The story people want to hear

In 1939, Roosevelt’s New Deal was in full force, the Tennessee Valley Authority was six years old, and Appalachia was trying to dig its way out of the Great Depression. With the country in the throes of economic chaos, the founding of Sevier County Electric System (SCES) was barely a blip on the national radar. Its local impact, however, created a legacy that would last.

When Shelton Group was approached by our friends at SCES for help bringing their 75th anniversary celebration to life, we heard a story that had to be told.

So we traveled the mountain roads and shared a few Mello Yellos with the locals, and we were introduced to a community where hard work was a familiar friend and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps was simply what you did when you got out of bed in the morning. We saw how the once isolated and impoverished community had been built into a tourist mecca with resorts that host 12 million people annually – that’s nearly one and a half times the population of New York City. Now, this type of storytelling is not your typical utility marketing, but it should be.

When faced with the assignment of creating communications for a 75th anniversary, it would have been easy to simply establish a first person narrative of what SCES had achieved over the years, with a few photos, a timeline, a list of technologies and accomplishments, a few words from the superintendent … pass the potato salad; job well done. But in the words of Allen Robbins, SCES secretary/treasurer, “This is home … these are our ball fields, our schools, our churches.” Their history isn’t about what SCES has done for the community, it’s about what they have done with the community.

Public utilities are faced with a unique and often overlooked marketing opportunity. Few industries are more connected and integrated into the daily lives of their customers, but many utilities fall into the “us” and “them” mentality. It’s not “us” and “them” – it’s “we.” Don’t let your marketing feel like it’s polished in some distant ivory tower. Make sure it feels like it’s coming from a neighbor.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch the SCES story as told, not simply by the utility, but by the community. As you hear their narrative, think about yours – not your corporation’s, but your community’s. That’s your real story, and that’s the one people want to hear.



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Posted on

September 24, 2014

About the Author

Matt Brass

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing all campaigns and collateral. With nearly two decades of marketing design under his belt, Matt has extensive experience in design, photography and videography, as well as blogging about the latest and greatest (or worst) ad campaigns out there. He leads our team on kayaking trips, too.

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