News, Tips and Inspiration for Utility Communicators

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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CDs became mobile music libraries. Boxed cereal became breakfast bars. The mullet became a man bun. What’s next? Photo-forward social media?

Actually, yes.

Social media is changing at a fast and furious pace. Right when you think you’ve mastered your Facebook and Twitter presence, a new platform takes hold. Meet Instagram: the photo and video sharing mobile movement developed in 2010 to shake up the tradition of text-driven social media.

Have no fear. Here are five tips I have gathered from helping our members integrate Instagram into their social outreach.

Instagram ≠ Facebook  ≠ Twitter

First things first, you need to know the purpose of Instagram to truly appreciate it. Instagram is a visual social platform designed for real-time image and video posting on your mobile device. You can log on to Instagram from a desktop computer, but to post content, you need the app.

Management tools and Instagram

So, you have to post directly from your phone. What’s next? Instagram is designed for mobile, so your management tool needs to be mobile friendly. Hootsuite is a popular social media management tool with a specific approach to Instagram. Learn how to use it for Instagram with this helpful video:

Understanding Instagram links

Now that you have your app downloaded, let’s move on to posting content. A link will not work in a direct Instagram post. Yet, you can add a link to Instagram stories. To include a link, state in your post, “Link in bio.” Then navigate to your profile and click “Edit Profile.” There you will see a Bio section. Simply paste the corresponding link. Unless your content has to have a link, I’d stick with your utility website in your profile bio. Here is an example from the American Public Power Association.


Instagram dimensions

Instagram was originally a square platform. Since August, rectangular photos and videos work on the platform, too. The recommended dimensions are 1080×1080 pixels.

Ready, set, post!

Congratulations! You are officially an Instagramer. Share your best photos from your service territory, fun happenings around the office and any other photo or video content you’d share on other platforms. Try out some of these fun apps to elevate your Instagram posts. Also, Facebook content and graphics from the Ruralite Services Social Media Support Program work great for Instagram.

Once you are comfortable posting pictures, explore more Instagram features. You can share 60-second videos, post up to 10 pictures and/or videos, and add stories. Like Facebook, Instagram has a live video feature, too.

Navigating social media tools does not have to be a headache. Contact Victoria Hampton with social media questions.

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How do you keep your community on the cutting edge of energy technology is all about education.  Find out how utilities are sharing technology knowledge with Inside the Magazine’s timely, engaging utility content from Ruralite, Florida Currents and Currents magazines.

Adding high-speed fiber-optic technology is a feat in rural areas. Valley Electric shared the news with its consumers highlighting benefits of fiber-optic technology, including public safety.

Solar has been a leader in misinformation since it became a common household term. Escambia River shares ten steps for consumers to take before going solar

Sharing new technology at your utility can be fun. Clearwater Power put SmartHub at its consumers’ fingertips with quippy dialogue.

Click the links below for more magazine content ideas and shareables.

Important note: If you are interested in reprinting any of the features in the share package, you should contact the communicator at the utility that published the feature for permission. We include a list of the utilities’ phone numbers and contact people who have examples in the share package.

If you are interested in reprinting Ruralite features, please contact or your local editor.

Back Pages

Share Package

Feature Stories

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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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