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Considering Pitching an Inside Look at Your Utility

image credit: ID 131525115 © David Econopouly |
Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
  • 1,004 items added with 507,493 views
  • Sep 7, 2021


Given the destruction wreaked across a good chunk of the country by Hurricane Ida, affected utilities – as well those helping out – have been spotlighted in recent days.

This is a time when utilities are at their best, going above and beyond to serve their clients.

And utility public relations departments know what to do when there are widespread power outages:  Put out news releases, update your website, do TV interviews and post regularly with social media. And keep the updates coming until the crisis ends.

That’s all well and good, but when conditions return to a more normal state, perhaps there’s more you can do.

How about trying to convince a TV news crew or a print reporter to do a behind-the-scenes look at your utility’s storm response or even just a view of everything a utility does on a regular basis to keep the power flowing? Remember that the average customer knows little about the inner workings of your utility; as long as light switches and outlets work, they’re happy.

Do know that this typically isn’t a quick-hit kind of story. It’ll require some advance coordination and planning, but if you have a plan in place already – and if you know a major weather event is on the way – this doesn’t need to require months of work.

You can always pitch “day in the life” stories, which are popular with journalists and readers/viewers/listeners alike. Obviously, there are some safety risks to navigate, but a reporter could certain observe a crew in action and possibly help on the ground in a limited fashion. Your legal department will probably insist that journalists sign waivers in advance and be given strict ground rules about what they can do.

Maybe you could have a journalists sit in on the advance planning meetings you have before bad weather strikes. Show them all the preparation that goes occurs, as well as the assignments made so you’ll be ready as soon as the weather hits. Let them interview your crews in advance as they prepare for the worst.

As the weather unfolds, admit the reporter into your “war room” or dispatch center. Let them see how you track problems and respond to them.

Of course, have them follow crews into the field, which should provide the best material. Allow the TV crews and/or print photographers to capture your dedicated teams at their best.

Remember that despite the narrative suggested by plenty of people, most journalists are not out to make your company or people looks bad. They only want to tell a good story. And by providing good visuals and a good story (dedicated utility employees working tirelessly in harsh conditions to get the power back on), you’re doing just that.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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