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Pitch Your Utility’s History

image credit: Photo 137661396 © Steve Allen |
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
  • 1,017 items added with 521,229 views
  • Sep 30, 2021

Anyone who’s ever spent more than a couple of minutes on Facebook knows that nostalgia is a big part of its allure.

How often does someone post their baby or prom pictures or reminisce about the 1975 Camaro they used to race around town? Pretty often.

How many of your Facebook “friends” are people you’ve met along the way that you haven’t seen in years, aside from on Facebook? Probably a lot.

Next, consider how Hollywood is constantly mining past hits for new content, largely to play on nostalgia. A new version of “The Wonder Years” just debuted. Earlier this year, there was a new film pitting King Kong and Godzilla. And plenty of new programming focuses on years gone by – “Stranger Things” anyone?

Or think about how everyone reacts when some long-forgotten celebrity dies.

Nostalgia is powerful, which is why you should never underestimate your utility’s history when it comes to pitching ideas to the media. And when you’re bored with the usual pitches that aren’t getting much traction, it’s always good to try something new, even if it’s about something old.

Obviously, you’ll have to create a reason to explain why you’re pitching said nostalgia, but that shouldn’t be too difficult, especially if you pitch any of your area’s lifestyles publications. Often, those outlets do little more than publish “puff pieces,” so they’re certainly worthy targets for coverage and have the space for nonbreaking news.

When you pitch a history piece, stress the nostalgia angle, noting how popular it is with readers/viewers/listeners – and pointing out examples of their prior coverage (of anything) that fall into the category. It's usually easy to find relevant examples.

Any nostalgia pitch needs to be centered largely on the visuals you can provide. Offer up old pictures of your crews on utility poles, complete with Ford F-100 trucks (or whatever you were using then) with your logo on the side. Note that logos are important – and yours have probably changed a few times over the years.

Antiquated power generation facility photos will be crowd-pleasers, too, as will pictures that feature beloved local landmarks – especially ones that no longer exist or have changed a lot over the years.

Surely, there are specific events in your history that might interest the media, particularly if you can tie them to a specific day – or to something prominent in the news today.

For example, the idea of buried power lines is being touted as a way to prevent wildfires in California and other often-stricken areas. Maybe your utility started burying power lines 40 years ago. Thus, you can talk about the initial decision to do that and what your experience has been.

Or perhaps 50 years ago, a major weather event blew through your area and your repair crews performed especially heroic work to get things back in order. Given the biblical kind of weather we’re experiencing, that kind of pitch might resonate.

This is also a chance to get some publicity for people other than your CEO and other executives.

Do some groundwork by interviewing your longest-tenured employees about how the utility has changed since they began. Do the same thing with some retirees.

They’re likely to provide ideas for pitches that you hadn’t even considered and may well be good interview candidates when the media comes calling. If you do suggest individual employees, include photos of them today and in their early days with the utility, if available.

It’s important when you’re pitching nostalgia and history to make comparisons, particularly when numbers are involved. A picture may say a thousand words, but well-placed statistics can do likewise.

Consider this example: When Joe Jones started working for what was then-called LMN Light and Power in 1968 as a lineman, the utility had 71,000 customers, a loaf of bread cost 13 cents and there were six television channels available in the area. Today, Jones, who oversees the line maintenance division for LMNOP Light and Power, works for a utility with 625,000 customers, pays $2.29 for bread and has access to literally hundreds of television channels.

While nostalgia/history is what you’re pitching, it also allows you to compare and contrast the improvements and advancements made over the years. Not that you want to suggest that your service was dangerous or inefficient in years past, but you can detail how innovation and technology enable your utility to provider more efficient, safer and greener service than ever. If cost comparisons show that, adjusted for inflation, your service today is cheaper in the past, include them as well.

Any media hits you get should be touted on your social media, as well as your own website. Even if the pitches don’t bear fruit, you can certainly create your own content with the material, whether it’s for the utility’s website or any publications of your own.


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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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