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Mine Your Employee Team for Utility Story Ideas

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Pitching the same old stuff can get tiresome.

There’s a limit to the number of times you can offer energy-saving tips, and you can only try to land that great white whale – something akin to a Wall Street Journal profile of your CEO – every so often. Even pre- or post-storm-related ideas get old after a while.

This means you need to get creative when it comes to pitching, something I’ve mentioned before.

And one area to tap is your employees themselves. Granted a profile of an interesting non-C-level employee might not advance your company’s main publicity goals, but remember that most media coverage is good for you.

Getting to know your utility’s employees can help you in a couple ways.

As a public relations practitioner, it’s your job to know your company inside out. In reality, unless you work for a really small utility, there’s no way you can know everything that’s going on.

But by suggesting to employees that they can contact you with ideas and information, you’re sure to learn something interesting.

For one thing, employees will have a different perspective than you. Sure, you’re going to get plenty of information that’s useless, but you never know when you’ll get an interesting nugget that you’ve never considered. Many rank-and-file employees feel unappreciated and ignored. Just by lending an ear, you’ll win friends and maybe a cool story pitch.

Second, many people have interesting back stories that might make for good press. For example, at one job, I worked with one guy whose father was a prominent scientist and another whose father was a prominent cartoonist. You just never know unless you ask.

So, how do you get in touch with all the employees?

With company permission, a general email could explain your intentions and prime the pump. Again, you’re going to get a lot of chaff and a relatively small amount of wheat, but so be it.

Perhaps the best way to learn about your company and generate story ideas is to simply walk around. Visit the other departments, introduce yourself and let people talk. You can ask occasional questions, but being a good listener is often more important than being a good interviewer.

Always remember that pitching is an activity with a low success rate, so the more you know, the more things you can pitch. So long as it’s relevant, the media always appreciates a clever or outside-the-box pitch.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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