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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Often a round or two of rewrites are needed to craft a solid lead. Curtis Condon’s career path to Ruralite Services included a few rewrites, too.

His journalism career began at a startup magazine, then a newspaper.

“It was such a lousy work environment I decided to quit and go to grad school instead,” says Curtis, Ruralite’s retiring managing editor.

He worked as a freelancer for a few magazines and was wrapping up his thesis for his masters in journalism at the University of Oregon when he heard about a job at Ruralite. He joined the company as an editor in 1990. Within two years, he was tapped to lead the magazine staff as managing editor.

Under his leadership, Ruralite magazine won the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award in 2015. The award is annually given to the nation’s top cooperative magazine for journalistic excellence.

Curtis retires in July as Ruralite Services’ longest-tenured current employee, and one of its most liked and respected.

“What will I miss most? Definitely the people,” says Curtis. “The people here, the people at the co-ops and the readers.”

A Rich Legacy

The number of utilities using Ruralite’s magazine brands grew by nearly 20 percent during Curtis’ tenure. He oversaw the expansion of magazine brands under the company’s umbrella from one, Ruralite, to four, with the addition of Florida Currents, Currents and KIUC Currents. Total circulation of the magazines under his editorial eye grew from just over 250,000 to more than 440,000.

Ruralite’s new managing editor, Leon Espinoza, joins the staff in mid-August. Learn more about him here.

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Ruralite Services Inc. has named veteran Northwest journalist Leon Espinoza as its new Editor. Espinoza was selected after a national search. He replaces Curtis Condon, who is retiring.

Espinoza is currently Assistant Managing Editor of The Seattle Times, a position he has held since 2013.

“Leon Espinoza is regarded by his colleagues as a tremendous coach, co-worker and leader,” said Michael Shepard, CEO of Ruralite Services. “He has been at once a steady and creative hand during a time of unprecedented change in the media world. I’m confident he is just the right person to lead our journalistic efforts and partner with our award-winning staff and the public utilities we work with every day.”

Leon Espinoza

Leon Espinoza

Espinoza has risen through the ranks since joining The Seattle Times as a reporter in 1990. He has been the company’s Executive News Editor, Deputy News Editor, Sunday News Editor, Night News Editor and worked on the copy desk. He holds a BA in communications from California State University, Fullerton.

He has been actively involved in developing the Times’ popular digital offerings and worked both as a hands-on editor and overseer of editing and presentation for multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning (and nominated) stories and news series.

Espinoza is a member of the Associated Press Media Editors association, the Washington Coalition for Open Government, the American Copy Editors Society, the International Association of Business Communicators and he has judged reporting and design competitions, including the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s. Leon and his wife, Michelle, have three adult children.

“It is an honor and thrill to join Ruralite Services and have the chance to lead a communications team that already knocks it out of the park for the public utilities and hundreds of thousands of consumers it serves,” said Espinoza of joining Ruralite Services.  “The chance to guide a winning team, impact communities and support our consumer-owned utility partners with meaningful communication and quality magazine products, all within the framework of a co-op rooted in community values, was too good to pass up.”

“As Editor, with a background in public-service journalism and transformation, I look forward to the role we can play in the rapidly evolving energy industry. I’m eager to learn about our utility partner’s desires, wishes and needs and how we can diversify what we offer to meet them. These are exciting times.”

Condon will leave the company at the end of July as its longest-tenured current employee – and one of its most liked and respected. He joined Ruralite as an editor in 1990 and within two years had been tapped to lead the magazine staff as managing editor. Under his leadership, Ruralite magazine won the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s George W. Haggard memorial journalism award in 2015. The award is annually given to the nation’s top cooperative magazine. The number of utilities using Ruralite’s magazine brands grew by nearly 20 percent during Condon’s tenure and he oversaw the expansion of magazine brands under the company’s umbrella from one (Ruralite) to four, and total circulation of the magazines went from just over 250,000 to more than 440,000 today.

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Imagine 1,800 energetic high school students descending on the nation’s capital for a week of sightseeing, immersion in history and making of lifelong friendships—all while having fun and learning about the cooperative business model.

This is the objective of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Washington Youth Tour, but it does not capture the magic of exposing teenagers from rural areas to a world they have only read about in textbooks and challenging them to stretch outside their comfort zones.

To understand the true heart of Youth Tour requires being a part of the program—and two Ruralite editors did that last week.

Mike Teegarden spent the week embedded with the Arizona/California delegation of 43 students. Pam Blair journeyed to Washington, D.C., with the 18 Oregon students and two chaperones, then met up with the 31 students representing Florida cooperatives. She ended the week shadowing the Oregon group on legislative visits with Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden.

Combined, Mike and Pam took more than 4,000 photos and gathered dozens of comments from students about their experiences. The information-gathering continues, all in preparation for four-page feature articles planned for the September editions of Ruralite, Currents and Florida Currents magazines.

This was Pam’s second time attending Youth Tour.

“I am amazed at how much is packed into a few really long days,” Pam says. “I also am impressed with the quality of students selected for the trip. They already are leaders among their peers, and truly are the next generation of leaders for our cooperatives and our communities. They really appreciate the investment their cooperatives make in them through the Youth Tour trip.”

Mike, a first-time Youth Tour attendee, was impressed by the maturity of the students, and recalls a moment that stuck with him.

“What surprised me most was seeing how excited the kids were after meeting with their congressional representatives,” Mike says. “I can’t imagine being that excited about meeting a politician when I was their age. Several of them had wonderful experiences and left feeling like they really do have a voice in how things are run.”

What is your lasting impression from NRECA’s Washington Youth Tour?

This article was co-written by Victoria Hampton and Pam Blair.

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