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Anne Harvey

All stories need champions.

One of Pioneer’s chief storytelling advocates earned national recognition in December for his work to support and strengthen Utility Pioneers’ broadband stories.

Pioneer VP of Marketing Andy Johns joins the Fiber Broadband Associations’ 2022 Fiber Under 40 list. Fiber Forward magazine’s recognition highlights emerging leaders making substantial contributions to their companies and the fiber community at large.

“Fiber is the foundation of Andy Johns’ career in utility communications," Vice President of Special Projects Stephen V. Smith said. He hired Johns, then a newspaper journalist, in 2011 to help rural telecommunications companies tell their fiber broadband stories. “Andy has spent a decade serving rural telecommunications and electric utilities, supporting fiber broadband rollouts and creating learning opportunities in these industries — all in an effort to advance the fiber broadband story."  

Johns’ first role was writing, photographing and editing content for publications that became the Regional Telco Magazine, which celebrates celebrating 10 years of storytelling in 2023. He worked with telecommunications co-ops through bimonthly consumer-focused magazines to help: 

  • Tell the stories of rural co-ops 
  • Highlight the benefits of broadband 
  • Offer tips and technology advice 
  • Recount the experiences of those whose lives are changed by access to high-speed internet service 

“Working with telcos across several states, Andy developed a reputation for understanding the communities served by his clients and finding stories to show the life-changing power of fiber broadband,” Smith said. “Through the pages of custom magazines and marketing campaigns, he applied the principles of storytelling to educate readers about the benefits of fiber and engage them with the mission of their utility.”  

Johns’ role evolved over time. He grew into a marketing position at WordSouth and, after WordSouth was bought by Pioneer Utility Resources, he took the lead on marketing and storytelling efforts for the communications co-op, too. 

Building StoryConnect-ions

Launched in 2015, Johns hosts “StoryConnect: The Podcast,” helping utility communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with consumers. Candid interviews with more than 240 guests share storytelling tips from utility marketers and executives, vendors, communications professionals, policymakers and industry leaders. Johns also hosts the “Rural Broadband Today” podcast, with national leaders discussing what’s being done to bring broadband internet access within reach of every American.

Johns took his storytelling on the road in 2016 for a 506-day RV tour of America. With his wife, their young son and two dogs, he traveled the country visiting Utility Pioneers, interviewing guests for “StoryConnect: The Podcast,” and speaking at conferences. His blog about the personal side of the experience, 506days.com, highlights the family benefits and pitfalls of living on the road.

Andy Johns' family lived in an RV for a year as Andy traveled the country collecting stories.

He transitioned to a home with four walls instead of wheels in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but he continues traveling the country listening to and sharing broadband stories from Utility Pioneers. Expanding on his story-sharing mission, Johns coordinates the annual StoryConnect conference. Featuring storytellers from national brands and unique peer idea sessions, the conference helps foster a dedicated community of utility storytellers from across the U.S. The next story-centric conference is March 8-10, 2023.

“He develops the programming for the event with an emphasis on exposing utility communicators to unique perspectives from outside their industries,” Smith said. “These sessions broaden attendee viewpoints, equipping them to go back to their communities and tell the fiber story in new and engaging ways.”

Staging Ideas

In addition to his responsibilities in product development and brand integration, Johns speaks at conferences across the country, coordinates workshops and other live events for Pioneer.

Throughout his career, Johns has developed new topics for presentations based on feedback from associations and attendees.

His most popular — and insightful — session remains “Ask a Millennial/Gen Z,” where he gathers a panel of young adults from the local community for a buzzer-beating Q&A session to see the broadband and broader utility story from the mindset of tomorrow’s consumers.

“Broadband providers love this enlightening and entertaining session; it ends with every panelist being presented with a large golden avocado," Smith said.

Andy Johns shares his buzzer-breaking session from Florida to Alaska. Audience members can text questions for the panelists, too, making the interactive session a fun way to see an industry from a younger consumer’s point of view.

Send Us a Training Request   View Ideas from Andy   Schedule a call with Andy  

Focusing on Service

The same week Johns received the Fiber Forward magazine recognition, he recorded a podcast with another honoree, Northwest Fiberworx Executive Director Sean Kio. His focus, sharing story-building tips for utilities connecting rural Americans to broadband, is grounded in service.

“Our cooperative focus is to serve so you can shine,” Pioneer Senior Vice President of Member Solutions Anne Harvey said. “Andy truly takes this to heart, not only with his engaging, creative communications, but also his passion for the industry. He is adept at discovering and highlighting the unique, but often hidden, aspect of each broadband project or offering that will resonate. From discussing the ideal consumer journey at a conference to brainstorming campaign goals with a client, Andy is not only professional but personable and committed to success.”

Congratulations to everyone honored in Fiber Broadband Associations’ 2022 Fiber Under 40 list!

See the Fiber Under 40 List in Fiber Forward magazine (PDF)

About Pioneer

As a communications cooperative created in 1956 by utilities in the Pacific Northwest, Pioneer serves the needs of consumer-owned utilities across the country.

In addition to magazine and strategic communications services, Pioneer and its service partners Efficiency Services Group and NewsData partner with more than 250 community-owned utilities, broadband providers and state associations to assist with full-service social media, content marketing, broadband marketing and website services along with energy efficiency, electric supplies and focused, independent coverage of Western energy markets. Learn more at pioneer.coop.

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