Posts by Mike Teegarden

Every service territory has its own beauty, whether your power lines sit high on a ridge overlooking the valley or sink deep into sandy soil near an awe-inspiring ocean scene. Celebrating local scenery is a great way to paint a picture of your utility—especially when that image is admired 365 days a year.

Custom calendars—especially calendars showcasing local places—are packed with value, since calendars stay in your members’ homes all year long. Your logo, meeting dates and efficiency messages stay top of mind when they refer to the calendar every month. Calendars allow your utility to become a printed mainstay in consumers’ households for 365 days.

Let your consumers provide the images for your calendars, while showing off their skills photographing the region they love. A contest may seem daunting. Never fear. We have the materials you’ll need for a picturesque pitch.

Request a contest package

In the package you’ll receive

  • Contest timeline
  • Website text
  • Customizable ads and story for local pages and/or local newspapers
  • Social media posts

Ask your editor for the package. Don’t have an editor? Email

Before you receive your package, let’s talk about the timeline. Here is an outline to start building your contest:


Decide what kind of prize you will give winning entries (Bill credit? Gift card? Lots of praise?).

Set a deadline for the end of July or early August. Be sure to allow time for a judge to pick winners and for your editor to design your custom calendar. I am often available as a judge (


Introduce the contest on your local pages. A sample story and layout are available from your editor.


Promote the contest on your social media channels. When space is available, place a reminder ad in your local pages.


Place a final reminder story on your local pages. Remind consumers of the fast-approaching deadline on social media.


Send contest entries to judge(s). Allow one to two weeks for review. Submit winners to your editor for calendar design.

Edit website page about the contest to let visitors know it is now closed.


Run a story on your local pages featuring contest winners. Share when and where the calendar will be available.


Remind consumers to use the calendar for important community and utility events. Share the story on social media channels.

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Hooks, Lines and Pictures

Hooks, Lines and Pictures

Posted By on Aug 24, 2016

Grab your pole, bait your hook and cast your line deep into the raging current as you learn to angle for a big communications catch at Ruralite Services’ “Workshop 2016: Reeling in Your Readers” Monday, October 3, through Wednesday, October 5.

Reel in Readers (Workshop logo)As you cast for better communications, guides David LaBelle and Lori Russell help you add new gear to your writing and photography tackle box.

After being led through a refresher course on the basics, prepare to don your hip-waders and head out on your own with newfound confidence in your ability to get a bite—both with the written word and the camera.

See what fellow workshop participants net as your guides help you fillet the day’s catch during the group review session. End a productive day on the river swapping tips with seasoned veterans.

Do not let this workshop be the one that got away.

The workshop takes place next to the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. The former mill town reinvented itself as an adventurer’s playground. In addition to water pursuits, the mountain town 160 miles southeast of Portland is known for road cycling and hiking trails. Sunny days, low humidity and cool nights characterize the dry, high-desert climate, averaging October highs and lows of 63° F and 31° F.


Riverhouse on the Deschutes
3075 N. Business 97, Bend, Oregon


$350 for course materials and three days of instruction. Lodging, meals and transportation are not included (breakfast provided during workshop). Click here to register by September 7.


$109 plus taxes for a property view or $119 plus taxes for a river view. Call (800) 547-3928 and say you are with the Ruralite group.


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Shoot in the Shade

Shoot in the Shade

Posted By on Jun 29, 2016

Pro photographers know that to get great portraits in the middle of a sunny day, they must tame harsh, unflattering sunlight. They have lots of fancy gear to overcome that light. You can do it by finding the right location.

Shade is your friend on a bright, sunny day. The easiest way to find shade is to go to the shady side of a building or place your subject in the shade of a tree. Sometimes, you can let the subject be their own shade maker. Simply have them turn their back to the sun.

Shooting parade pictures this weekend? Scout the parade route and look for a spot where a building may shade the faces of participants. Be sure to scout at the same time of day the parade takes place.

When you shoot in the shade, adjust your camera to expose for the light in the shade. If there are bright areas in the background, make sure your camera’s meter is not picking up those and underexposing your subject’s face.

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Every time you write a story about someone, you should take a headshot.

Every time. Always. It may never see the light of day, but you should still shoot it.

The headshot is the backup, the if-all-else-fails photo that will always work no matter what else happens to your other photos. If fits into any design, small and clear, quickly identifying what the subject looks like. It requires no special equipment or location.

While seemingly simple, the headshot causes trouble for many. Bad light, poor backgrounds, focus and cropping all can ruin a simple shot. Here are some tips the next time you shoot a headshot.

Find a Window or Go Outside
Too many people rely on overhead fluorescent lights for their photos. A headshot gives you total control of everything. Window light coming from the side is some of the best light you can get. If you have to go outside, go to the shade, not the sun. Take your meter reading in the shade where your subject is standing so their face is properly exposed.

Watch Your Background
Remember, you can move your subject as you wish, so turn them so the least amount of clutter is behind them. A plain wall works well. Shrubs, if 10 feet behind, also work well, but too close and they will be distracting.

Shoot at Least Five Frames
Hey, it is digital, it costs nothing, and you have a better chance of getting a shot in focus and with open eyes.

Shoot Vertically
Doing so gives Ruralite staff the room to crop top and bottom to fit better and keeps you from cutting off the top of the head or the chin. For those who use black and white photos on covers, that headshot could be the best option for the cover.

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ArBenLogo_CLEARe you ready to hone your writing and photography abilities?

Freelance writers and utility communicators will spend three days this fall boosting storytelling skills at Ruralite Services’ biennial workshop.

Attendees will collaborate on a series of photography and writing tasks October 3-5, 2016, at Riverhouse on the Deschutes (formerly Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center) in Bend, Oregon. In April, members will receive a brochure with workshop details, including the panel of speakers and registration costs.

Room Reservations
Ready to book your bed? Call (866) 453-4480 for reservations. Tell them you are with Ruralite to get the conference room rate. Rooms (including a free breakfast) are $109 or $119 plus tax. Rates apply three days before and three days after the conference. (Free breakfast is only available on conference days.) Learn more about the workshop host city at

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