AMP Member Communities Have a Great Public Power Story to Tell5 min read
Don’t be afraid to share successes with your community. There are many opportunities throughout the year for members, big or small, to leverage for positive public relations (PR). Did you achieve Reliable Public Provider (RP3) status or an award from the American Public Power Association (APPA), AMP or other organization? Maybe your staff or lineworkers recently completed training. These are all reasons to issue a press release and there are tools available through APPA and AMP to help with the process.
AMP Awards are a great way to garner positive attention. Awards packets are usually distributed in the summer and are presented at the annual AMP/OMEA Conference. AMP highlights the winners in press releases and other media, and members have many local opportunities to tout this great achievement. AMP gives awards for Environmental Stewardship, Finance, Hard Hat Safety (individual), Innovation, Public Power Promotion, Safety (system), Seven Hats, and System Improvement awards.
The City of Cuyahoga Falls and Cuyahoga Falls Electric System (CFES) have an extensive award history with AMP, most recently receiving System Improvement, Public Power Promotion, Environmental Stewardship, and Hard Hat Safety awards as well as a Safety Commendation at the 2014 AMP/OMEA Conference.
“In Cuyahoga Falls, a strong public relations focus is synonymous with strong customer advocacy through community involvement,” said Becky McCleary, public utilities customer advocate for the City of Cuyahoga Falls. “A critically valuable community outreach tool has been the CFES mission to continuously improve public involvement and education programs through customer response and participation.”
McCleary describes actively listening to public power electric consumers as an important ongoing evaluation, as well as embracing new ideas and technologies within program design.
“From responding to a single phone call to the implementation of special, seasonal education and outreach programs that engage thousands of CFES consumers each year, we have learned how powerful and very positive public relations can be built through our utility’s dedication to service,” said McCleary. “The high level of expertise among CFES utility service staff has also contributed to growing community confidence and Public Power pride evidenced through citizen feedback and participation.”
PR can help with economic development, strategic planning and even presentation materials. Public Power Week (always the first full week of October) is an excellent opportunity for municipal electric utilities to tell the positive story of public power.
The City of Dover’s Municipal Light Plant holds an annual open house as part of the community’s Public Power Week celebration, which includes tours of the plant and equipment, and rides in the buckets of bucket trucks.
“Public Power Week is a chance for us to remind the community about our reliability and affordable rates,” said Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen, president of the Ohio Municipal Electric Association Board of Directors. “The annual event gives us a chance to tell residents we take pride in serving our friends and neighbors, and positively promotes the advantages of locally grown, locally owned power.”
Some examples of positive PR opportunities include:
- Anniversaries: Celebrations show longevity and are a chance to share successes of the past, and educate on the history of the utility and the role it has played in shaping the community.
- APPA’s RP3 designation: This national designation is proof of a utility’s proficiency in reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement.
- Community involvement: Volunteering, sponsoring or co-sponsoring an event, tree lighting, festivals, etc. are all events that deserve to be publicized.
- Mutual aid: Receiving or providing mutual aid is an example of neighbor helping neighbor to support each other in the event and overwhelming need arises.
- Scholarship programs: Share information on scholarship opportunities available; AMP’s Lyle B. Wright Scholarship in particular as it is awarded to qualifying students whose household receives electricity from an AMP member community.
- Training accomplishments: Training helps improve performance, enhance safety, and increase knowledge and skills, which all ultimately lead to greater system reliability and customer satisfaction.
- System upgrades: Tell the story of dependability, reduced rates and other benefits to residents when undertaking system upgrades.
- Tree trimming: Let the community know that trimming is reducing outages, increasing reliability and if the utility is using a certified arborist to complete the work.
“Sending out releases on a regular basis helps establish a relationship with local media,” said Kent Carson, AMP’s senior director of media relations and communications programs, “These kinds of positive PR will help you when you do have to put out bad news because you have established a relationship with the media and customers.”
Ellwood City took advantage of one of AMP’s regular Member Spotlight articles to issue a press release to officials and local media outlets. The information was picked up by a newspaper and a very positive article on the borough was published.
“Take advantage of opportunities to get in front of customers in a positive way,” said Carson. “Any time you can reach out – do it.”
AMP distributes a quarterly newsletter, Public Power Connections, designed to benefit AMP member customers and electric systems. Members are encouraged to use these stories on the electric industry, and safety and efficiency tips for their own newsletters or social media. Articles are intended to be incorporated easily into members’ existing consumer communications.
Using websites and social media successfully can also help get information out to residents and businesses.
“We’ve really been blessed with some young people that are very conscious with social media and the city has a great presence on Facebook and Twitter,” said Kevin Maynard, City of Hamilton director of electric and member of the AMP Board of Trustees. “The city manager has wanted to try to make sure city government is as transparent as possible to citizens and has used social media as part of that – and the website as well – to post information and reports.”
AMP members should take advantage of offerings from APPA. From discussion groups on public communications to videos, posters, fact sheets and power point templates, APPA has resources that can assist members in their PR efforts. Visit publicpower.org for more information.
“Our strong partnerships with American Municipal Power and the American Public Power Association are the foundation of CFES Public Power education and outreach efforts,” said McCleary. “Consistent, high-quality communications, alongside locally customized educational programs emphasizing the extraordinary Public Power benefits possible through these partnerships, have been highly effective tools in truly engaging citizens of all ages.”
To help with your communications efforts, AMP has made a number of promotional materials and toolkits available to our members on the Public Power Connections page of the Member Extranet (login required). Additionally, AMP is here to assist our members in their outreach efforts. Should you have any questions about promoting public power or accessing the promotional materials available on the Member Extranet, please feel free to contact Zachary Hoffman at [email protected], Michael Beirne at [email protected] or Holly Karg at [email protected].