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What’s Your Utility’s Option When Working With Subpar Journalists?

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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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  • Feb 8, 2022
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It’s no secret that journalists aren’t the most-loved people in the world. Journalists usually find themselves lumped together with used car salesmen and politicians when it comes to the least reputable professions.

I get that – the media often writes about things that reflect unfavorably on people and institutions. And even when the news is positive, the main subjects often aren’t happy with the wording, footage, voice clips, et cetera.

But like a lot of professions in the pandemic era, there are shortages of workers, leaving staff stretched to the limit and newsrooms manned by inexperienced or ineffective journalists.

Considering how print journalism was already in steep decline well before anyone had ever heard of COVID – not to mention the rise of highly suspect online outlets and social media blather being passed off as the gospel truth – conditions aren’t going to get better anytime soon.

When you throw in the usually low salaries journalists receive (not to mention unstable work environments), there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a 21-year-old reporter at his/her first job or an aging hack trying to hang on for a few more years.

Don’t forget that utilities are hard to understand for many people. No offense, but reporters would rather write about Cardi B, the local sports teams or a lurid triple murder. Megawatt-hours and transmission grids just don’t excite most journalists.

Therefore, your utility’s PR department needs to add a new function to its list of duties – educator. You’ll need to be proactive in teaching those who cover you.

How do you do that?

Add a couple of things to your press packets, both physical and online versions.

A glossary of terms is a must. Industry jargon can be confusing, so a quick reference guide will prove useful.

You also should add pages that describe how you generate electricity and the sources you use to procure it. A quick explanation of how transmission grids work would be valuable, too.

It’s a good idea to educate journalists every chance you get. If you find you have “regulars” covering your utility, invite them to your facilities and show them how things work.

Or, via email or the telephone, take pains to help the reporter understand key issues.

Education won’t turn a lousy reporter into Woodward or Bernstein, but you might make a bad reporter into a competent one, which is all you need to help accomplish your utility’s public relations goals.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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