Looking for inspiration?

Projects from your peers in Arizona, Alaska, and Oregon shine in NRECA’s 2017 Spotlight on Excellence Awards program. The competition was stiff; 769 entries fought for gold and silver awards in categories ranging from news stories to digital storytelling.

We’re highlighting best practice tips from the winners on our blog. First up is Geoff Oldfather, manager of communications at Arizona G&T Cooperatives.

Geoff Oldfather

Geoff Oldfather headshotBest News Story (at-large category), Silver
Apache Generating Station Vital to Regional Economy

“We can’t let ourselves slide into doing quick and easy stories with little or no substance,” says Geoff. “In today’s challenging regulatory and legislative climate, we have an obligation to our members and the public to step up our game when it comes to providing information. We have to do research and back up our assertions that we are vital parts of the economies and communities we serve.”

Geoff needed data to show the impact electric cooperatives and generation and transmission cooperatives have on regional economies. In 2015 he commissioned an economic impact study with Dr. Robert Carreira, president and chief economist for US Economic Research. The study was delivered in January 2016.

“The study gathered a lot of information from all our operations as well as outside our cooperative,” says Geoff. “I pulled from the study for this and several other stories.”

Geoff’s 5 Tips for Penning an Impactful News Story

  1. Find and focus on a theme. It was logical to use one of the key findings from the study – that our economic contribution is a “stabilizing” economic force in an area still reeling from the recession – for the central theme. I pulled only from the data related to that theme. Find your central theme, then focus on it and how to support it.
  2. Keep it simple. Only use the data that relates to your central theme and key points. We placed key data in a box and used the quotes in the content. If possible, that is how you should treat a story with a lot of data. Our Currents editor at Ruralite Services, Mike Teegarden, deserves credit for a great layout.
  3. Go to the top for quotes. In this case, it was the author of the study. For reaction, go to your CEO, CFO, or other key people. If I were going to write a follow-up story, I would go to the “man on the street” interviews.
  4. Have confidence in your audience. Consumers are interested and willing to read what you are presenting as long as it’s credible.
  5. Know your audience. Who has a stake in the story? If you can answer that question, the story and supporting pictures and graphics will follow.

More Members in the Spotlight

Other regional 2017 Spotlight on Excellence winners include Brenda Dunn at NWPPACourtney Linville at Central Electric Cooperative, Oregon; Sharon Crisp at Copper Valley Electric Association, Alaska; and the Ruralite Services’ Marketing and Communications team.

We’ll share best practices tips from these winners over the next few weeks as we get ready for CONNECT’17, NRECA’s utility communications conference, in Tampa, Florida May 2 to 5, 2017. Hope to see you there!