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Pitch a ‘Day in the Life’ Story About Your Utility

image credit: ID 52260163 © Jamie Hooper |
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
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  • May 12, 2022

Several jobs ago, I started writing a series of “day in the life” stories for the daily newspaper where I worked.

After getting buy-in from the would-be employers (not to mention liability waivers), I spent a day on the job, then wrote a lengthy story about my experiences.

One time, I worked as a trash man (a/k/a sanitation engineer). I rode the back of the truck, jumping on and off to haul trash cans and other items to the compactor. It was kind of fun (for a day anyway) and made for a well-received story, not to mention lingering back pain for a few days.

Another time, I spent the day in an orange grove, picking the fruit. That involved climbing up a rickety wooden ladder, grabbing the oranges and throwing them in a large tub below. Not only was it mindlessly boring, but orange trees have thorns, which pierced my gloves (and finger) multiple times. I passed the time counting how many oranges are on a single tree. Answer: about 1,200. Still, it made for a good story.

Obviously, you aren’t going to let a reporter work with one of your crews around power lines and other dangerous equipment.

But perhaps you can sell a media outlet into following around a crew to write a story/create a video segment about what they witnessed.

You might think the work is mundane, and maybe it is, but the public may well be intrigued by how everyday tasks are completed. Example: the process in which a utility pole is replaced and the equipment transferred from the old pole to the newcomer.

Maybe it’s the reporter in me, but I confess that I’ve seen the process before and have stopped to watch it. And I wasn’t the only one.

The popularity of TV shows like “How Do They Do That?” means there’s a market for utility pole replacement, not to mention damage repair, rewiring or any of the things a work crew is likely to encounter on a typical day.

If you do manage to get a journalist interested in this idea, some work needs to be done in advance to get good results.

First, you need to pick a crew willing to be in the spotlight. They’ll need to be experienced workers who can handle anything thrown at them.

Ideally, they’ll be personable, speak well and be photogenic. The latter may sound shallow – and it probably is – but eye candy ever hurts. It’s possible that one person on the crew (whether it’s because they’re attractive or because they’re colorful) will become the focus of the piece.

Before their day in the spotlight, you’ll want to meet with the crew and remind them of a few things: limit profanity and off-color conversation whenever a reporter is around, heed the company line and have a positive attitude.

You’ll also want to plan a good day. Maybe this is cheating a bit, but make sure your crew’s job list for that day contains things that are interesting and/or photogenic. There should be a wide variety of tasks that day to show off the crew’s versatility.

Someone from your PR department should be on site all day to answer questions or provide supplemental materials.

As always, you’ll want to add a multiplier effect to any coverage you get by linking to it on your website and social media channels.

And if you don’t get any media outlet to bite on the idea, you can always do it on your own via YouTube. In some ways, that’s an even better outcome since you can control all aspects of content.

You should consider filming the segment similar to the way a news crew would do so. And while there wouldn’t be time limits, your finished product should only be a few minutes long. Any longer than that and people will tune out.

Resist the urge to make the video cloyingly promotional. Yes, it is promotional, but trying to sell your team as the greatest thing since sliced bread will make would-be viewers look for something else.

While I’ve suggested maintenance crews as the most likely candidates for a “day in the life,” there surely are other possibilities.

The very first day of a TV news internship I had in college occurred on the first 90-plus day of the year. The reporter I was shadowing was dispatched to the local electric utility for a feature on how energy use spikes on hot days.

A trip to the utility’s “control room” proved to be the highlight of the segment, complete with multiple monitors, charts and other graphics on display. That was in 1987 – I imagine it’s a lot cooler sight-wise today.

In other words, a day in the life of a heat wave feature could work.

Depending upon how creative you are, there surely are other possibilities, too.


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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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