Tried and True

by Dan Ward

Too often today, communications plans start with tactics, focusing on tools to get a message out to as many people as possible. “Let’s establish a Facebook page,” “get the client on Twitter,” “issue a news release.”

But what if the objective is to educate and influence five people? What if none of those five people use Twitter, and live in a community where “social media” means journalists are nice, sociable people?

We recently had that experience, managing a communications program for an electric utility client whose franchise agreement with a small, rural city was up for review. Commissioners were reviewing their option to purchase the system and run it as a municipal utility, and we had to convince them that a renewed franchise agreement was a better choice.

While updating local media and communicating with customers were part of the plan, they were secondary to strategies that allowed us to talk directly to the commissioners and to a small group of community leaders that had access to them.

Old-school public relations … instead of trying to shoehorn the latest technology and communication methods into our plan, we crafted a message, anticipated opposition arguments, and guided face-to-face communications — all the things we were once taught in school but often forget in a world of Blackberries and Tweetdecks.

In the end, commissioners voted unanimously to renew the franchise, with nary a tweet to be heard. Moral of the story: while we always need to stay abreast of the latest and greatest communications tools, we should also remember that tried-and-true strategies continue to work … they’ve been tried and they remain true.

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