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Op-Ed Pages Fertile Ground for Utilities Lamenting a Lack of Coverage

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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
  • 1,003 items added with 507,221 views
  • Jan 11, 2021

When I worked in public relations, clients often grew frustrated that they couldn’t get the media (or the desired media) to cover news they considered important.

Truth of the matter is, a lot of times I knew there was no way they were getting coverage – the material being proposed simply wasn’t newsworthy.

Utilities aren’t immune from this problem. Outside of rate hikes, power outages, pollution, equipment causing wildfires and a few other things, the general media likely will turn a blind eye (although the trade press is more forgiving).

So, when it seems as is your utility hasn’t gotten much media play of late, what can you do?

Try expressing your opinion.

Whether it’s a public affairs show on television or radio or the op-ed pages of your local daily or weekly, well-written and well-spoken opinions are in short supply. My newspaper struggles regularly to find relevant content to run.

And opinion pieces are a great way to get your point across about a pertinent issue. In most news articles or TV spots, your utility is likely to get a few paragraphs or maybe 20 seconds of air time. But with an op-ed, all 500 to 1000 words are yours and on radio or TV, you’re going to get a significant chunk of the air times.

No, it’s not as flashy as a front-page story or the lead segment on a TV news program, but you have the time and space to get your point across.

That leads to another question: What should you write about or talk about?

Anything that’s important to you is fair game, but remember that, unless you’re working with the trade press, the general media is going to want to hear about topics of broad interest.

Topics these days might include rate moratoriums, storm and outage response, green energy, consumer issues such as money-saving measures, the future of electrical utilities and your utility’s role in the community.

As for the content itself, the space/time is yours, so obviously you’re going to promote yourself to some degree. That said, the media doesn’t want advertorial content. Be sure to explain the pros and cons of everything, avoid industry jargon and take a measured tone. You need to express confidence in your utility’s capabilities, but you don’t want to come across as arrogant or strident. Focus on the positive as much as possible.

And, as always, be sure to promote any op-eds you get published on social media. Same deal with TV and radio coverage – always provide links.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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