Posts by Megan McKoy-Noe

Harness Colorful Language

Harness Colorful Language

Posted By on Oct 18, 2017

Adjectives and adverbs modify a word by emphasizing information. Just as color adds depth to a photograph, modifiers add meaning and color to stories. But too much saturation leaves readers feeling overwhelmed.

Adjectives answer one of three questions about a noun: which, what kind or how many. Add flavor to a story by showing a noun’s origin, type, shape or color.

Adverbs modify verbs by answering one of five questions: how, how often, how much, when or where. They explain action. Some writers tap the same adverbs repeatedly. If possible, avoid the three most common adverbs: not, very, too.


Use, But Avoid Abuse

As much fun as adjectives and adverbs may be, avoid using them too much. Instead of liberally sprinkling them throughout a sentence, use them sparingly to make an impact.

Kyle Bender counts weeds, measures rain and drives 38 miles to shop for groceries. Sound like a dull life? Don’t be fooled. This quiet young man working the fields in Sherman County is the latest in a long line of farmers helping to further science and feed the world.

Excerpt from Farmers + Scientists = Best Possible Wheat
By Drew Myron, Wasco Electric Cooperative, OR

There is no need to add adjectives about the weeds or rain. Drew saves her adjectives for the hero of the story, not the surroundings.


Strengthen Verbs

Instead of relying on adverbs, strengthen verbs first. Try this list of action verbs from

Equestrian trick riders will thunder into Lincoln County’s rodeo arena …

Excerpt from Fair Fun for Everyone
By Dianna Troyer, Lincoln County Power District No. 1, NV

Dianna used the strong, descriptive verb “thunder” instead of a verb paired with an adverb, such as “ride loudly.”


Stop Double Dipping

Cut adjectives or adverbs when the noun implies the same thing.

They walked across the frozen snow. versus They walked across the snow.
She screamed loudly. versus She screamed.

Harness colorful language to keep your stories—and readers—focused on what matters most.


This is an excerpt for the Summer 2017 issue of On Line, our quarterly newsletter. Get more great ideas here.

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At the #2017NIC, a speaker challenged attendees to focus on why. Why does the public power model matter? What’s the purpose of what we do? It’s not enough to tell consumers we are affordable, safe and reliable. That’s how we do our work, not why we do it.

Answering why is the key to engaging communications. It’s also the heart of Ruralite Services and NWPPA’s consumer-focused content partnership. Why does public power matter? Because we are #MorePowerfulTogether.

The first materials were shared with utility communicators in Sacramento, CA last week. The session was streamed on Facebook Live. Miss it? You can watch the recording here. Pictures of the festivities are on Ruralite’s Facebook page.

Every three months Ruralite and NWPPA members will get materials centered around one of four key messages: local, innovative, expert and driven. Local drives the first set of materials.

More Powerful Together Key Message: Local

October 2017

  • More than a utility. A lifeline. Use this header to highlight community grant programs, efficiency savings efforts and other ways you impact lives in your neighborhood.
  • More than a customer. A partner. This headline helps you focus on business partnerships and efforts to support local growth.
  • More than a number. A promise. Have scholarship programs or other youth-sponsored activities? Use this headline to show your commitment to local needs not only today, but for future generations.

Each public power utility is unique. That’s why we created three different headlines. Use them all, or use one or two that make the most sense for your consumers.

We will feature these headlines and supporting testimonials on print ads, social media messages, banner art and more. Since a local message looks best when it uses the faces and names of people in your community, we are providing layered PDFs and InDesign files for the artwork.

The templates are a free benefit for Ruralite and NWPPA members. Need help customizing the content or ordering supplies? Let us know. With a team of designers and editors, Ruralite can help you further customize and get the most out of this initiative. After all, this is more than a campaign. It’s a mission.

Put your stamp on the materials. Make them your own. Need help? Ruralite’s here for you. It is our goal to help you engage your consumers as we work together to show how we are #MorePowerfulTogether.

To work with Ruralite to customize the templates for your utility, contact Kathi VanderZanden.


Webinar: Oct. 11

The materials will be available in early October. NWPPA’s hosting a webinar to help you get more out of the materials on Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. PDT. To register or learn more about the webinar, click here. Problems? Contact Brenda Dunn.


Learn more

We shared a preview of this research-supported effort on our blog last month. You can read that post here, or go straight to to get the latest updates about this powerful partnership. Have an idea for a tool you would like to see added to the project? Let Kathi know, or leave a comment on this blog post.

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A Penny for Shared Thoughts

A Penny for Shared Thoughts

Posted By on Sep 14, 2017

While browsing a Texas electric co-op’s blog feed, I found an editorial written by Curtis Condon, Ruralite’s recently-retired managing editor. Hello Google, my old friend. Let’s see where else electric co-ops shared his column, Appreciating Electricity a Penny at a Time.

Texas. Kansas. Pennsylvania. Nebraska. Montana. Colorado. Minnesota. Illinois. Oklahoma. Wisconsin. Tennessee. Iowa. South Dakota. Wow.

Add states with Ruralite member utilities (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida), and you realize consumers in all parts of the country read this message. That’s the power of Straight Talk.

A collection of newsletters featuring Condon's editorial

I used to write consumer-focused content for Straight Talk when I worked for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The sheer power of sharing a message across a 900-utility network of communicators never ceases to amaze me.


Wait—you’ve never heard of Straight Talk?

The team at Ruralite Services, a utility-owned communications cooperative, know the value of working collaboratively to save time, money and headaches. Our editors connect members to helpful resources like Straight Talk, the Electrical Safety Foundation International, Safe Electricity, and more. We write original energy-focused content and create graphics for Ruralite members, too. Cooperation among cooperatives—I love that principle, don’t you?

I often meet communicators who had never heard about Straight Talk, a consumer content resource for NRECA members.

Do you work for an electric co-op? If so, join Straight Talk’s Listserv. Each month you get an email with an editorial and stories about energy efficiency, safety and other energy issues. Graphics and videos support the content. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. NRECA also provides toolkits on rate increases, internal communications, social media, crisis communications, smart meters and more.


More resources

Not an NRECA member? Never fear—you have great resources, too. The American Public Power Association has consumer content for Public Power Week (October 1-7, 2017!) and storm preparation materials. They often share graphics from their magazine, Public Power. To get on the distribution list, email APPA Director of Digital and Social Media Sam Gonzales.

What resources work best for you? Share your favorite go-to resources as comments on this blog post. Remember—as public power utility communicators, we’re more powerful together!

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NWPPA and Ruralite Debut New Tools, Messages in September

You love public power. We love public power. But does the public care?

Most consumers do not understand why a public power utility is different from other energy sources. As long as the lights come on and bills are not too steep, they are more likely talking about tailgating for Saturday’s Oregon Ducks game or debating HBO’s Game of Thrones finale.

Can we change that?

The Northwest Public Power Association Board of Trustees wanted tools to help utilities communicate why public power matters. The board called for a fresh, modern message easily delivered across print and digital channels. They wanted something to break through the wall (with permission from Jon Snow, of course) and reach 21st century consumers.

NWPPA and Ruralite Services joined forces to create MORE Powerful Together, a consumer-focused effort illustrating how consumers get more than just energy from community-owned utilities.

The first batch of materials debuts Tuesday, September 19, at the Northwest Communications and Energy Innovations Conference in Sacramento, California. Want a sneak preview? Well of course you do.


Focus Group Finds

The MORE Powerful Together materials are based on research with regional utility leaders and consumer focus groups. We want to:

  • Leverage direct benefits to the consumer and align with consumers’ expectations of involvement. Focus on consumer-inspired experience.
  • Show the real value public power provides and the benefits of engaging.
  • Be focused, succinct, and inspiring.
  • Make consumers feel like part of an on-going conversation.

Public power matters. By buying energy from a community-owned utility, consumers become more than customers or numbers. They are partners. We are MORE Powerful Together.


Key Messages

Over the next year we will roll out four sets of engagement tools focused on these key messages:


Easy-to-customize templates will help Ruralite and NWPPA members launch a powerful, locally branded call for engagement. Every utility is unique, so we will provide different sets of copy to support the key messages. Pick the message that best fits you.

What kind of content can you expect? We’re creating:

  • Print ads
  • Social media posts
  • Leadership editorials
  • Website content
  • Pop-up banner art for utility lobbies, community events
  • Posters
  • Best practice webinars


Excited? We are, too.

Don’t miss the general session about this powerful initiative on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Northwest Communications and Energy Innovations Conference.

MORE Powerful Together is more than a campaign. It’s a mission. Together we will launch a powerful movement to educate and engage consumers about why public power matters. See you in Sacramento!

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Anniversary gifts can be tricky. Why pick from paper, wood, silver, gold or diamond gifts when you could opt for a solid design, instead?

Whether your utility has powered the community for 25 years or is approaching the centennial mark, a logo unifies celebration messages.

Last week, utility communicators across the nation shared examples of anniversary logos on NRECA’s Communicators Listserv (NRECA members can view the conversation here). We thought we’d join the fun by sharing a few of our favorite examples, too.


Celebrate You

Lewiston, Idaho-based Clearwater Power used iconic elements from their rural area—trees, fish, deer, wheat and power lines—to create a 75th anniversary logo in 2012.

The original design was packed with detail. There were layers of needles on the evergreen trees and eye, nose and shading definition on the deer.

Clearwater Power Marketing and Communications Specialist Jeff Marshall refreshed the logo in 2017. He stripped it down and improved on an already good design. Using simple silhouettes versus gradients make the design stronger and more versatile.

Comparison of two Clearwater Power logos

The original 2012 logo, left, and the updated 2017 logo.

For the most impact, keep images incorporated into a logo focused on a few recognizable, clearly defined icons. Aim for clean, simple lines; avoid too much detail.


Get Creative with Numbers

What’s the best part about evenly-spaced anniversaries? The frame-like shapes of the numbers. Most anniversaries end in a five or zero. Both numbers easily become powerful shapes for logo design.

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative in Fredericksburg, Virginia, brilliantly used the numbers seven and five to create a utility pole and circle for the years of their incorporation. This design may be four years old, but it still feels fresh and fun.

REC logo example

Rappahannock Electric’s logo turned a seven and a five into a utility pole.

Yampa Valley Electric Association in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, turned the tops of the numbers seven and five into a thick line, cleverly framing the co-op’s years of service. The utility also used two contrasting colors (black for the utility name, red for the year) to highlight the milestone.

Although it’s smart to design in monotone (the best designs translate easily into black and white), colors can be a powerful way to add impact to a logo.

YVEA logo example

YVEA’s milestone logo merged the top of two numbers to create a thick line.


Mohave Electric Cooperative in Bullhead City, Arizona, filled the zero in 70 and added an electric bolt inside the circle, connecting the milestone year to the utility.


Several other utilities used the zero in eighty or seventy to frame an image and the celebration milestone. While turning numbers into frames can work really well, be careful not to pack too much detail into a small frame.


Three logos with the zero used as a design element.

These examples from Arkansas and Alabama use the zero as a design element.


Rest on your Laurels

Laurel leaves, a Greek symbol of victory and honor, pop up in several utility anniversary logos. Makes sense—public power utilities have won several battles for consumers since founded.

Clatskanie PUD used laurel leaves behind their milestone year in a 2013 logo. Because of the utility’s focus on service, the icon works.

In the same way, Blachly-Lane Electric Co-op wanted to focus on a long history of service. Laurel leaves on either side of the co-op’s signature oval logo shape was an easy way to create a temporary logo design for 2017.

Two examples of logos with laurels.

These examples celebrate service and honor by adding laurel leaves to the design.

We Can Help

We love working with public power utilities to find fun ways to celebrate milestones. We can also help you update your current logo. To learn how Blachly-Lane Electric worked with Ruralite earlier this year to refresh their logo and create a complementary anniversary design, read our portfolio post. Want to get to work? Email us today.

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