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Electric Utilities Must Mind Their Words

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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
  • 1,006 items added with 509,008 views
  • May 21, 2020

We live in an era where people love to disagree – and it often seems as if there’s little room for compromise. A winner-takes-all mentality pervades.

I’ve written before about the importance of utilities not talking about politics, and today that suggestion should be extended to any discussions about COVID-19.

It seems as if the pandemic is becoming a flashpoint between those who say government isn’t reopening the nation fast enough and those who believe the coronavirus isn’t being taken seriously enough. Of course, politics are a big part of the equation, too. And everyone seems to have an opinion.

But what does this have to do with utilities?

Well, it means utilities should be staying out of the dispute. Don’t even hint at the discussion in your social media, your website or any press releases sent out. Don’t let a reporter somehow draw you into the conversation.

There’s no way you can win and no matter what side you take, you’re going to really annoy the strident people on the other side.

Go ahead with the important task of keeping the lights on for your customers and stay out of the debate.

What you can be doing is continuing to promote any positive measures you’ve taken that are pandemic related, whether it’s payment deferrals for customers out of work, suspending power shutoffs for delinquent clients or even taking safety measures for your own workforce.

All of those things should be safe.

Otherwise, your utility should follow an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mantra. Yes, that’s the antithesis of what’s taught in public relations classes, but there’s literally no upside in trying to draw attention to what your utility is doing these days.

As always, that’s subject to the caveat that if real news happens, you need to publicize it. If your CEO retires or if a new power plant goes on line, certainly publicize it. Just forget about the small stuff.

This, too, will pass!

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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