Pam Spettel
Utilities, both electric and telco, are planning organizations by nature. Perhaps this year (or last) your board of directors developed new strategic plan goals to guide the utility in policy-level decision-making. The management team revised short-, mid-, and long-term financial and capital improvement plans. The 2022 annual budget — a different kind of plan — is complete.
Each of these plans are puzzle pieces, connecting to form the picture of a well-run utility. A strategic communications plan completes the picture, reflecting what (and when) different audiences, both internal and external, should hear about utility efforts.
A well-built communications plan integrates your role as an essential function of the utility, not a nice-to-have option. Filling communications channels with planned, strategic content prevents magazines, social channels and advertising efforts from being taken over by reactive messaging.
Sharing too much reactive content can leave an organization looking and feeling inconsistent, rather than proactive and poised.
Follow these four steps to find strategic stories for your 2022 communication plan.
1. Identify Story Categories
A good place to start your mining for topics is with your organizational mission and values. Safe, reliable, and affordable are universal themes that reflect well across all your communications. If your organization is a co-op, the Seven Cooperative Principles <link> always have a place, too. These member-centric ideas bring heart and soul to some of the more technical ideas you’ll need to communicate.
- Promoting Community
- Culture of Safety
- Project Financing
- Energy Efficiency
2. Support Shared Goals
The next layer of planning is found in your organizational strategic goals. If your board has prioritized resource adequacy and advanced metering, for example, you will make those another focal point of your communications plan.
- Utility goal: Increase efficiency rebate participation.
- Story options: Find and share testimonials from members in low-participation neighborhoods. Share testimonials and program ads through both direct mail and targeted digital advertising.
3. Measure Potential Impact
Do your stories make a difference? With careful planning, your content can make a case for the value of cross-channel, targeted communications.
Work with your management team to identify goals for member programs. Measurable communications opportunities include:
- Converting members to auto-pay
- Increasing energy efficiency program engagement
- Dropping call wait times during outages
- Increase voting and annual meeting attendance
- Boost SmartHub participation
List the high-priority areas where you and your team would like to see movement, and target these across your communications channels in 2022. These measurables conveniently become ways to also measure performance of your communications efforts.
4. Celebrate Value
What unique ways will your utility add value to the community next year? Will an ambitious capital improvement project significantly increase consumer reliability? Will your utility make rate structure changes to offer more consumer choice? Are your employees embarking on a new community volunteer project?
Identify the powerful and positive ways utility investments, employees, and consumers are bolstering the community. Weave these stories into your communication plan throughout the year, across all channels.
Plan Your Next Steps
Now that you’ve got your high-level ideas in place, you’re ready to focus on breaking your broad topic area goals into actionable communications nuggets.
We’ll dive into these best practices on our blog soon. Get a head start by downloading our content planning guide, What Will Your Story Be in 2022? Then save your spot in our Nov. 11 content planning webinar.
Download Pioneer’s 2022 Content Planner:
Utility Pioneer Pam Spettel formerly delivered stories and strategic planning for Blachly-Lane Electric Cooperative in Eugene, Oregon. She was our 2017 Communicator of the Year, and has helped Pioneer develop content as a member of our communications committee. In her spare time she kicks the ball for her pooches Rona and Quinn, hugs her gazillion grandchildren, serves on the board of Lane County Farmers Market, and blogs at 101milekitchen.com.
Want to share tips with your peers? Send ideas for blog content to email@example.com.