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Do the Unexpected When Pitching Your Utility

It’s above 90 degrees, everyone feels sluggish and there’s only so many pitches you can make to the media about ways to stay cool in hot weather while still conserving energy.

As bored as your public relations department might be, I can guarantee you that the staff in newsrooms across the country feels much the same way right about now.

That’s why you may get traction by doing something unexpected. Remember, news is something that doesn’t occur normally, which is why “dog bites man” isn’t news, while “man bites dog” is.

Example: How about promoting a best Christmas lights contest? (Note: Logistics may preclude you from starting this kind of promotion this late in the summer, but rest assured it will be hot and boring next August, too.)

Think about it. Nearly everyone loves the holiday season and even the local Ebenezer Scrooge enjoys looking at holiday lights.

Given that it’s hot out, you’re not going to get the over-the-top displays some people build each winter, but a fair number of people are likely to take you up on the challenge. And that means the media is likely to cover it.

Aside from getting you some news coverage, a contest such as this builds your community image. Utilities don’t enjoy the same benefits retail stores and restaurants get from new and exciting products, so positioning yourself as an involved community member is a good way to improve your image.

The “Christmas lights in summer” contest idea is just one possibility. Always be thinking outside the box for quirky things that might land coverage. You could sell a calendar featuring your repair crews in action. Or maybe that calendar could showcase visually striking elements of your operation — methods of power generation, interesting equipment, historical things and so on.

Utilities traditionally have had a somewhat stolid public reputation as reliable service providers. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but remember the dog bites man/man bites dog axiom — nobody pays attention to the routine.

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