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Positioning Your Utility’s CEO

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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
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  • Mar 2, 2021
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What’s the public perception of your utility’s CEO?

Is the CEO a well-known figure in the local community and/or the utility community or a relatively faceless executive?

Whatever the status, is he/she happy with that status or do they want a change. Most CEOs have egos and want to be recognized, yet obviously everyone is different.

If the CEO is craving a bit of the limelight, there are ways to increase their public profile through often-underused vehicles.

One way to position a CEO as a thought leader is via a newspaper op-ed. Newspapers are always looking for well-reasoned commentaries on important, non-promotional issues.

Some topics at the moment that might be of interest to a general audience include what’s going to happen when COVID-prompted payment moratoriums end, the role of a utility in preventing wildfires, lessons to be learned from the situation in Texas and general power outage response.

Op-eds typically are about 800 words and should be industry jargon-free. Make strong statements while avoiding hyperbole. Ideally, your PR team will write the op-ed after receiving insight from the executive. The CEO can then make changes as you polish the final version. Pro tip: Most executives are bad writers, so take a strong hand in shaping the content.

For trade publications, you can certainly discuss any topic that would be of interest to industry denizens and can use more utility lingo. That said, it’s always a good idea to write as simply as possible: Don’t use a big word when a small word will do.

Aside from op-eds, consider pitching your CEO as a profile candidate, whether in the local newsmedia, a lifestyles magazine (especially if he/she has a showcase house, an interesting hobby or a leadership role in an organization other than the utility) or some other area publication.

Meantime, don’t forget the public affairs shows that all local television channels air. While these don’t attract big audiences, you can always link to the footage via your website and social media channels. The same is true for interviews on news and talk radio programs.

It’s not so much the audience size as it is the number of placements; if your CEO is frequently being interviewed, it boosts the impression that he/she is a leading community figure.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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