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Lend a Helping Hand to the Journalists Writing About Your Utility

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By nature, one duty of a public relations practitioner is to assist journalists covering your utility in any possible to make sure their story is fair and accurate.

That’s even more important than ever today, given the state of American journalism. The days of seasoned professional are long gone.

In the three-plus years I’ve been at my current job, my reporting staff has consisted mostly of people just out of college — in other words, they’re inexperienced. There have also been two way-past-their-prime reporters who should have retired and one 40ish reporter with assorted issues that made every story an adventure.

That’s probably a microcosm of reporting staffs across the country.

And that means your utility’s public relations department has its work cut out for it.

Consider:

Outside of industry-specific trade publications, you’re probably going to be working with reporters who know little about energy or utilities — not to mention journalism itself. They may well have trouble with accuracy, fairness and understanding even relatively simple concepts. (To be fair, plenty of the young reporters end up being excellent professionals.)

I won’t even get into the issues you’ll face dealing with experienced, but hack reporters.

So, what can you do?

Your main goal is to minimize errors by providing as much information as possible in clear and concise language. Remember that your utility probably uses a lot of industry-specific jargon that will only serve to confuse reporters, so always speak and write in plain terms.

One tool you may consider compiling is a guide to your utility. It should include industry terms, company-specific information, details on how power is generated, a history of your utility and anything else you consider important, such as contact information.

You likely already have compiled all this information, whether it’s on your website or in printed materials, so it’s just a matter of putting it all in one document.

Printed versions of the guide should be a staple in your press kits, and prominently feature the electronic version in your website’s “newsroom.” Be sure to send a copy of the guide to any press members who calls you, especially if you’ve never worked with them before.

Once the guide is compiled, you’ll want to periodically update it.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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